March 10, 2005 – Meeting a reporter in a public place and telling him there is going to be a government meeting doesn't exactly satisfy public notice requirements. However, that is all that appeared to happen before the St. Croix Board of Elections meeting Tuesday.
This has angered members of the media because the board took decisive action in three-month controversy, for which many trees have given their lives and much ink has been spilled.
The board voted to certify Carmen Golden a seat on the board and, in effect, place in limbo claims by Hope Gibson and Mary Moorhead to that seat. All three received write-in votes for the seat last election.
The only media present at the Tuesday meeting was radio reporter Alvin Gee. He said he heard about the meeting by running into one of the board members the day before.
The V.I. Daily News devoted a full page on Wednesday to the meeting that no reporter from their newspaper attended, and for which they received no notification.
One of their articles was headlined "Board ignores Open Meetings Law as it moves to fill disputed seat."
It also printed a letter from its attorney, Kevin Rames, to the Board of Elections Chairman Rupert Ross and V.I. Elections Supervisor John Abramson.
The letter asks the board to "acknowledge its violation of the Open Meetings Act, that it further acknowledge the provision of the Act that renders the decision taken in today's meeting void and a nullity."
The letter concludes, "If the Board of Elections fails or refuses the requisite action within five business days of the date hereof, the Virgin Islands Daily News will be left to the exercise of its legal remedies in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands."
Abramson, contacted Thursday by the Source, said the board had not set a meeting to discuss the letter from the Daily News. The next scheduled meeting of the board is March 14.
Abramson described the events leading up to Tuesday's meeting as follows:
He said a meeting has been scheduled tentatively with Acting Attorney General Alva Swan on Monday. He said the board wanted to meet with its attorney, the Attorney General, concerning a recent decision by Chief District Judge Raymond Finch rejecting Golden's request for an injunction and also to explain the Attorney General's opinion that Golden was not eligible for the seat designated for some one other than a Democrat because Golden was a registered Democrat at the time of the election. She changed her party affiliation after the election.
Abramson, who has the responsibility of notifying the press about public meetings said he was not even sure a meeting was going to take place until he was notified so at 4:30 p.m. on Monday. He said it was also his understanding that no official action would take place, although the board had the right to take action. He said, "It is as simple as that."
Swan did not attend the meeting but Michael McLaurin, assistant attorney general, attended and Doug Juergen, another assistant attorney general, participated by phone.
According to reports, the assistant attorney generals stood by Swan's original opinion that Golden should not be certified.
Reports are that four of the five board members supported the certification of Golden. Member Humberto O'Neal was against it and board member Dodson James was absent from the meeting.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.