83.9 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesWilliams Nomination Sent on With Unfavorable Recommendation

Williams Nomination Sent on With Unfavorable Recommendation

Aug. 31, 2007 — The Committee on Rules and Judiciary moved St. Claire N. Williams, Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s nominee for commissioner of Housing Parks and Recreation, on for final consideration by the full Senate with an unfavorable recommendation Thursday in Frederiksted.
After Williams gave an account of his long ties to the community and an overview of his goals for the department, several senators sharply questioned Williams on the state of the territory’s recreational facilities and on what was being done to collect millions of dollars in improperly distributed housing loans now in default.
The loan program, misused in what Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt called a “free-for-all,” included loans to family members of department officials, loans for veterans given to non-veterans, $75,000 dollar checks given out with no application or paperwork of any kind and a wide array of other apparent malfeasance and theft. The loan program has a default rate of 63 percent. (See Audit of Home Loan Program Reveals Blatant Abuse, Mismanagement).
Williams’ long tenure with the department made it difficult for him to distance himself from the department’s problems.
“Have any criminal charges been brought regarding the home ownership program?” Sen. Alvin Williams asked.
“We have already begun to implement many of the provisions that were outlined by the inspector general,” Williams responded. “Regarding criminality, I certainly have not made any determination that was the case. The attorney general’s office will deal with that if they determine there was a criminal act.”
Senate President Usie Richards pressed the nominee on his connection to the loan scandal.
“You were responsible for everything connected to housing during your years as assistant housing commissioner?” Richards asked.
“Not everything,” Williams said. “Not the home loan program. … They reported directly to the commissioner regarding that program.”
Richards questioned how Williams could not have known.
“Didn’t you sign their time cards?” Richards said.
“Only to say if they were at work or not,” Williams said. “I had no direct oversight."
Sen. Celestino White also hammered Williams on the home loan program.
“At a hearing on April 10 you said to me you would send inquires about payroll deductions from government employees who have defaulted,” White said. “What discussions have you had? Where is that?”
“I have not followed up on that,” Williams said. “What I have done … any new loans will have the payroll deduction.”
“Going forward with new people?” White asked. “So how does that address the problem of these loans not being paid?”
“It’s unclear if we can legally do it with prior loans,” Williams said.
Sen. James Weber III was the most highly critical.
“Reading your testimony, there is no meat here,” Weber said. “I want to know, in your four years as assistant commissioner, where have we gotten? In the past three and a half years, is there any plan developed within Housing, Parks and Recreation to address those things required in the code?”
Williams said there was not.
Weber asked several questions about the department’s finances, how many youth it served annually, and other aspects of the department’s activities, becoming more critical when Williams did not have data at hand.
“We’ve heard a series of nominations, one after another, who answered questions quite adequately,” Weber said. “Now here it is a struggle. It is extremely disappointing to me that I don’t have the answers and I don’t see any point to continuing on with it.”
St. Claire Williams took over the top spot in Housing, Parks and Recreation from then-commissioner Ira Hobson, when deJongh took office this January. Before that, Williams was assistant commissioner on St. Croix for nearly four years. He also has held several positions within the Housing Authority and the Port Authority. Williams also served two terms in the Legislature, where he chaired the Senate's Housing Committee for part of his tenure. Before his stint in the Legislature, Williams held positions in the V.I. Port Authority, Hess Oil V.I. Corporation, Amerada Hess and St. Croix Realty.
Williams, a graduate of the former Christiansted High School, holds a bachelor’s in business administration and an associate’s degree in business management from the University of the Virgin Islands. He has also held several positions in the V.I. Democratic Party, including state chairman and vice-state chairman and is active in several church and civic organizations.
Sens. Richards, Weber, White and Williams voted to forward the nomination with an unfavorable recommendation. Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Carmen M. Wesselhoft and Carlton “Ital” Dowe voted against the motion.

Back Talk

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.