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St. John Administrator Suspended

St. John Administrator Leona Smith was suspended for 30 days without pay effective Aug. 27 for writing a letter on government stationery asking for leniency at convicted bank robber Shevaun Browne‘s August sentencing.

Browne and two others were convicted in March for robbing the Merchant’s Commercial Bank on St. John of more than $47,000, and Smith’s letter was presented at his sentencing.

“Clearly the governor was dissatisfied with the course of action,” Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said Tuesday.

Smith wrote the letter to U.S. District Chief Judge Curtis Gomez, who in published reports indicated during Browne’s August sentencing that he was not pleased with Smith’s actions because it seemed to imply to government was taking sides.

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Greaux said Smith will return to the job Sept. 27.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, office manager Barbara Dalmida-Thompson is the acting administrator, Greaux said.

Browne, Kadeem Thomas and Keven Fessale were all convicted in connection with the Jan. 11, 2011, robbery. Browne was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in jail for his role as the ringleader. Thomas received a dozen years behind bars and Fessale got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty.

In connection with Thomas’ sentencing, Elrod Hendricks Jr. wrote in his support. But Hendricks, who oversees V.I. Port Authority dock facilities on St. John, did not write on official letterhead stationery, only indicating his job title below his signature.

Acting Interim Director Don Mill said no disciplinary action was taken against Hendricks.

“It was poor judgment more than anything else,” he said.

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