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District Elections Board Looks at Hiring Process

Coming out of an emergency executive session Monday, St. Thomas-St. John District Elections Board members said they hadn’t made any decisions but, based on testimony from one of the Election System’s deputy supervisors, would be taking a look at some issues surrounding how new officials are hired and what they are paid.

The appointments of the current deputies came in October, when Joint Board of Elections members voted to appoint Nefrediezha Barbel to the position of deputy supervisor of elections for St. Thomas-St. John and Genevieve Whitaker for deputy supervisor on St. Croix. The appointments came after the system’s previous deputies – Mabel Maduro and James Weber III – abruptly resigned in March.

According to St. Thomas-St. John District Board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr., Barbel spoke during Monday’s executive session about the issues she had about how she was hired.

"The concerns about the deputies center on how they are paid and how they were selected," Watlington explained in a phone interview. "They were confused about how they were hired and the circumstances."

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Watlington added that Barbel had brought the issues to Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, who suggested that she speak to Joint Board Chairwoman Alecia Wells.

"I believe that it has been determined that we are going to have two members of the Joint Board meet with the deputies and discuss what’s going on," Watlington said.

The District Board members also spoke Monday about how they will go about hiring a replacement for Sharon Benjamin, administrative assistant in the St. Thomas-St. John Elections office, who is resigning. Speaking Monday night, Watlington said the District Board discussed whether members have the power by law to hire a replacement.

"The issue was if we have the authority based on the law and, of course, some concerns were raised but it was thought that, based on the code, we did have the authority to hire who we want to hire," he said.

The next step is for the Joint Board to come together to "confer on the issues," Watlington said.

"We also understand there’s a vacancy on St. Croix that the board was not advised of formally, so we have to come together and determine what we are going to do," he added.

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to indicate Sharon Benjamin is resigning.

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