Rupert Ross has held many administrative positions over the last half-century, including chairman of the St. Croix Board of Elections, but Tuesday he announced he won’t serve on that board after Jan. 4, in part due to “political agendas” and a “dysfunctional board.”
Ross made the announcement at a press conference at the Elections office and told media and supporters, including his wife, it was time to move on.
“I feel comfortable where I stand today, but it’s time to go,” Ross said emotionally.
At times during the announcement, Ross, his wife, Cheryl, and board members had tears in their eyes, but Ross spoke deliberately and resolutely.
The first reason for leaving, Ross said, was a pledge he made at a Democratic Party meeting before the election. If all three Democrats were not elected to the Elections board, he promised to resign and let someone younger take his place.
Current board member Raymond Williams will be the next Democrat to be seated if he accepts the position.
Ross said the St. Thomas Board and St. Croix Board are “dysfunctional” for different reasons. He described acrimonious meetings that were witnessed by some of the audience and the disruptive behavior of the current board chairman, Adelbert Bryan.
“Both boards turned into political instruments,” Ross said. “People used it, joined it to pursue political agendas.”
Ross said after they elected Bryan the first thing he did was “throw the community into turmoil” with accusations that the board members were “crooks, liars and corrupt.”
Ross brought up the failed lawsuit Bryan lodged to have the board members recalled. The cost of that court case was “$54,000 to redeem ourselves,” Ross said, adding that the bill hasn’t been paid.
Other accusations Ross lodged included a changing of the office locks, driving the government vehicle, renting a car, hiring part-time workers, as well as putting the 2012 voting machines in storage – at a cost of $8,000 to date. According to Ross, Bryan did not seek approval from the board to expend the funds.
“He made the board dysfunctional. He made the system dysfunctional,” Ross said.
And Bryan has not participated in counting ballots or certifying either the 2012 or 2014 election, Ross said.
“I’ve done as much as I could for this community for the last 51 years,” Ross said, talking about his satisfying career of public service. In addition to serving on the Elections Board for the last 12 years, he was the St. Croix administrator who supervised the structure of the Point Udall Monument in 2000, he worked as a teacher, school principal, St. Croix superintendent and assistant commissioner of V.I. Education Department.
“I will continue, in a defined way, to serve the community,” Ross said.
After retiring from the board, Ross said he plans to continue working with Rotary, where he served as district governor, and with the Boys and Girls Club. Over the years, his community work has included chairmanship of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association and establishing the Jr. ROTC program.
Ross said he fully supports the governor-elect and hopes Kenneth Mapp will form an elections reform commission to revamp the system and Title 18 of the V.I. Code where necessary.
Board members Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, vice chair, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Raymond Williams and Roland Moolenaar attended the press conference.
According to Belardo de O’Neal, if the board’s quorum remained, they planned to finalize the tally sheets for the recount of votes that started and stopped several times this month.