After two previous attempts to meet this month, the St. Croix Elections Board finally mustered a quorum to name a new board member and elect Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal as the new chairman Wednesday.
Board members also learned that recounting ballots for three candidates after the general election cost the Elections System an estimated $20,000.
Attending the meeting were Chairman Adelbert Bryan, O’Neal, vice chair, Lisa Harris-Moorhead and Roland Moolenaar. Glenn Webster is on medical leave and Barbara Jackson-McIntosh was excused.
Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes said she would not have a yearend report until next month, but listed some of the expenses for the recounting of ballots for former senators Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Diane Capehart, and for Epiphane Joseph, who was a candidate for the board of elections. So far, the tab is estimated at $18,125, with $15,225 to pay counters and other support personnel and $2,225 for participating board members’ stipends. According to Bryan, board members receive $75 for attending a meeting.
As Bryan began the meeting, Harris-Moorhead moved to rearrange the agenda and finalize replacing Rupert Ross, who resigned in December, with Raymond Williams, who received the next highest number of votes in the Nov. 2 election. According to O’Neal, and Bryan, Williams has agreed to serve. Williams must be sworn in before he can participate.
One of the reasons Bryan scheduled two previous meeting knowing a quorum was unlikely was to select officers. O’Neal and Harris-Moorhead wanted to postpone the election until the new members were present, but agreed to go ahead.
Harris-Moorhead nominated O’Neal to head the board, The nomination was approved by three members, with only Bryan voting “nay.” Harris-Moorhead then moved to elect Moolenaar as vice chair, but he said he would not accept the nomination.
O’Neal said she wants the board to work as a team and won’t call meetings only she attends, as Bryan had done. Meetings will be held only if the majority will be able attend, she said.
“You voted against me. I don’t want you as the vice chair,” she told Bryan, and the two bickered for several minutes over his management style.
Harris-Moorhead reluctantly agreed to serve as vice chair temporarily until the next district meeting.
“Personally, I’m not willing to serve in any capacity and Mr. Moolenaar declined,” she said.
O’Neal did not take over the chairmanship during the meeting.
The board was asked to sign a certification of the recounted ballots numbers. Only votes for Capehart and Joseph were tallied on the document, which was not shared with the public.
Members disagreed on whether or not final numbers for Hansen should be included and whether or not the Supreme Court, along with the Superior Courts, had ruled her an ineligible candidate. O’Neal, Harris-Moorhead and Moolenaar signed the document because they participated in the eight days of counting.
A loud discussion erupted over the treatment St. Croix board members received from the St. Thomas-St. John District Board. According to the consensus, St. Thomas does not consult St. Croix before setting a meeting date or writing an agenda for Joint Board meetings. All wanted to make some kind of stand and someone suggested boycotting meetings on St. Thomas. There will be a Joint Board meeting on Feb. 5 and Belardo said she will be off island.
The board approved several expenses during the meeting, including payments to Gertrude’s Restaurant for meals during board meetings, chair rental and $209 for jackets purchased by Bryan for people who complained about the air conditioning on election night.
At the end of the meeting, Bryan asked if there were questions or comments from the audience and Evelyn Bascomb said she is a taxpayer who wants an accounting of the recount expenses.