Updated: See Below
In an unusual move, Gov. Kenneth Mapp issued a statement Friday evening saying he had fired Special Assistant Attorney General Laverne Mills-Williams, citing only her "association" with her own attorney: St. Croix attorney Lee Rohn.
Rohn is representing Mills-Williams in a wrongful termination complaint against Mapp and Acting Attorney General Claude Walker. In her lawsuit, Mills-Williams alleges Mapp placed her on administrative leave for cooperating with V.I. open records requests regarding his personal expenses and for not allowing Mapp to view the documents before releasing them.
Mills-Williams was already on indefinite administrative leave and had already filed suit for wrongful termination when Mapp issued the statement saying Mills-Williams was being terminated for the offense of "association" with her own legal representation in that suit.
Rohn is also representing the St. Croix Avis in a lawsuit against the administration seeking public documents related to the rental of Villa Fratelli Cresta, leased on behalf of Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Mapp’s Chief of Staff Randy Knight tried to get the V.I. Department of Property and Procurement to pay Mapp’s rent at the luxury villa, but told the V.I. Legislature the request was turned down because the terms were extremely generous and violated procurement rules. After being turned down, Knight went to WICO, whose board he chairs. At Knight’s behest, the government-owned WICO agreed to pay Mapp’s rent retroactively. Although WICO belongs to the government, it is refusing to turn over to the Legislature, or the public, complete minutes of the meeting where it voted to pay Mapp’s rent. WICO turned over partial transcripts but is fighting in court to avoid turning over complete transcripts. Certain portions were redacted, which according to WICO attorney Adriane Dudley, are unrelated to the villa rental, and are privileged matters discussed in executive session. The question is still before the court. (See Related Links below)
Mapp’s statement announcing Mills-Williams’ termination and his letter of termination make no mention of her existing lawsuit against the administration, nor of the fact that Rohn is legal counsel in both her lawsuit and the Avis’ suit to force the administration and WICO to release records of Mapp’s expenses.
Instead, Mapp claims he is terminating Mills-Williams for her "association" with her own attorney. He calls Rohn a “convicted criminal" and claims Mills-Williams’ attorney’s third-hand personal associations justify Mills-Williams’ termination, saying Rohn is "known for consorting with persons who have been convicted" of various offenses. [Mills-Williams Termination Letter]
Rohn, who is a licensed attorney in the Virgin Islands, pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of simple possession of marijuana in relation to a 2003 incident. She was sentenced to probation and remains licensed to practice law in the Virgin Islands.
Mapp’s action in firing Mills-Williams for associating with her own attorney may add a new layer to Mills-Williams pre-existing lawsuit.
Mills-Williams alleged in her lawsuit that the administration is violating the V.I. Open Records Act and that she was placed on indefinite leave for refusing to cooperate in violating that law, according to court documents.
The V.I. Whistleblower Act (10 VIC 122) makes it a civil offense to "discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the employee, reports or is about to report, verbally or in writing, a violation or a suspected violation of a law or regulation or rule promulgated pursuant to law of this territory or the United States to a public body."
That V.I. law says a "person who alleges a violation of this chapter may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, or actual damages, or both, … ."
V.I. courts will ultimately decide whether Mills-Williams’ claims or Mapp’s claims have legal merit.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the question of whether full transcripts of the WICO meeting must be disclosed is still before the court. The story originally said the court had ordered the full transcripts be released. Partial transcripts were released and the court has yet to rule on the remaining portion.