Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy couldn’t forge an agreement between the Attorney General’s Office and V.I. Casino Control Commission Tuesday about who should control a bank account mandated by a law whose purpose, in part, is to give VICCC more control over its finances.
Arguing for the AG, Attorney Carol Jacobs said an amendment to Title 32, Chapter 21, section 415, of the V.I. Code says the territory’s top prosecutor should be a signer on any checking account that receives and disburses funds for the Casino Control Commission and Gaming Enforcement, which is under the AG’s management.
Violet Ann Golden, VICCC commissioner and chief executive officer, testified she is the only authorized check writer on a master checking account through which income for VICCC and the director of gaming enforcement is processed.
According to law, 80 percent of the income is to be used for operating the Casino Commission and 20 percent of the funds are earmarked for the AG’s use in managing Gaming Enforcement.
Simpson argued that adding Attorney General Clyde Walker to the checking account would, in fact, give him control over all of the commission’s finances when the Legislature’s intent, according to Molloy and Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, one of the bill’s sponsor, was to provide VICCC with better access to its funds.
Judge Molloy agreed with Simpson’s point and had several questions and points of his own. He said he interpreted the law to mean the CEO of the Casino Control Commission should disburse funds and a check would be cut to the DOJ for its share. Molloy added that the language of the law is “ambiguous.”
“One agency can shut down the other,” Molloy commented. “Why would the Legislature want to give veto power to the attorney general?”
Jacobs argued that the AG interprets the law to state there should be one checking account and all money should be disbursed to the VICCC and DOJ. The Attorney General should have access to any account with funds designated for his department. She added that accounting records have not been provided so they don’t know how much is in the account.
Molloy recommended the Justice Department subpoena information from the Casino Commission or take other legal action. He also wondered how it would be possible to have two check signers from different agencies with oversight of one bank account.
“It would be hard to administer without the attorney general encroaching on the Casino Control Commission’s 80 percent,” Molloy said.
A bank employee testified there is approximately $38,000 in a checking account at Banco Popular and $474,000 in the savings account. According to Golden, the First Bank master account holds about $250,000 and a second checking account has a zero balance. Golden is the only signer for the checking accounts and she, Commissioner Henry Richardson, and Executive Director Malcolm McGregor can withdraw funds from the savings account.
After several hours of testimony and an hour of discussion between parties with suggested solutions by Molloy and Simpson, it was agreed there would be no agreement.
Judge Molloy said he would take the matter under advisement but did not offer a time line for rendering a decision.
In the meantime, Simpson said the VICCC would continue banking as usual and setting aside 20 percent of the income for the DOJ to claim whenever it wants.