Acting Chief Labor Negotiator Natalie Nelson-Tang How and V.I. Lottery Commission nominee Samuel Garnett got the thumbs up in the Rules and Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, so their nominations will receive up or down votes before the full Senate at its next session.
Marvin Forbes of the voting rights group V.I. Action Group’s nomination to the V.I. Port Authority governing board was held pending a possible second hearing over concerns about whether he had specialized expertise of value to that board.
Attorney Nelson-Tang How was raised on St. Croix, graduating from St. Croix Central High School Class of 1984. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, graduating cum laude from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. in 1988. She earned her law degree from the University of Florida in 1992 and returned home to St. Croix.
For the last 20 years, she has been licensed to practice law in the USVI. She is a member of the V.I. Bar Association and served as its president in 2015. For the past 16 years, in private practice, she has developed a niche in labor and employment law, she said during her testimony to the committee. "During that time, I represented plaintiffs, primarily working men and women, some employers and some labor unions in various matters, including wrongful discharge, employment
discrimination, wage disputes, unfair labor practices, mediations and arbitrations," she said.
She served as legal counsel and director of labor relations at the V.I. Department of Labor from 1996-1999 and later earned a certification in labor relations and contract administration studies from Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations in New York.
Nelson-Tang How has been acting chief labor negotiator for the past two months.
Garnett is a retired V.I. government employee. Garnett worked at the Bureau of Corrections from 1970 to 1993 in many capacities, overseeing money, supervising employees and interpreting job policies.
Forbes, who owns and runs a small satellite communications installation company called Orbitron Earth Stations, graduated from Santa Cruz Academy in Christiansted in 1991 and is involved in an array of volunteer work, from being a Cub Scout den master to the St. Croix Orchid Society, along with his work with the V.I. Action Group.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly asked him if he owed any taxes, and Forbes said he was on a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Bureau.
Several senators expressed frustration with short, undetailed answers from Forbes during the first round of questions, but said he was warming up during the second round. Forbes said he was advised to avoid going into too much detail during questioning.
Sen. Janette Millin Young asked Forbes about some of his views about voting and elections, as the head of V.I. Action Group. She said he testified in past hearings that he "basically does not believe we are legitimately sitting as senators."
"I thought you might be uncomfortable sitting before legislators who you are not comfortable were legitimately elected," Millin Young said.
"No that has nothing to do with any reservations in my answers," Forbes said.
Nelson-Tang How was sent out of committee with a positive recommendation without opposition.
Garnett was approved with some opposition and Forbes was held for another hearing.
"I really want to support you gentlemen. But for me, at the end of the day, it comes down to what skills, knowledge or expertise you bring to the position," Rivera-O’Reilly said. Rivera-O’Reilly voted against both Garnett and Forbes. .
Voting to send Garnett on were Sens. Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Justin Harrigan and Kenneth Gittens. Rivera-O’Reilly and Millin Young voted no. Sen. Neville James was absent.
The committee voted unanimously to hold Forbes nomination, with James absent.
"In short, members were not yet prepared to move you to the next step. There will be another opportunity to come back," Gittens said. "Or maybe you can consider another board. But if this is the board you would like to professionally serve, by all means. I suggest you do a little more homework and come back a little better prepared," he concluded.