After kerfuffle, Elections Board votes to hire different assistant


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ST. THOMAS - The St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections voted on Friday to hire a different administrative assistant than the person who was announced as the choice last week.

V.I. Elections System Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said April 14 that the district board had voted to hire Rose Marie Berry, one of five candidates interviewed for the position.

At the time, board Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. criticized Fawkes for the announcement, which Watlington said was premature. The board never voted officially, he said, though it did submit votes to Fawkes for a poll to determine whether the board was leaning more toward any one candidate.

During its monthly meeting on Friday, the board went into executive session to vote again, this time officially. The results were different than last week and Angel Bolques won with four votes.

Berry received three votes.

Berry, of St. Thomas, still will be hired as an administrative assistant, according to Fawkes. However, instead of working for the district board, she will work for the V.I. Elections System.

Berry will receive the same annual salary, $42,000, that she initially was offered by Fawkes when she accepted the board position last week.

The board has not yet voted on a salary for Bolques, who is a business owner from St. John, Watlington said. The board is considering a salary between $40,000 and $50,000.

Bolques could begin work as early as next week, Watlington said.

Bolques and Berry were two of more than 60 applicants for the single position. The board interviewed only five applicants.

When the board members initially voted, six votes were counted. Watlington said he was told by Fawkes that the votes excluded that of board member Harry Daniels because his vote was a handwritten vote not in his handwriting.

"I feel that there is no way on God's Earth that the supervisor could determine if that was my signature," Daniels said at the Friday meeting.

On Friday, all seven board members voted officially during an executive session and announced the vote thereafter. All similar hires for the board in the future will follow the same procedure to avoid confusion similar to that created last week.

The board members were not required to vote on the hire of Berry since she will not be an employee of the board.

Fawkes said that she did not create the administrative assistant position on St. Thomas for Berry. While the V.I. Elections System had not yet advertised a vacancy for an administrative assistant, the system had been considering making such a hire for several months, Fawkes said.

"We are getting ready for election year, and we're having some personnel issues," she said.

The St. Thomas office has been understaffed, she said, because several employees at once have been taking personal and sick leave.

"I have the authority to bring on additional help," she said.

Berry will have a more substantial workload with the V.I. Elections System than she would have working for the board, Fawkes said, because she will be responsible for updating much of the data, dating back decades, for the online data system.

The board also voted Friday to relocated the polling booths at the Curriculum Center to Tutu Park Mall. The board considered also moving the polling booths at Gomez Elementary School to Tutu Park Mall, but realized that it likely would bring too many voters to one location.

Board members also debated whether election candidates could check out voting machines for demonstrations. Some board members took issue with the fact that if one candidate checked a machine out, then all of the candidates may want to do the same thing, which could lead to supply issues.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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