Donastorg, James investigated
Published: October 30, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Records obtained from the 29th Legislature on Monday show that the federal government is looking at travel - paid by V.I. taxpayers - by former senators Adlah Donastorg Jr. and Wayne James.
A joint federal and local audit published in December has led to a criminal investigation and a Grand Jury proceeding.
The audit found "highly questionable practices" involving the management of public funds that resulted in more than $6.9 million of lost revenue, unnecessary expenses and unsupported costs.
No criminal charges have been filed to date.
Earlier this month, The Daily News requested:
- All Legislature documents provided in response to any request by any agency or department of the federal government in calendar year 2012.
- All Legislature documents provided in response to any request by the V.I. Office of the Inspector General in calendar year 2012.
Last week, an agreement was reached between the newspaper and the Senate to provide access to the public documents.
The documents provided show a series of trips taken by Donastorg while he was in the 28th Legislature. During the five trips - four in 2009 and one in 2010, Donastorg spent almost $16,000 of taxpayers' money and the travel records indicate that he was traveling with at least one companion during some of the trips.
In March 2010, Donastorg put in a cash advance request to attend the Cruise Shipping Miami Conference - known as SeaTrade - from March 14-21, 2010. He requested and received a $3,384.54 cash advance to book the trip and to cover travel expenses, but he spent $4,105.86 and the Senate paid him for the remaining $721.32.
The conference dates were March 15-18, but Donastorg traveled from St. Thomas to San Juan on March 15.
He arrived at 8:56 a.m. and stayed in a Puerto Rico hotel that night before traveling to Miami at 11:10 a.m. on March 16.
On March 16, he checked into the Eden Roc Renaissance hotel in Miami Beach, where he stayed until March 21 - three days after the conference ended.
The travel records he filed with the Senate's business office include a receipt for the Best Western San Juan Airport Hotel for March 16. The trip report also includes an invoice from the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa from March 14 to March 15.
His airline records show that he left St. Thomas on March 15, which raises the question of how he could already have been in San Juan the day before.
The only plausible explanation is that the V.I. taxpayers paid for a one-night resort stay for an unknown person.
At the Wyndham Rio Mar, the $372.21 hotel bill included $106.14 at the hotel restaurant and a $26.91 room service breakfast bill the next morning.
Donastorg also attended the 2009 Cruise Shipping Miami Conference, for which he requested a $3,895 cash advance. After he turned in his expense report to the Senate business office, he spent an additional $39.94 over the cash advance amount and was reimbursed.
The convention ran from March 16-19, but Donastorg requested travel from March 15-22.
He stayed at the Marriott Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami for seven nights. The total cost of the hotel stay - room rates and taxes only - was $1,305.15.
He also rented a car for the week for $801.53, and spent $270.08 on gas and parking.
Washington D.C. 2009
Donastorg requested a cash advance of $1,900 to travel to Washington, D.C., from Sept. 17-21, 2009.
The purpose of the trip was to attend Col. Timothy Lake's promotion ceremony and have meetings with the leadership of the National Wildlife Federation.
The promotion ceremony took place on the evening of Sept. 18.
No further documentation was provided to the federal agencies.
Guynabo, Puerto Rico
Donastorg requested and received a cash advance of $1,295.95 in August 2009 for a trip to Guynabo, Puerto Rico, on March 26-27. He ended up spending $1,463.24 total for the trip.
The airline tickets show two travelers - Donastorg and Amalie Parrott - who left from St. Thomas to travel to Puerto Rico. A ticket for Samuel Garnett also was included, to fly from St. Croix to Puerto Rico.
Donastorg booked three hotel rooms at the Normandie Hotel in San Juan for the night of March 26.
Nowhere in the documentation does Donastorg indicate the purpose of the trip or the reason for including two additional people.
Donastorg received a cash advance of $4,550 to attend President Barack Obama's inauguration events in Washington, D.C.
He traveled from Jan. 17-21, 2009.
However, according to airline reservations, he also traveled from Jan. 18-21.
V.I. taxpayers paid for two tickets, both in his name, for this trip.
The documentation does not make clear who used the second ticket.
While in Washington, Donastorg stayed at Hotel Lombardy. Four nights - plus $17 in dry cleaning by the hotel - totaled $2,743.44.
The taxpayers also paid for food for Donastorg's unidentified guest and others.
A $94.05 lunch receipt for Cafe Lombardy indicates four guests, four entrees and four drinks.
More to come
The remaining documents requested by the federal government, or the V.I. Inspector General, focus on former senator Wayne James.
The Daily News will report on the information contained in those documents later this week.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.