Nominees for 3 boards headed to full Senate
Published: February 25, 2014
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ST. CROIX - Nominations to three key boards sailed through the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The nominations of Roberto Cintron to the V.I. Port Authority board and Johann Clendenin to the V.I. Public Services Commission, along with the renomination of Keith O'Neale Jr. to the Public Finance Authority board all passed a committee vote on Monday and will be forwarded to the full Senate for further consideration.
Clendenin is the founder, president and chief executive of Inner Circle Logistics, which operates as the Inner Circle Group and is an Economic Development Commission beneficiary, he said.
Clendenin told committee members on Monday that he started the company while on leave from the senior faculty of Harvard Business School and that while he was a professor at Harvard, he served as a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Supply Chain Integration. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago and is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at IE Business School in Madrid, he said.
Clendenin recited a long list of accomplishments, including service in the U.S. Marine Corps; earning graduate degrees in psychology, communications engineering and business administration; and membership in MENSA. He spoke of serving on numerous boards and commissions.
He was born in Camp Kilmer, N.J., while his father, a Crucian, was on active military duty, Clendenin said. He characterized himself as a sixth-generation native of St. Croix.
He told senators he believes he is qualified to serve on the Public Services Commission and to assist with the commission's mandate to maintain a balance between public utilities and the territory's ratepayers.
"I have both the depth of experience in business and the background in public service to enable a balanced approach to the territory's needs," he said. "I do not have any conflicts of interest with the Virgin Islands government and am very familiar with the technical aspects of our water and power needs, the telecommunications environment and in waste management operations."
He spoke of four short-term and four long-term goals and objectives he would have, if his nomination is confirmed.
The short-term goals include learning how the Public Services Commission sets rates so they are effective and reasonable for the consumer and how regulated USVI utilities earn a return on investments while providing adequate and reliable services.
His long-term goals include researching national and international public policy issues and solutions for efficient public utilities and services and studying ways for additional energy-efficiency in the territory.
During the hearing, Sen. Janette Millin Young asked Clendenin about an outstanding obligation to the government that he noted in his questionnaire.
Clendenin said that he needs to resolve some property tax issues, to ensure that he receives proper credit for exemptions he is entitled to because he is a veteran, farmer and EDC beneficiary. According to his questionnaire, the amount being resolved is $21,733, and he anticipates it being reduced.
Cintron, formerly the Assistant Commissioner of Public Works for more than five years, told senators he resigned after his father died to run the family's land development business.
Born and raised on St. Croix, Cintron completed the majority of his schooling here, but finished high school in Florida, according to his testimony.
He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida, he said. He lived in Florida for five years after graduation and returned to St. Croix in 2005 with a professional engineering license, he said.
He went to work as a district engineer with Public Works in 2006, and after the deJongh administration came into office in 2007, he was offered the position of Assistant Commissioner, he said.
Currently, Cintron is president of Jay-Ro-Mar, Inc., and a co-owner of New Wave Development, LLC, he said. He also has been providing private engineering consulting, land development and survey services while serving as a board member on the Board of Land Use Appeals.
"I believe that my experience in both the private and public sectors along with my technical abilities as an engineer and businessman will provide the Port Authority Board with a unique perspective to their operations," he said. "If confirmed by this body, I intend to work diligently and collaboratively in ensuring that the Port Authority stays ahead of the curve in all of its current and future operations."
According to his questionnaire, Cintron's short-term goals are to assess the Port Authority's strengths and weaknesses; to become more informed on similar operations around the world; and determine by comparison how the Port Authority could benefit.
Long-term goals include strategic planning and determining where potential exists; ensuring all of the Port Authority's law enforcement officers have the required training; and researching energy conservation options, he wrote.
In response to the question about outstanding obligations to the government, Cintron wrote that upon inheriting his father's company, he discovered there were outstanding property taxes for some of the properties that are in the company's inventory.
He said he has met with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and has negotiated a payment plan for the outstanding property taxes. He wrote that he plans to have the matter resolved within three to four years.
Cintron said that the amount owed had been more than $91,000, of which there is about $75,000 remaining.
Keith O'Neale Jr.
O'Neale has been on the Public Finance Authority Board for almost five years.
"I have seen the V.I. economy encounter many challenges during that time," he said. "The Great Recession, the decimation of the EDC business community on St. Croix and the closure of the HOVENSA refinery have made the last five years challenging, to say the very least."
He said that board members have confronted "some very difficult choices during this time, and I have had to consider the woeful consequences of not having a fully functional government."
He said he could not accept that possibility.
"Even though borrowing to cover day-to-day expenses goes against my every instinct as a businessman, I looked at the big picture and beyond what the numbers or common business practices would dictate," he said.
That, he said, is why he voted for borrowing funds to keep the government afloat, which he said he felt was in the best interests of the people of the Virgin Islands.
Other matters he voted on while on the board included bond issuances for constructing the Diageo plant; for expanding the Cruzan Rum plant; for refurbishing and repairing the Christiansted boardwalk; for constructing the Christiansted bypass; and for constructing the Turnbull Library on St. Thomas, he said.
He told senators he would like to continue working on the Public Finance Authority Board so he can see more projects move to fruition, and "do my share to move the territory forward."
O'Neale said he has always voted his convictions and that it is important to him that St. Croix and the territory thrive and reach their full potential.
Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly raised the issue of more transparency from the Public Finance Authority, and later in the meeting, O'Neale said he thinks the authority does "pretty good now" with transparency but that perhaps moving forward there could be "a little bit more."
In response to the question on outstanding obligations he owes to the government, O'Neale answered yes, writing that he is on a payment plan to pay delinquent Gross Receipts taxes for O'Neale's Transport Inc. and Virgin Islands Regulated Waste Management Inc.
O'Neale said he has had to make some hard choices to keep his business going, and the amount owed had been at one point more than $400,000, although it is now paid down to approximately $250,000.
The Rules and Judiciary Committee voted to move the nominations forward to the full Senate for further consideration, with Senators Diane Capehart, Millin Young, Kenneth Gittens, Donald Cole and Sammuel Sanes voting yes. Committee members Myron Jackson and Shawn-Michael Malone were absent.