Outrage turns to silence on public loans
Published: August 26, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Several months have passed since the Economic Development Authority promised to make public the list of delinquent borrowers who owe the V.I. government $8.5 million of the taxpayers' money.
Despite initially promising to release the list, Percival Clouden, CEO of the Economic Development Authority, has continued to withhold the names of the delinquent borrowers, in violation of the territory's open records law.
Clouden did not return multiple calls from The Daily News on Friday.
Questions about why the Economic Development Authority had not yet produced the list went unanswered, as they had been since April, when Clouden first told The Daily News that he would share the list.
Clouden said that he would share the list after the release of an Inspector General audit report, which found the 2010 loan portfolio had an 84.5 percent delinquency rate totalling about $8.5 million. Additionally, the Economic Development Authority was not collecting on the delinquent loans, according to the report.
With the report made public, Clouden said he wanted the list of the delinquent borrowers to be released in an effort to collect on the outstanding loans.
"I don't care who you are, where you are, I'm going after you," Clouden told The Daily News at the time. "That's the people's money."
On the list were the names of current and former senators, business leaders and local contractors, according to V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt, who conducted the audit report.
However, in the week following the report's release, Clouden began to shy from his initial plan, telling The Daily News that he would eventually reveal the names, but not the delinquent loan amounts that go with those names.
Clouden said he did not want to put the Economic Development Authority in "harm's way."
Clouden said he was acting on the advice of attorney Henry Smock, who is contracted to provide legal counsel for the Economic Development Authority.
To date, no list has been released, with the Economic Development Authority citing issues with timing and concerns about the legality of releasing the list.
According to the V.I. Open Records law, because the money that the Economic Development Authority lends is taxpayer money, the list of delinquent loan amounts and the recipients of those loans should be public information and would not fall under any of the 14 exemptions from the law.
The report said that although many of the delinquent borrowers are dead or the money is deemed uncollectable, several loans to borrowers are collectable.
"We identified 14 loans, valued at $1,856,743, to individuals to include former and present senators, and other business leaders in the community," the Inspector General's audit said.
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