Plaskett files FEC complaint against Malone
Published: July 23, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - Delegate to Congress candidate Stacey Plaskett has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission accusing her opponent, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, of using inmate labor to put up a campaign tent and other infractions.
Malone and the third candidate for delegate in the Democratic primary, Emmett Hansen II, each filed complaints against Plaskett earlier this month, claiming she used Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s official government website to gather email addresses used for campaigning.
The Federal Elections Commission would not confirm receipt of any of the candidates' complaints.
Plaskett lays out a number of allegations in her letter to the Federal Elections Commission, but the main complaint is that Malone used inmates from the Bureau of Corrections to put up a tent used by Malone for campaigning purposes. With her complaint, Plaskett submitted photos of a man wearing bright orange pants and a white T-shirt standing in the area of an erected tent with a "Malone for Congress" banner on it.
According to the complaint, the photos were taken by Plaskett's husband, Jonathan Buckney-Small, on Dec. 29 on St. Croix. In the complaint, he said he saw the inmates, accompanied by Malone's St. Croix campaign manager, Marcellino Ventura, set up a tent upon which a Malone campaign sign later was hung.
Plaskett said she sat on the information because the Democratic Party gave candidates a mandate for no negative campaigning during the primary. However, when the complaints were sent to the FEC about her, she wanted to ensure that the FEC had a complete picture of the election going on in the territory.
"It was relevant for us to put that information in their hands as well," Plaskett said.
Malone denies the allegations and called Plaskett's FEC complaint a "red herring" designed to distract voters from the complaints filed against her.
"I certainly welcome the investigation," Malone said. "Everything in her complaint is frivolous and baseless. I also believe it's just for distraction, because what she did was a legitimate violation, using the governor of the Virgin Islands' website to send out emails soliciting votes while using misinformation to attack me."
Malone said neither his campaign, his Senate office nor himself personally, has ever hired inmates to assist in a political campaign.
"We believe those prisoners were already in the area and may have come to assist other candidates with their tents," Malone said. "Neither my campaign nor my office had anything to do with that."
Bureau of Corrections Director Julius Wilson said he is aware of the incident.
"Those inmates were assigned, to my knowledge, to go and paint the firehouse," Wilson told The Daily News on Tuesday.
He said the corrections officer who took the inmates out to do the painting has been on vacation and he has not had a chance to explain how the prisoners got into the area with the campaign tents.
Wilson said there is a process for requesting the use of inmate labor, but prisoners only do work for the governments and some nonprofit groups.
When asked whether Malone had hired the inmates to help with campaign activities, Wilson said: "No, he was not involved with this."
Plaskett also accuses Malone of underreporting his campaign earnings, saying that he is spending more than he is reporting. She said he has increased his St. Croix Senate office and used his staff to support his campaign.
Malone said for the first year of his term, he had no staff on St. Croix at all in an effort to save money. However, in the second year of his term, he hired three people to staff the Senate president's office on St. Croix.
"I have the right to have staff do the work of the Legislature," Malone said. "We do not campaign during working hours."
He said he does not use government resources to conduct any campaign activity.
Plaskett also charges that a Senate employee was fired because he had a bumper sticker on his car supporting Plaskett. The employee was not named in the complaint.
Malone denied that claim as well.
"I have not fired anybody from the Legislature for political reasons," Malone said.
Plaskett said she has not been contacted by the Federal Elections Commission with notification that she is being investigated. Under the commission's rules, a candidate must received notice five days after a complaint is filed, she said.
"It's long past the five days that they received it," Plaskett said.
Hansen's complaint was mailed out July 7 and Malone's complaint was mailed out July 11.
Plaksett said it is "disturbing" that Hansen and Malone are saying that these complaints have been filed without being substantiated.
"They know how to reach us," she said. "They have not sent out a notice to us."
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.