Scant public attendance at early morning Joint Boards of Elections meeting Sunday


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ST. CROIX - In a board meeting held early Sunday at a resort on the island's remote northwest shore, members of the Joint Boards of Election established committees and discussed positions on pending legislation.

At least two members of the public made it to the meeting, despite the early morning start, scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Carambola Beach Resort, where the Joint Boards was having a retreat.

Joint Boards chairwoman Alecia Wells said in an interview that the timing and location for Sunday's meeting - which was a continuation of a Thursday afternoon meeting - was intended to fit around the presentations and speakers already scheduled for the Friday through Sunday board retreat at Carambola.

According to Wells, if the board had continued Thursday's meeting to its conclusion, the meeting would have gone after 5 p.m., and the board would have had to pay more money to continue using the V.I. Cardiac Center after business hours.

The board decided instead to continue the meeting Sunday morning. Wells said there were issues - including discussion of pending legislation and board testimony for a Senate committee hearing today - that needed to be settled before the next meeting in February.

V.I. Code does not dictate when public meetings should be scheduled.

Wells said she realized that the early Sunday start for a meeting at Carambola was not the most convenient for the public, but that she was gratified that members of the public had shown up throughout the weekend to participate in the process.

"It is a little early. It is a little far," she said. "They came all weekend long. I want to thank them for taking the time."

Although Sunday's meeting had been scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. start, it actually got under way at 8:18 a.m., when the board achieved a quorum.

One of the first topics of business was establishing the State Plan Advisory Committee, which will discuss and make recommendations to the board on a state plan, which is to be a guideline indicating how the V.I. Elections System should move forward into the future.

Board members Claudette Georges and Glenn Webster will chair and vice chair the committee, and the names of approximately 15 members of the public who responded to an ad seeking people interested in participating were recommended by Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, board members said.

There was a short dispute when board member Rupert Ross Jr. made a motion while the board had temporarily lost its quorum, a motion for the board to authorize the establishment of the state advisory committee.

Member Lilliana Belardo-de O'Neal objected because of the lack of quorum, a brief recess was called and once the board had regained its quorum, the motion passed unanimously by all members present.

Wells, Belardo de O'Neal, Webster, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Raymond Williams, Ross, Arturo Watlington Jr., Georges and Lydia Hendricks voted yes, and Adelbert Bryan, Harry Daniel, Larry Boschulte, and Wilma Marsh-Monsanto were not present on Sunday. Member Roland Moolenaar did participate in Sunday's meeting later, but had not yet arrived when that vote was taken.

The Joint Boards also set up a by-laws committee to review with Fawkes the boards' bylaws, rules and procedures and update members at the next meeting in February. The Joint Boards would have to approve any changes.

Watlington said the bylaws have not been updated since 2004.

Wells named Ross, Harris-Moorhead, Watlington, Hendricks and Williams to the committee.

The Joint Boards also adopted a new policy under the bylaws to allow for video conferencing for meetings as necessary at the call of the chairman.

In addition, there was discussion of a proposed candidate questionnaire that the St. Croix Board of Elections adopted earlier this month. Most of the seven inquiries on the questionnaire pertain to criminal convictions, although there are also questions asking whether the candidate has filed all required local and federal tax returns, and whether the candidate has voted in a jurisdiction outside the U.S. Virgin Islands within the last four years. Additionally, those who served in the military are asked whether their discharge was honorable.

Belardo de O'Neal moved that the Joint Boards adopt the proposed questionnaire, and Harris-Moorhead objected, noting that the questionnaire has been forwarded to the board's legal counsel in the V.I. Attorney General's Office for review.

Harris-Moorhead instead proposed that the members who worked on the questionnaire meet with legal counsel and discuss it, and return to the Joint Boards with a proposed questionnaire that has been through that process.

Belardo de O'Neal withdrew her motion.

There was also discussion of signatories on the bank accounts for the Elections System and the need to recommend that the law giving the Supervisor of Elections the sole authority to write checks from the Imprest Fund be changed - an issue that played prominently in a recently-released audit of the Elections System.

Fawkes told board members she has been implementing some internal financial controls in the Elections System offices.

The need for a change in the law was discussed, and board members also spent time discussing several pieces of pending legislation scheduled for discussion at a Senate Government Services and Housing meeting this afternoon. Members said the Senate committee wants to get the board's consensus on the proposed bills.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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