St. Croix elections board chairman moves meeting into illegal executive session
Published: September 5, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The St. Croix Board of Elections met in its regular monthly meeting Wednesday and following an illegal executive session, voted to recommend a deputy supervisor of elections to the Joint Election Board.
The appointment of Genevieve Whitaker fills a position left vacant since March after the abrupt resignation of former Deputy Supervisor of Elections James Weber III.
The decision and vote on the matter was surrounded by contention as newly appointed Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes asked that the discussion of the matter be held during an executive session.
Board Chairman Adelbert Bryan was reluctant to discuss the personnel matter in executive session, saying that it will all eventually be public, regardless of when, and that he wanted to conduct the discussion in the open meeting.
Agreeing with Fawkes, board member Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal began to make a motion to move into executive session, when Bryan pounded his gavel and said the board was in executive session and asked non-board members to leave the room.
Bryan received some resistance because the proper procedure was not followed.
Board member Raymond Williams left the meeting and did not participate in the closed meeting discussion but then rejoined when the public returned.
All the members present - Bryan, O'Neal, Williams, Lisa Harris Moorhead and Rupert Ross - voted in favor of having Whitaker be recommended to take the position.
Earlier in the meeting, Williams and Bryan butted heads as Williams said he was confused about the final budget for the board that was submitted to the V.I. Legislature for approval during budget hearings last month.
Williams said the board met in an Aug. 7 meeting and agreed on the submission of a budget of just more than $326,000, but Bryan's submission was for a $477,000 total budget.
"I need to know how that came about. There has to be a consensus on what the board presents, this is not what we approved," Williams said. "This is a misrepresentation. This is fraud."
Bryan's position was that he saw a deficiency in the budget and needed to request additional funds, so he went ahead and did that. He said he saw nothing wrong with making the changes and submitting them to the Senate without additional approval.
"Fraud is a criminal act, and if you think it is fraud, then call the police and make a report," Bryan said.
The board discussed how they will respond to a draft audit report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Office of the Inspector General.
During a special meeting last week, Bryan said he believes every member should make their independent response to the audit, based on his or her knowledge. Then the past board members and past Election System heads should also be expected to turn in a response, he said.
Moorhead said she believes the board should respond as a unit and not individually. Alluding to the fact that the audit speaks of mismanagement of funds, Moorhead said that she knows nothing about how funds were spent or misspent.
"None of us know what the supervisor was doing with the monies," she said. "I came in 2008, and during that time, there was never any real questioning of any of his reports. Well, maybe that was the fault of the board."
In one of only two action items on the agenda, the board voted to approve previous travel for Bryan in August, when he went to two election-related activities in Georgia and New York. Williams voted against it, and Ross abstained, saying the approval should have been given ahead of time.
In other board business, Fawkes gave her first supervisor's report and described the Elections System as an ever-changing butterfly that is now going through daunting change.
She said there is a new fiscal year coming, new leadership and a draft audit completed for the system that will help to shape the changes.
Fawkes said she has been networking with a number of federal and local agency heads who work with the system from time to time, and more talks are scheduled during the next few weeks to ensure everyone is on the same page and headed in the same direction.
While the response to the audit is due to the Inspector General by Sept. 16, Fawkes mentioned that Gov. John deJongh Jr. has requested board members to send their responses to the audit to him by Monday.
Bryan said he does not believe that is the proper course of action, saying deJongh should respond to the audit on his own, just based on his knowledge of the issues and concerns raised.
The next district board meeting will be Oct. 2.
Members Glenn Webster and Roland Moolenaar were excused from Wednesday's meeting.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.