St. Croix elections board chairman sues to take Hansen off ballot
Published: May 21, 2014
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ST. CROIX - St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan has petitioned the District Court of the Virgin Islands to step in and make a decision on Sen. Alicia Hansen's eligibility to run for re-election in the upcoming election.
On Monday, Bryan filed a petition with the court objecting to the nomination papers filed by Hansen for the 2014 General Election and asked the court to set aside the nomination papers.
On May 7, Bryan wrote to V.I. Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes to voice concerns that he had about her due diligence in validating and vetting persons seeking elected office in the territory.
On May 14, the day after nomination petitions were filed, Bryan filed a formal complaint with the system, objecting to the nomination paper that Hansen filed.
His complaint cites the Revised Organic Act of 1954 and states that anyone who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude is prohibited from being a member of the Legislature and that includes Hansen.
Bryan outlined Hansen's 2009 federal convictions on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file taxes, saying that those charges are crimes involving moral turpitude.
"As a result of her conviction, Alicia Hansen is ineligible to hold public office and prohibited from being a member of the Virgin Islands Legislature," he wrote.
Hansen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
No hearing date has been set in the matter.
According to the petition, once Fawkes notified Bryan that she had completed her examination and Hansen was deemed eligible and had met the qualifications by law for public office, Bryan opted to file his petition.
"This is not about Bert and Chucky or about Mrs. Fawkes, but this is about looking at these agencies, the Legislature, staff and members violating the law by standing sub silencio," he said. "It is clear the Revised Organic Act says who is eligible to be a member of the Legislature, and it also states who is ineligible."
Fawkes said Tuesday that she had seen the petition filed by Bryan and had been in contact with the V.I. Attorney General's Office to seek legal advice as they prepare to defend the position in court.
"This is part of the process, and we are preparing to go to court," she said. "It interrupts the process somewhat because there are many other things that I could be focused on right now as the supervisor, but this, too, is important, and we will see the process through."
Fawkes said the vetting and validation process of most of the candidates already has been completed, and notices of defects have been issued for those candidates who did not meet the signature numbers or had residency issues.
She said there were no issues with Hansen's filings and she stands by that.
"We all have the same rights to use the system, and I am happy for the challenge," she said.
"There are other challenges, and by Thursday we will have a revised list of all the qualified candidates."
In September 2012, when questions about Hansen's eligibility arose, Supervisor of Elections John Abramson Jr. issued an official order saying that he had considered everything and that Hansen had been validly nominated.
In his order, Abramson said his decision was based on a number of findings of facts and law. Moral turpitude is not defined in the Organic Act of 1954 as amended and is not defined in the Virgin Islands Code, he said at the time.
Bryan said because nothing was said by the persons who should be making the decisions during the last election does not make it right. "It is clear that past members of the board and the past supervisor ignored it, and they knew better," he said. "I am an elected official, and with my law enforcement background, I know better."
Bryan said the 50-page petition and supporting exhibits speaks for itself.
"When somebody sits back and does not pay taxes for all those years, they are not only cheating the government but the very citizens who get support from the programs funded by the tax dollars," he said.
Bryan said while the convictions were not felonies, they fall under the law that requires the court to look to the criminal stature and the record of conviction and not the conduct.
According to Bryan's complaint, the hallmark of moral turpitude is a reprehensible act committed with an appreciable level of conscientious deliberation and contains an honesty component and includes conduct contrary to justice.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.