St. Thomas Elections Board refers issue of deputy supervisor's job to joint board

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ST. THOMAS - The St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections has referred any decisions about the employment of the district's deputy supervisor of Elections to the V.I. Joint Board of Elections.

"The joint board hires; the joint board fires," said St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr.

The district board conducted a special meeting Monday at the St. Thomas Elections System office primarily to discuss personnel matters, though Watlington said that the matters were not those that supposedly transpired last week.

District Deputy Supervisor Nefrediezha Barbel wrote a letter Wednesday last week to V.I. Elections System Supervisor Caroline Fawkes stating that Watlington had assaulted her verbally and had grabbed a handful of questionable ballots from her at the St. Thomas elections office. In her letter, Barbel requested that Fawkes take action.

Barbel, who excused herself from the closed session during Monday's meeting, said that since last week Watlington has not spoken to her in person, for which she said she was glad.

Watlington said that the special meeting was called prior to Barbel's letter to Fawkes, and instead resulted from a letter signed July 26 by several of the board members, who all take issue with Barbel.

The letter, which asks that Barbel be suspended for 15 days without pay, is signed by Alecia Wells, chairwoman of the joint board, and board members Harry Daniel, Lawrence Boschulte and Claudette Georges. The letter also asks that administrative assistant Rose Marie Berry take over Barbel's duties and that Fawkes meet with Barbel and the district board to discuss Barbel's role with the board moving forward. In a letter to Wells, Watlington and Barbel, board member Wilma Marsh-Monsanto said that she found the treatment of Barbel "extremely shocking and disturbing."

Also at Monday's meeting, the board discussed a number of allegations and questions posed by former Sen. Adlah Donastorg Jr., a gubernatorial candidate in the primary election.

Donastorg, who will not be moving forward to the General Election after placing second in the Democratic race, questioned whether the ballots had been secure following the election; whether the Elections Systems made the right decision to conduct the election during Tropical Storm Bertha; and whether voters were honest in the number of votes that they cast.

Elections System administrative assistant Angel Bolques said that Fawkes likely would respond to Donastorg in a written letter.

Also Monday, the board voted unanimously to approve its Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget to be presented to the Senate Finance Committee today on St. Croix. The budget, totalling $395,000, includes $225,000 for the upcoming Nov. 4 general election, $55,000 for Bolques' salary, and the remainder for other costs.

Watlington noted that the board had not seen the Elections System's budget - also to be presented today before the Senate.

Fawkes could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email

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