St. Thomas-St. John Elections chair disagrees with colleague, the law
Published: July 14, 2014
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Despite the fact that police records are specifically cited in the V.I. Code as being public documents, St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. persists in maintaining that they are not.
Watlington told The Daily News on Friday that Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes should not have required candidates to submit police records with their nomination packets.
"First of all, I believe she was not authorized by law to get those people's police records," Watlington said. "Second, a police record is not proof of a criminal conviction."
Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes told The Daily News she either returned the police records to the candidates or shredded them.
Watlington's counterpart in the territory's other district, St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan, said the public documents are a vital part of evaluating candidates, and the Elections System has every to right to require candidates to submit them.
"How does the public know who they are electing?" he asked.
Bryan said the police records are public documents and the Elections System has every right to ask for them.
"The police record or your criminal record is not protected property, it's public property," Bryan said.
Watlington maintains that an arrest is only an accusation and has no bearing on a candidate's eligibility to run for office. He said he is glad that Fawkes shredded some of the police records that candidates submitted.
"She doesn't have them in her possession and I'm glad that she doesn't, because if I was a candidate, I would have been suing all of you," he said.
Watlington said an arrest does not equal a conviction, and once the information gets out to the public that someone was arrested, a person's reputation can be ruined, even if they were never convicted of a crime.
"If she puts out somebody's police record without that person's express permission, and it does harm to that person, she is personally liable," Watlington said.
However, the law clearly states that police records are public documents, and as such, they are available to any citizen who requests a copy.
Bryan also said that no one gave Fawkes permission to shred those public documents.
"The board didn't give her authority to shred those records," he said.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.