V.I. Action Group, candidate launch new challenge to Hansen's eligibility
Published: September 20, 2012
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ST. CROIX - A group of residents on St. Croix have filed a lawsuit in District Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Elections System and its boards.
According to court documents, senatorial aspirant George Moore, along with the members of V.I. Action Group, have brought the action against Election Supervisor John Abramson Jr. and Rupert Ross Jr., who chairs the St. Croix Board of Elections and the Joint Board of Elections as well as the members of both boards.
According to the plaintiffs, the 13-page complaint, filed Wednesday afternoon, is brought to preserve the integrity, consistency, equality and finality of the rule of law in the territory and is brought reluctantly because the election of a senator is properly left to the people, not the court, but is it necessary because the current course threatens the equal application of the rule of law.
The suit asks the court to enter judgement:
- Declaring that the three tax convictions against Sen. Alicia Hansen are crime involving moral turpitude.
- Issuing an injunction requiring the Board of Elections and the Supervisor of Elections to remove her name from the ballot.
- Enjoining them from allowing her name to appear on any ballot.
- Awarding plaintiffs their reasonable attorney's fees and costs in bringing the action.
- Providing such other and further relief as the court may deem just and appropriate.
Earlier this month Abramson issued an official order saying that he has considered all of the premises and that Hansen has been validly nominated.
Colleen Clarke, as president of the V.I. Action Group, wrote a letter to Ross in August requesting an expedited hearing and investigation to determine Hansen's eligibility as a candidate.
Hansen was on probation until May 2012, following a 2008 conviction on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file tax returns.
The V.I. Action Group claimed that the law prohibits Hansen from voting until one year after her case is discharged and that her ineligibility to vote makes her ineligible to run for office.
However, the Legislature amended the V.I. Code last year to restore a convicted person's right to vote immediately upon the discharge of the case.
An administrative hearing on the Hansen matter was conducted Aug. 17 and 18. Hearing Officer Zandra Petersen, who is the executive director of the V.I. Public Employee Relations Board, presided over the hearings that attracted about 50 residents, who listened intensely as testimony and arguments were made.
Motions from both sides focused on the issue of moral turpitude and it was up to Abramson to decide.
In his order, Abramson said his decision is based on a number of findings of facts and law. He said moral turpitude is not defined in the Organic Act of 1954 as amended and is not defined in the Virgin Islands Code, and added that no court in the territory has notified his office of any conviction resulting in the loss of voting privileges as it relates to Hansen's case.
Last year, the Board of Elections voted to affirm that Hansen was eligible to register and hold office, he said.
Following Abramson's ruling, attorney Yohana Manning, representing the VI Action Group, said it was strange the Abramson did not seek legal advice before making a decision and added that a federal lawsuit was imminent because Abramson did not do his job.
Moore has now joined in legal action in challenging Hansen's validity and said as an Independent Citizens Movement candidate for the 30th Legislature he sees it unlawful to allow an ineligible candidate to run for office. He said it will affect the votes that would be cast for him and he will be permanently and irreparably injured by allowing an ineligible candidate on the ballot.
Clarke and the group believe that their rights will be denied by dilution and they too would be irreparably injured if an ineligible candidate is allowed on the ballot.
Abramson could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. When contacted, Ross said he had not been notified about the filing of the complaint against them and certainly had not been personally served with any documents of that nature. He said once he is served, he may be able to issue a statement on the matter.
No hearing date has been scheduled in District Court on the matter at this time.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.