V.I. Superior Court judge rejects challenge to Christensen-Ottley ticket

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ST. THOMAS - V.I. Superior Court Judge Denise Francois dismissed a petition filed this week by gubernatorial candidate Moleto Smith Jr., who was asking for the disqualification of a candidate for lieutenant governor on a competing ticket.

Smith filed a petition Tuesday in V.I. Superior Court, asking the court to disqualify Basil Ottley Jr., who is running with current congressional delegate Donna Christensen.

Francois dismissed Smith's motion Wednesday in a court order.

"There is no question that Smith has the right to raise his challenges set forth in his petition, but he must do so within the framework provided by the statute," Francois's order stated.

Francois acknowledged that the need to uphold the deadlines was instrumental to conducting legal elections.

"The current situation illustrates the need for the mandatory time limits set by Section 412. There is a reason why the deadline for challenges is five days after nomination petitions and nomination papers are deemed valid," Francois wrote. "Permitting challenges at the 11th hour prevents ESVI from conducting elections according to its statutory mandate."

Francois also determined that the matter was not one within the Superior Court's jurisdiction but instead is for elections officials to handle.

"I think it speaks for itself," Ottley said Friday afternoon.

V.I. Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes already had dismissed Smith's initial complaint on July 8, a day after Smith made a complaint to the elections system.

Smith claimed in his complaint that Ottley worked and lived in Washington, D.C. in 2009, which would make him ineligible as a contender, based on Smith's assessment.

According to the V.I. Code, to be eligible to run for the office of lieutenant governor, a candidate must be a U.S. citizen, a bona fide resident of the Virgin Islands and an eligible voter in the territory for the five years preceding the election.

Fawkes responded to Smith, stating that, while Ottley held a position in Washington, D.C., in 2009, his work outside the territory did not translate to him being an official resident there.

Additionally, Fawkes asserted that Smith and his running mate, Hubert Frederick, filed their complaint outside of the deadline for candidates' grievances.

The last filing day for challenges was five days following the nomination filings deadline date, May 23, according to Francois' order. Smith and Frederick filed their complaint July 7.

Fawkes responded to Smith by letter July 8.

Smith then filed an appeal with the Joint Board of Elections, but in mid-July, the joint board upheld Fawkes' ruling.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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