If bill number 29-0289 ever sees the light of day, St. John residents will join citizens across the territory to determine whether or not to oust Governor John deJongh and Lieutenant Governor Greg Francis.
Sponsored by St. Croix Senators Terrence “Positive” Nelson and Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly, bill 29-0289 calls for the initiation of a recall election for the governor and lieutenant governor on several specific grounds.
The bill cites that the administration “relied almost exclusively on borrowing as a means to close the budget shortfall,” “consistently misled the Legislature and the public regarding the financial state of affairs,” and has “not proposed or implemented any solutions to the energy crisis in the Virgin Islands.”
The bill slams the administration for not exercising “sufficient influence on and communication with officials at HOVENSA in order to receive greater advance notice of HOVENSA’s closure.”
On a personal note with the territory’s top brass, the bill also lambasts the governor for being “vindictive.”
“Governor John deJongh has consistently used his pulpit as Chief Executive of the territory in a vindictive manner to lambast his political opponents, the Legislature, the business community and the general public rather than propose meaningful solutions to our territory’s problems,” according to bill 29-0289.
With no impeachment procedure options available to residents or legislators in the territory, using a recall election is the only way to unseat an administration. While the bill does not call for deJongh to be recalled, it proposes putting the measure to a popular vote, explained Senator Nelson.
“We don’t have impeachment powers in the Virgin Islands,” he said. “Recall is our form of impeachment. If this bill passes through the legislature, the election board will have to go about the business of conducting a recall election.”
“First of all, it’s important for us to clarify that this effort is not recalling the governor, it’s just providing an opportunity for the people to decide if they want to continue to keep the current administration,” said Senator O’Reilly.
The legislation did not pop up overnight; the move for creating this bill actually began years ago, explained Nelson.
“This started a long time ago from the governor’s initial activity with spending public funds on his personal home,” Nelson said. “I didn’t rush to do this. I have been quietly observing his behavior as governor and much of his behavior — from the corruption with the house to his handling of certain proposals which have come down to the legislature — a lot seems to be of personal interest to the governor.”
“This is also about his immature behavior and his playing the blame game instead of coming up with solutions to our problems,” said Nelson. “The night of the State of the Territory address, the governor called out senators and in our current conditions, he spent more than 60 percent of his speech blaming the business community and even workers. That told me that he is not in touch with reality.”
Both senators questioned whether deJongh had a concrete plan and vision for the territory in the first place.
“Taking into consideration all the things that have taken place, from the $40 million in retroactive wages that were paid to the negotiation of union contracts prior to his reelection and then the sudden change once his second term was secured, it calls into question the governor’s intention and whether or not he had a plan for the territory,” said O’Reilly. “His only plan appears to be borrowing money.”
The legislature approved many of deJongh’s measures, which have done nothing to improve the territory’s economy, explained Nelson.
“This governor has had a great relationship with the legislature in terms of getting his measures though,” said Nelson. “He’s gotten everything he asked for and on top of that he’s gotten federal funds and on top of that he’s gotten almost $300 million in recovery funds and he used all of this money and we have not seen improvement.
Conditions continue to worsen in the territory, and not only the infrastructure, but the efficiency of the government too.”
Bill 29-0289 is currently stalled in committee awaiting hearings to be scheduled on all three islands, explained Nelson.
“They sent the bill to committee and there are supposed to be hearings on all three islands so the people can say whether this is something they want or not,” he said.
Senate President Ronald Russell would be the one to set dates for those hearings for the bill, which he had not done as of press time.
Citizens who want those hearings to be scheduled should call Russell’s office and request such, explained Nelson.
If the bill does not ever come up for vote, there is another recall route citizens can launch; a recall petition. If 51 percent of registered voters sign a petition demanding a recall election, the Virgin Islands Board of Election would be forced to organize it, Nelson added.
“Many people don’t like to sign their names to petitions, so we’re hoping this legislation makes it through,” he said.
In the end, Bill 29-0289 is about the people, explained O’Reilly.
“I feel that there seems to be a lot of rancor and concern out there,” she said. “Government workers, non-government workers and even the business community are feeling that there is no direction for us. I want to give the people of the Virgin Islands the opportunity to decide if they want to keep this administration or not.”
To read the full bill and get contact information for the full legislature, check out www.legvi.org.