Superior Court Judge Darryl Donohue on Friday dismissed all complaints brought by Lawrence Olive against high ranking government officials, including Gov. John deJongh Jr., due to a guard shack and security fence built at the governor’s private residence in 2006, shortly after deJongh was elected to his first term.
In September 2009, Olive’s attorney Jeffrey Moorhead filed a complaint with the court claiming that the construction of a $357,000 security fence and guard shack built in plain sight, put out for public bid and approved by the then-acting attorney general at the governor’s residence, constituted a conspiracy to defraud Virgin Islands taxpayers.
Olive, a former director of the Motor Vehicle Department, claimed that deJongh built the security fence rather than reside with his family at Government House – which Olive suggested is required by law.
Donohue, in his order to dismiss, said the law is not clear on whether Government House is required to be the official or the actual residence of the governor. But either way, no governor in recent memory has resided there permanently.
Gov. Roy Schneider was the last governor to live part time at Government House. His bedroom on the third floor was later converted to offices, at which point he moved back to his personal residence on Flag Hill and built a guard shack there.
After being elected, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull spent thousands of dollars a month renting a house in Estate Elizabeth where he spent government funds constructing a guard house and security system.
Turnbull resided there for close to a year while he completed millions of dollars in renovations to Catharineberg – the former Danish Consulate owned by West Indian Co. Ltd. but often referred to as the Governor’s Mansion.
After renovations were completed, Turnbull lived at Catharineberg for the duration of his eight years in office.
In the judge’s dismissal, Donohue said deJongh likely saved taxpayers money by not “allocating tax dollars to the maintenance and upkeep of Government House.”
Along with asking that deJongh reimburse the government for the cost of the security measures, Olive asked for punitive damages, which Donohue also dismissed, saying there was no legal basis for Olive or the taxpayers to be entitled to monetary relief for actions of the government in this case.
“Even when viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff the allegations do not set forth a plausible claim of relief on any of the potential causes of action suggested in the complaint,” Donohue wrote.
“The complaint’s deficiencies and failure to plead the elements of any conceivable cause of action leave the court with no basis to allow the case to proceed.”
Saying that the arguments applied to all the defendants, Donohue dismissed all actions with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought again, against all of the defendants.
Others named in Olive’s complaint included Elliot Davis, then-acting attorney general who had provided an opinion allowing for the expenditure of public funds for the security at the governor’s residence; Attorney General Vincent Frazer; Property and Procurement Commissioner Lynn Millin Maduro; Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls; and former Director of the Public Finance Authority Julito Francis.
Olive was dismissed from his position at Motor Vehicles in January 2007 by deJongh, shortly after the governor took office and a few years after a V.I. Inspector General’s audit revealed monetary improprieties at the DMV.
When reached, Government House spokesman Jean P. Greaux said the governor had “no comment.”