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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Words flew thick and fast in one-way communications Wednesday and Thursday between the Water and Power Authority Employee Association president and the Planning and Natural Resources Department commissioner.
In a three-quarter page paid advertisement in the V.I. Daily News on Wednesday, WAPA Employee Association head Hubert Turnbull accused PNR Commissioner Dean Plaskett of making threats and using profanities to WAPA executive director Raymond George and to Turnbull himself. Turnbull said the incidents occurred during the 23rd Legislature's marathon session into the night of Aug. 11 that ended in a vote not to approve the sale of 80 percent of WAPA to Southern Energy.
Turnbull in the ad also accused Plaskett of cursing and threatening Gail Watson Chiang, a St. Croix resident and Senate aspirant who had filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the sale on the grounds that the government had not sought bids. The WAPA employee said this behavior occurred during a court hearing by Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews on a temporary restraining order and during a recess in the proceedings.
In a one-page Government House press release Thursday, Plaskett denied threatening George during the Senate session. The release said the commissioner also "denied published reports he physically attacked anyone." The advertisement, in the form of a letter over Turnbull's signature to WAPA Board chair Carol Burke dated Aug. 17, did not mention a physical attack. Turnbull did state in the letter that Plaskett had "pointed his hand in my face."
Plaskett did not respond to the "profanities" and "cursing" allegations directly. He mainly took the offensive in the release, addressing a related issue. During the Southern Energy-related court proceedings, the release stated, he was accused of having accepted from Southern a free trip to a horse race in Florida. "I was horrified and completely shocked to hear such a totally false statement," the release quoted him. In response, he said, he "confronted" Chiang, Turnbull and an attorney for the plaintiffs, terming the allegation "an abominable lie."
Turnbull, who is also the president of the Concerned Employees of WAPA, had testified at the Senate's WAPA hearing on St. Thomas three days before the scheduled vote that he, himself, had been "wooed, wined and dined" by SEI in Atlanta but that he remained opposed to the sale.
In the letter-format ad, Turnbull accused Plaskett of having "an explosive temper" and said the commissioner had demonstrated "arrogance, rude and crude behavior." Turnbull added, "One can surmise from this kind of behavior that he handles his daily official businesses with the same attitude." And Turnbull voiced the view that Plaskett owed George and the WAPA employees "an apology for his intolerable mannerism."
The press release translated Turnbull's charges to accusations of "unbecoming conduct" at the legislative session on Plaskett's part. The commissioner then directed to Turnbull the statement that "you ought not make representations that are without merit, false, malicious and intended to defile an individual's character."

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