The Legislatures legal counsel has declined a senators request to look into the constitutionality of the disparity in funding between majority and minority bloc senators.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg wrote attorney Constance Krigger, the Senates chief legal counsel, on Monday asking her to research the legality of the eight-member majority blocs "efforts to marginalize non-majority senators through severe budgetary constraints."
Donastorg said many of the majority bloc senators reportedly are operating with budgets "well in excess of $500,000."
However, since six of the seven non-majority senators do not chair a committee, Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd says that justifies their budget allotments of approximately $100,000.
Donastorg asked Krigger whether the disparate allotments constitute a violation of equal protection laws, "as all 15 members of this body were duly elected to serve the people of the Virgin Islands and are entitled to equitable resources."
"By my interpretation, the unequal allotments could very well establish unequal representation a clear violation of the United States Constitution," Donastorg wrote.
Krigger said she couldnt render an opinion on Donastorg's request because of the Legislature's rules, which state that the chief legal counsels duties are to examine, analyze and research legislative proposals.
"In that capacity, the Legal Counsels Office cannot issue a legal opinion on a measure that is not a legislative proposal and it cannot be involved with an issue that is purely political in nature and pits one group of senators against another," Krigger said.
She did say that past research on a similar issue found no instance that involved allocation of funds between the majority and minority members, and that included the U.S. Congress. Krigger did note that a taxpayer lawsuit could be instituted by any taxpaying resident who feels that his or her constitutional equal protection rights are being violated.
The $100,000 allotment dished out by the majority caused Donastorg to ask Liburd to direct $10,000 from his $65,000-a-year salary to his allotment so he could supplement the pay of his three remaining staff members.
Donastorg said he had to fire four of his employees because the allotments doled out by the new Senate majority to minority, non-committee chair holders was insufficient. Liburd refused the request.