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ACCESS TO INFORMATION PROVES TO BE DEBATABLE

Dec. 13, 2002 – The 24th Legislature ended the last session of its first year Wednesday with a day of major temper displays and a minimal amount of legislation.
The body managed to pass four bills interspersed among outbreaks of histrionics as majority members traded insults with one another instead of attacking their usual favorite target, the minority senators.
It all started when Krishnarine Ramkisoon, Post Audit senior technical analyst, said he had been unable to come up with statistics senators had asked for. He couldn't obtain the balance in the General Fund, he said, and he couldn't produce an exact figure on how much money the senators had just spent in two days of amendments and appropriations.
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, in a relatively restrained manner, told Ramkissoon, "That is not acceptable." Sen. Adelbert Bryan jumped to his feet, saying of the Post Audit staff, "Why do we have them? What use are they?"
Ramkisoon said he had been unable to reach Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, who was in a cabinet meeting on St. John, and her subordinates wouldn't release the information. Bryan then threatened to take court action against the Finance Department to force it to release information in a timely fashion. He also asked the Legislature's legal counsel to draft an amendment repealing the section of the V.I. Code that created the Post Audit Division.
Then Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, chair of the Finance Committee, defended the division, which comes under her jurisdiction. She said the staff members do their jobs well.
Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel took issue with both Bryan and Hansen, calling them "immature" and accusing Bryan of "talking in parables." But she said that as vice chair of the Finance Committee she had been unable to obtain information from Post Audit. "They always have to check with Hansen first," she said.
Hansen retorted, "There's a chain of command around here, and it all comes through the chair of the Finance Committee, and this chair don't want this committee that bad. Any time Samuel feels she can bypass me and go to the staff, she can bring me a resolution to remove me. I'm not allowing any senator to bypass me."
Other senators defended the division. Sen. Carlton Dowe said, "I won't support what Bryan spoke of. The Post Audit works hard; it's unconscionable to say things about employees." Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole agreed, saying, "I will never degrade an employee. This needs to stop."
Liburd criticized Hansen's effort to control access to Post Audit. "The law strictly states that any senator should get information," he said, directing the senators henceforth to send their requests for information through him.

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Dec. 13, 2002 - The 24th Legislature ended the last session of its first year Wednesday with a day of major temper displays and a minimal amount of legislation.
The body managed to pass four bills interspersed among outbreaks of histrionics as majority members traded insults with one another instead of attacking their usual favorite target, the minority senators.
It all started when Krishnarine Ramkisoon, Post Audit senior technical analyst, said he had been unable to come up with statistics senators had asked for. He couldn't obtain the balance in the General Fund, he said, and he couldn't produce an exact figure on how much money the senators had just spent in two days of amendments and appropriations.
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, in a relatively restrained manner, told Ramkissoon, "That is not acceptable." Sen. Adelbert Bryan jumped to his feet, saying of the Post Audit staff, "Why do we have them? What use are they?"
Ramkisoon said he had been unable to reach Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull, who was in a cabinet meeting on St. John, and her subordinates wouldn't release the information. Bryan then threatened to take court action against the Finance Department to force it to release information in a timely fashion. He also asked the Legislature's legal counsel to draft an amendment repealing the section of the V.I. Code that created the Post Audit Division.
Then Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, chair of the Finance Committee, defended the division, which comes under her jurisdiction. She said the staff members do their jobs well.
Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel took issue with both Bryan and Hansen, calling them "immature" and accusing Bryan of "talking in parables." But she said that as vice chair of the Finance Committee she had been unable to obtain information from Post Audit. "They always have to check with Hansen first," she said.
Hansen retorted, "There's a chain of command around here, and it all comes through the chair of the Finance Committee, and this chair don't want this committee that bad. Any time Samuel feels she can bypass me and go to the staff, she can bring me a resolution to remove me. I'm not allowing any senator to bypass me."
Other senators defended the division. Sen. Carlton Dowe said, "I won't support what Bryan spoke of. The Post Audit works hard; it's unconscionable to say things about employees." Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole agreed, saying, "I will never degrade an employee. This needs to stop."
Liburd criticized Hansen's effort to control access to Post Audit. "The law strictly states that any senator should get information," he said, directing the senators henceforth to send their requests for information through him.