April 11, 2003 – Two weeks after Government House spokesman James O'Bryan said he knew nothing about the firing of Ohanio Harris, special assistant to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, the administration issued a terse statement on Thursday saying the governor had accepted Harris's resignation effective April 8.
Harris was a key figure in the government's controversial $3.6 million contract with Global Resources Management Inc. for St. Croix sewage system repairs that was awarded without competitive bidding.
According to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Justice Department and testimony before District Judge Thomas K. Moore, Harris was the chief executive of GRM, a start-up St. Croix company, until a year ago and repeatedly lobbied Public Works and Property and Procurement Department officials to approve the contract with the firm.
The contract was awarded to the St. Croix company last December as a "public exigency" under a "state of emergency" in St. Croix's waste treatment system declared by Turnbull. The governor canceled the contract without explanation two days before a hearing that Moore had scheduled on a petition from the federal officials asking the government to show cause why the contract should not be voided.
Moore, after three days of testimony on the matter, issued a scathing report denouncing the government's actions in declaring an emergency and in awarding the contract. He ordered the government not to revive the contract with GRM, and to hire a "qualified independent private contractor" within 90 days to operate and maintain the island's pump stations and sewage collection system for the next 18 months.
There have been reports that the government intends to appeal Moore's ruling and has hired a Philadelphia law firm to argue its case in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Thursday's Government House release said although the resignation was effective April 8, Harris had been placed on administrative leave until April 30.
Turnbull thanked Harris for his services and wished him "much success in his future endeavors."
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