Oct. 6, 2003 – Government House confirmed on Monday that Health Commissioner Mavis Matthew submitted her resignation on Friday "effective immediately," and that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull accepted it as of Sunday.
A release dated Oct. 4, or Saturday, but distributed on Monday said Turnbull accepted Matthew's sudden resignation "effective midnight, Sunday." It also said the governor expressed his thanks to Matthew in a letter "for your years of public service in the Department of Health. Your willingness to serve in these trying times has been greatly appreciated."
Government House also released a copy of the letter Matthew sent to Turnbull dated Oct. 3. In it she said that the was resigning "effective immediately." In the five-sentence letter, she stated: "During my tenure, I have dedicated my service towards responding to the immediate public health priorities, establishing new benchmarks in the service delivery system, ensuring progress on capital projects, and rebuilding employees' morale."
She then added: "While that past 32 months as agency head has been a most exhilarating experience, the point in time has arrived when I must relinquish this position."
Repeated efforts to reach Matthew for comment on Monday were unsuccessful.
Her resignation letter came 10 days after Dr. Lucien Moolenaar, deputy Health commissioner for public health services, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of grand larceny and conversion of government funds. He is accused of having illegally cashed 63 payroll checks totaling more than $102,497 that were erroneously issued between July 1995 and September 2000. Moolenaar, a dentist, has pled innocent to the charges.
There has been no announcement from Government House as to whether Moolenaar remains on the job as deputy Health commissioner.
He was originally charged with embezzlement by the V.I. Attorney General's Office in January 2001 regarding the cashing of the same checks. At that time he was acting Health commissioner. He resigned from that post and took a leave from his permanent post of deputy commissioner while entering a plea of innocent to the territorial charges, which were later dropped.
Turnbull nominated Matthew in October 2001 to become Health commissioner, a position which she had been filling in an acting capacity from the previous January, when Moolenaar had resigned from the acting position. Matthew, a pediatrician, had served as assistant commissioner from 1999 to 2001 and previously had been director of the department's V.I. Maternal and Child Health and the Children with Special Health Care Needs programs.
Coming to office in January 1999, Turnbull named Dr. Wilbur Callender as his Health commissioner. Callender served for 16 months until the governor dismissed him in May of 2000.
The issue of Matthew's then-unconfirmed resignation or termination was raised Monday morning at a Senate Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee hearing on St. Thomas. Matthew had been invited to testify on a bill proposing to privatize operations of the East End Family Health Center on St. Thomas and the Frederiksted Health Center/Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic on St. Croix.
At the hearing. Sen. Usie Richards asked who would be testifying for the Health Department, as "I understand the commissioner may have been relieved of her duties, removed or resigned."
Sen. Douglas Canton Jr., the committee chair, appeared surprised at that news. "Sen. Richards, you are asking questions to which I do not have the answer," he replied.
The Health Department was under fire this summer after 22 HIV test samples collected on St. John disappeared before being analyzed. Last week, there was a flap over the Health Department's decision to stop issuing food handler's cards on St. John — a decision subsequently reversed.
According to the Government House release, Phyllis Wallace, deputy Health commissioner for administrative services and management, has been named acting commissioner "until further notice." WVWI Radio reported unconfirmed reports from government sources that Turnbull would nominate Darlene Carty to succeed Matthew. Carty earlier served as administrator of the Health Department's Early Detection Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
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