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Charlotte Amalie
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Carnival Committee Sues Legislature, V.I. Government

July 9, 2004 – At a contentious June 4 hearing, the Senate Finance Committee moved to petition Territorial Court to enforce a subpoena compelling the V.I. Carnival Committee to submit several years worth of detailed financial records. On Friday, the Carnival Committee beat the Legislature to the punch.
In a five-page complaint filed in Territorial Court around 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Carnival Committee sued the 25th Legislature and the V.I. government.
The complaint asks the court to order the Legislature to stop trying to get the Carnival Committee to testify or to produce financial documents concerning government funding, "except as required by law." It also asks the court to order the government not to audit the Carnival Committee.
The plaintiffs in the suit are Kenneth Blake, Carnival Committee chair; Derrick A. Gumbs, committee treasurer; and Caswil D. Callender, committee executive director. They accuse the Finance Committee of seeking to "coerce" the Carnival Committee into submitting financial documents which they say they are not required by law to give up to the government.
The injunction against the government sought in the complaint, filed by the committee's attorney, Desmond L. Maynard, could end any hopes V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt may have of auditing the Carnival Committee books.
The dispute pitting the Carnival Committee against the government started with an attempted audit by van Beverhoudt in 2002. The Carnival Committee leadership has been adamant that neither the Senate nor the Office of Inspector General has any legal basis for looking into Carnival finances. But in a series of recent legislative hearings, senators and van Beverhoudt expressed a different view.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Finance Committee chair, has made it clear in public comments and statements and an exchange of letters with Carnival officials that he thinks they owe the taxpayers of the Virgin Islands a good, long look at their balance sheet. Donastorg could not be reached for comment Friday night.
Van Beverhoudt, who is vacationing off-island and also could not be reached, testified at two recent Finance Committee hearings that he is "interested" in auditing the Carnival Committee, but that his office lacks the resources and personnel to undertake the investigation at present. Van Beverhoudt also pointed out at the June 4 hearing that the Carnival Committee has "never been audited." (See "Carnival Committee Says No to Senate Audit".)
Attorney General Iver Stridiron, who is not named in the suit, opined in a 2002 letter that the Inspector General's Office "has the authority and a duty to audit the books and accounts of the Carnival Committee."
But the Carnival Committee holds otherwise, on the grounds that it is not a government agency but a not-for-profit corporation registered with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. And it has made its views clear repeatedly to the Finance Committee.
Reached at home on Friday evening, Callender said he and his colleagues suspected the Finance Committee would not act on its June 4 motion to petition the Territorial Court. "We haven't heard anything from them, so we decided to take action ourselves to get this matter settled before election time," he said.
In his recent clashes with the Finance Committee, Callender has accused Donastorg of "making an election issue" out if his battle with the Carnival Committee.
Callender said V.I. Carnival is "considered the best-organized carnival throughout the Caribbean." So, he wanted to know, "Why are they coming after us?"
In the last three years, the Carnival Committee has received more than $1.2 million from the government. As a result, the complaint states, the committee is required to "submit a detailed financial statement" to the governor and the Legislature — and that it has done in years past and is willing to do now.
The Carnival officials' most recent defiance of Donastorg and the Finance Committee came on Tuesday, when they failed to appear for their scheduled fiscal year 2005 budget hearing. Their absence came as no surprise, however. Blake had written Donastorg on June 18 saying the committee wouldn't be there – because it is "a private non-profit corporation and not a government department, nor agency, nor commission, nor instrumentality, nor bureau."

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