Sept. 28, 2004 A St. John boaters group has gone public with a list of what its members feel are heavy-handed enforcement incidents by Planning and Natural Resources Department enforcement officers.
"People shouldn't be treated this way," Morgan MacDonald, who spearheads The Coral Bay Association for Marine Planning, known as CAMP, said.
The tension began when Planning told boaters in Johnson Bay that they had to leave because that section of Coral Harbor is not a designated mooring area. (See "Johnson Bay Boaters: Out of Luck?").
Shortly after they got word about having to move, MacDonald said he received a visit from armed Planning enforcement officers. MacDonald said they visited because he didn't have his registration sticker visible on his boat.
MacDonald claims the officers tried to arrest him and handcuff him for this minor offense. He said that after more exchanges, the officers gave him a citation, which is Planning's version of a traffic ticket.
Lucia Francis, who serves as chief of Planning's Enforcement Division, said at a Sept. 20 boater's meeting in Coral Bay that MacDonald's case was under investigation by the Attorney General's office so she couldn't comment. MacDonald said he hasn't heard anything from the Attorney General's office.
Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean C. Plaskett had a quick response when asked about this and other incidents.
"If they think their constitutional rights were violated, they know the way to the courthouse," he said.
Red Hook, St. Thomas, boater Ed Trupp also had a tale to tell about Planning's enforcement officers. He said he received a citation for failing to register his boat. He said the box on the citation that indicates a mandatory court appearance was not checked, so he promptly mailed in a check for $50, the amount he understood the fine to be.
"They showed up with the marshals to arrest me for failing to appear in court," Trupp said, putting the number of marshals at around six or seven.
He said he explained that he had already paid the fine, but it "was like talking to a wall."
Trupp said the marshals handcuffed him and hauled him off in a convoy to Territorial Court.
When his wife arrived to post bail, he was told the charges were dropped. They made him pay an additional $20 because they claimed the fine was actually $70, not the $50 mailed in by Trupp.
"This was two-and-a-half hours of my time wasted, and they had egg all over their face," Trupp said.
MacDonald released information on two other incidents, but those boaters declined to speak to a reporter for fear of retaliation.
He said that in one of the incidents, the boat owner was dragged to the marshal's vehicle, handcuffed behind his back and driven to Territorial Court with the vehicle's lights flashing. He said the marshals refused to put the handcuffs in front of his body to alleviate discomfort. He said the man was released after posting $500 bail.
As for the Johnson Bay issue, Plaskett maintained that Johnson Bay is not a mooring area and that the boaters moored there do not hold permits to moor in Johnson Bay.
Boaters have received notices to move, but Plaskett said the department plans to meet with them first before they actually have to get out.
Boaters have said that there is no room for them in Coral Harbor, the closest mooring area listed under the Mooring and Anchoring Law.
Plaskett said that the boaters should appeal to the Legislature to make Johnson Bay a mooring area. The Legislature created the 1992 Mooring and Anchoring Law that designates mooring areas across the territory.
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