Dec. 20, 2004 The Virgin Islands government, alas, does not have a reputation for transparency. It, in fact, frequently treats information that is public as though it were personal information nobody's business but its own.
The most recent and flagrant disregard of public trust is the current behavior of Health Commissioner Darlene Carty who has consistently refused to release the minutes of an ad hoc committee formed to evaluate whether an ambulatory surgical center is needed for the island.
Not only will the commissioner not release these documents to the public; she won't release them to Rodney Miller, Roy L. Schneider hospital chief executive officer, and his legal staff.
The V.I. operates under the VI Code, title, 1, section 254, also known as the Sunshine Law. It is called the sunshine law because its purpose is to allow light to shine on "all records and documents of or belonging to this territory… or any department, board, council or committee of any such branch of government."
This committee was also bound, we believe, by the Sunshine Act to have open meetings. But this committee never announced a meeting, never posted any agendas, and in fact never announced who the members were until its decision was made public.
As if this weren't suspect enough, Carty, in a move best known to herself, required committee members to sign confidentiality agreements. Why was that necessary? Why the cloak and dagger act? It only casts a very poor light on the Department of Health, and by association, the entire government. The public is the one who will be affected by having the ambulatory facility. The public has the right to know all the reasons for or against such a facility.
It's the Democratic process. It is right up there with the right to vote, the right to conduct business, the right to free speech and all those rights we assume as Americans.
Amos Carty, RLS chief legal counsel, wrote Darlene Carty Oct. 15 requesting copies of the committee's minutes. The commissioner refused on the advice, she said, of her legal counsel.
The hospital was not officially notified of the decision until Dec. 3, and that notification came on an unsigned e-mail with no letterhead and no date. It listed the criteria used to arrive at the approval, but it gave no details about how, or if, those criteria were met.
The hospital announced last week that it will appeal the committee's decision. However, there's a catch. Along with a steady refusal to release the committee's minutes, Carty has not responded to the hospital's request for a copy of the commissioner's rules and regulations used to justify her decision.
Without a copy of the rules and regulations, attorney Carty does not know the time frame for the hospital's appeal. There has been speculation that these documents are not in good order.
Commissioner Carty has also not returned repeated phone calls from the Source on this and other matters.
For a public servant to flaunt this behavior is unacceptable. To refuse to make public information public, sets precedent. It's a black eye for the whole government. And it certainly doesn't enhance a "business-friendly" atmosphere for potential outside investors.
When Carty's nomination was approved by the Senate early this year, some questioned her nomination on the basis that she is not a doctor others questioned her age, 35. Carty has risen with relative rapidity in the Health Department's ranks. In 10 years she has gone from financial accounts manager at the Thomas-St. John Hospital Facilities business office to commissioner.
We have often seen when people who are young or inexperienced or under-qualified are placed in these lofty positions, their first instinct when challenged is to run and hide.
Carty, who started out with an exceptional open-door spirit, has seemingly slammed it shut, thus joining the ranks of notable others who apparently don't understand the meaning of public servant.
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