April 8, 2006 – One chapter in the saga between the Tourism Department and the V.I. Carnival Committee came to an end this week with the signing of a new contract and the release of $335,000 out of $350,000 in Legislature-appropriated funding for this year's events.
The dispute began when Tourism submitted in January an initial contract – a standard document used by the Justice Department for all contracts – which committee members did not sign because it refered to the committee as a "contractor" of the V.I. government.
Since then, the Carnival committee held two press conferences to discuss the contract – and the committee's steadfast refusal to open its books (See "Carnival Committee Refuses Contract with Tourism Department").
During one conference, Kenneth Blake, the committee's chair, said Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards refused to sign a second contract negotiated between committee members and tourism representatives in early March. He said the contract outlined how Carnival would be run and how $350,000 appropriated by the Legislature for Carnival would be spent.
Blake further explained that Richards had opted to hold onto the money until a contract was signed, and the Legislature had determined whether the funds should be disbursed as a grant or subsidy (See "Carnival Official Says 'Concerted Effort' Exists to 'Sabotage' Carnival").
According to a recent press release from Government House, the "deadlock" ended after Gov. Charles W. Turnbull met with various government officials to discuss the matter – including Attorney General Kerry Drue, who recommended that the contract be changed from the standard professional services contract to a grant agreement.
The release said that Blake signed the new contract on Wednesday, and two checks totaling $335,000 were released to the committee Friday afternoon. The remaining $15,000 will be released once the committee gives Tourism a full financial report at the end of this year's Carnival activities.
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