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GRM Trial in Full Swing on St. Croix

May 19, 2006 – Top officials and former top officials of the V.I. government were called upon one after the other to give testimony during the high profile Global Resources Management conspiracy and fraud trial that started last week in the U.S. District Court on St. Croix.
On Thursday, prosecutors went right to the top, questioning Gov. Charles W. Turnbull about his signing of a contract with GRM, a company that has been portrayed by prosecutors and its detractors as a shell corporation with no equipment, projects or assets – set up for the sole purpose of obtaining a multimillion dollar no-bid contract to repair St. Croix's decrepit sewer system.
The principals of GRM at the time of the execution of the contract included St. Croix attorney Ashley Andrews; Ohanio Harris, special assistant to the governor; Campbell Malone, former Senate post auditor; and Esdel Hansen, husband of then St. Croix Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen.
Jomo Meade, the attorney for Sen. Hansen, who was also named in the indictment charging the five with conspiracy and fraud, was successful in getting the case against the former senator severed from the current trial. She is expected to be tried at a later date.
According to The Avis, Turnbull, who had declared a state of exigency in 2001 to allow for no-bid contracts after the V.I. government's failure to comply with the court ordered repair of the broken down system that routinely caused millions of gallons of raw sewage to be pumped into the sea day after day for years, said his action on the contract was taken because "time was out."
The governor said that even though he was advised not to sign the contract – in part because GRM had not obtained the necessary performance bond – he felt pressured to comply with the federal consent decree in force since 1984 to make the repairs.
At one point District Court Judge Thomas K. Moore had threatened to throw government officials in jail if they didn't act to repair the system.
It was also Moore, in a 60-page opinion that put a judicial end to the GRM contract, who ultimately said the contract reeked "of politics and political influence, and quite possibly of political corruption." (See "Judge Finds 'Reek of Politics' in Sewage Contract".)
Prior to appearance in Moore's court in early 2003 after word got out about the controversial contract, Turnbull quietly canceled it. But Moore still required the governor to appear in court and ultimately Moore gave his opinion.
Included in those close to the government who gave testimony over the last week were former Attorney General Iver Stridiron; former Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood; Greg Davila, public information officer for Juan Luis Hospital and former PIO for Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James; former Sen. Adelbert Bryan; and Herbert Grigg, chief of operations at Property and Procurement.
An engineering firm – the Berger Group – approached by GRM to work with them on the sewer repairs also testified for the prosecution.
Callwood, who was Public Works commissioner at the time when GRM first came along with the contract, told the jury last Friday, according to the Daily News, that he was pressured by Harris and others into signing off on the contract.
Callwood, who in his position as head of DPW was responsible for completing the repairs and ill equipped to do it, said Harris accused him of incompetence at a meeting at Government House with Turnbull and the GRM principals.
Callwood said, "I was under enormous pressure from Mr. Harris. I would get threats: 'I'll call the governor and get you fired,'" The Daily News reported.
Harris pleaded guilty on the eve of jury selection to conspiracy to commit theft and bribery in connection with federal money, conflict of interest and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Callwood said he finally signed the contract after George Phillips, former special assistant to the governor and current acting Public Works commissioner, came to his office and demanded that he sign it.
Callwood resigned in March 2005 and was replaced by Phillips.
Grigg also testified, according to the Daily News, that when Callwood didn't show up for a meeting with Harris, Andrews and Hansen, Harris told Grigg there would be repercussions.
But Stephen Brusch, Andrews' attorney, questioned Callwood about testimony he gave at Moore's 2003 hearing in which the former PWD head said the only pressure he felt in signing the contract was to get the work done.
Callwood replied he didn't mention the pressure from Harris because at the time he was happy that the work was finally being done.
Testimony has also been heard on a deal to involve the Berger Group in the project. Robert Janis, who was working for Berger as an environmental engineer at the time, said the two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding, the Daily News reported, that would have left Berger providing the engineering and Hansen – who worked on the sewer system for years when was employed by DPW – offering the technical expertise.
Berger chilled on the deal when GRM asked to borrow money to pay for the performance bond, and after seeing the signed contract, which substantially reduced Berger's scope of work and therefore their money. The final straw for Berger was Turnbull canceling the contract.
Another issue that has emerged during the trial is the matter of a bill submitted months after the contract was canceled for work on the contract proposal.
Esdel Hansen is accused of submitting information to Malone stating he did $240,100 worth of work on the contract proposal. Hansen said he worked 1,372 hours at $175 per hour.
Andrews is charged with having put items in the bill for reimbursement for work supposedly paid for by GRM that testimony revealed was not paid.
Davila testified that he did volunteer work for GRM while between jobs. But Andrews submitted a bill that included for 40 hours of work done by Davila at $50 per hour. When asked by Brusch if he had told the FBI that he would have expected to be paid if the contract hadn't been canceled, Davila said, "I may have," according to The Avis.
Another entry on the bill, according to The Avis, had Hansen working 48 hours in one day – Aug. 4, 2002. Hansen said he never claimed to have worked those hours. He said Andrews was the person who fashioned the bill.
The trial – which continues Monday – is before Judge James Giles, the presiding judge of the Third Circuit Court Eastern Pennsylvania division.

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May 19, 2006 - Top officials and former top officials of the V.I. government were called upon one after the other to give testimony during the high profile Global Resources Management conspiracy and fraud trial that started last week in the U.S. District Court on St. Croix.
On Thursday, prosecutors went right to the top, questioning Gov. Charles W. Turnbull about his signing of a contract with GRM, a company that has been portrayed by prosecutors and its detractors as a shell corporation with no equipment, projects or assets - set up for the sole purpose of obtaining a multimillion dollar no-bid contract to repair St. Croix's decrepit sewer system.
The principals of GRM at the time of the execution of the contract included St. Croix attorney Ashley Andrews; Ohanio Harris, special assistant to the governor; Campbell Malone, former Senate post auditor; and Esdel Hansen, husband of then St. Croix Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen.
Jomo Meade, the attorney for Sen. Hansen, who was also named in the indictment charging the five with conspiracy and fraud, was successful in getting the case against the former senator severed from the current trial. She is expected to be tried at a later date.
According to The Avis, Turnbull, who had declared a state of exigency in 2001 to allow for no-bid contracts after the V.I. government's failure to comply with the court ordered repair of the broken down system that routinely caused millions of gallons of raw sewage to be pumped into the sea day after day for years, said his action on the contract was taken because "time was out."
The governor said that even though he was advised not to sign the contract - in part because GRM had not obtained the necessary performance bond - he felt pressured to comply with the federal consent decree in force since 1984 to make the repairs.
At one point District Court Judge Thomas K. Moore had threatened to throw government officials in jail if they didn't act to repair the system.
It was also Moore, in a 60-page opinion that put a judicial end to the GRM contract, who ultimately said the contract reeked "of politics and political influence, and quite possibly of political corruption." (See "Judge Finds 'Reek of Politics' in Sewage Contract".)
Prior to appearance in Moore's court in early 2003 after word got out about the controversial contract, Turnbull quietly canceled it. But Moore still required the governor to appear in court and ultimately Moore gave his opinion.
Included in those close to the government who gave testimony over the last week were former Attorney General Iver Stridiron; former Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood; Greg Davila, public information officer for Juan Luis Hospital and former PIO for Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James; former Sen. Adelbert Bryan; and Herbert Grigg, chief of operations at Property and Procurement.
An engineering firm - the Berger Group - approached by GRM to work with them on the sewer repairs also testified for the prosecution.
Callwood, who was Public Works commissioner at the time when GRM first came along with the contract, told the jury last Friday, according to the Daily News, that he was pressured by Harris and others into signing off on the contract.
Callwood, who in his position as head of DPW was responsible for completing the repairs and ill equipped to do it, said Harris accused him of incompetence at a meeting at Government House with Turnbull and the GRM principals.
Callwood said, "I was under enormous pressure from Mr. Harris. I would get threats: 'I'll call the governor and get you fired,'" The Daily News reported.
Harris pleaded guilty on the eve of jury selection to conspiracy to commit theft and bribery in connection with federal money, conflict of interest and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Callwood said he finally signed the contract after George Phillips, former special assistant to the governor and current acting Public Works commissioner, came to his office and demanded that he sign it.
Callwood resigned in March 2005 and was replaced by Phillips.
Grigg also testified, according to the Daily News, that when Callwood didn't show up for a meeting with Harris, Andrews and Hansen, Harris told Grigg there would be repercussions.
But Stephen Brusch, Andrews' attorney, questioned Callwood about testimony he gave at Moore's 2003 hearing in which the former PWD head said the only pressure he felt in signing the contract was to get the work done.
Callwood replied he didn't mention the pressure from Harris because at the time he was happy that the work was finally being done.
Testimony has also been heard on a deal to involve the Berger Group in the project. Robert Janis, who was working for Berger as an environmental engineer at the time, said the two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding, the Daily News reported, that would have left Berger providing the engineering and Hansen - who worked on the sewer system for years when was employed by DPW - offering the technical expertise.
Berger chilled on the deal when GRM asked to borrow money to pay for the performance bond, and after seeing the signed contract, which substantially reduced Berger's scope of work and therefore their money. The final straw for Berger was Turnbull canceling the contract.
Another issue that has emerged during the trial is the matter of a bill submitted months after the contract was canceled for work on the contract proposal.
Esdel Hansen is accused of submitting information to Malone stating he did $240,100 worth of work on the contract proposal. Hansen said he worked 1,372 hours at $175 per hour.
Andrews is charged with having put items in the bill for reimbursement for work supposedly paid for by GRM that testimony revealed was not paid.
Davila testified that he did volunteer work for GRM while between jobs. But Andrews submitted a bill that included for 40 hours of work done by Davila at $50 per hour. When asked by Brusch if he had told the FBI that he would have expected to be paid if the contract hadn't been canceled, Davila said, "I may have," according to The Avis.
Another entry on the bill, according to The Avis, had Hansen working 48 hours in one day - Aug. 4, 2002. Hansen said he never claimed to have worked those hours. He said Andrews was the person who fashioned the bill.
The trial - which continues Monday - is before Judge James Giles, the presiding judge of the Third Circuit Court Eastern Pennsylvania division.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.