March 26, 2009 — In a major reshuffling of his cabinet, Gov. John deJongh Jr. has nominated Internal Revenue Bureau Director Gizette Canegata-Thomas to replace Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Eileen Petersen, and nominated Commissioner of Finance Claudette Watson-Anderson to replace Thomas at IRB.
DeJongh also nominated former Sen. Violet Anne Golden to the Casino Control Commission, and meeting in Frederiksted Thursday, the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee approved and forwarded all three nominations to the full Senate for confirmation.
The three candidates, all native Virgin Islanders, have served in a variety of high-level government positions over the years. Although no one cast a nay vote on any of the candidates, several St. Croix senators were unhappy at losing the Crucian presence of Watson-Anderson in the powerful Finance post.
"If the governor wants to move the director of IRB to the Casino Control Commission that is one thing," Senate Majority Leader Neville James said. "But I have problem of moving you from commissioner of finance and that's a compliment."
By virtue of the position, the Finance commissioner serves on the Public Finance Authority and an array of other board positions. With Watson-Anderson moving, the PFA, which controls the purse strings for most government-funded capital projects, will have no St. Croix representation.
Sen. Michael Thurland said millions of dollars in federal economic stimulus money will be funneled through the PFA.
"This isn't just a silly rivalry between St. Thomas and St. Croix," Thurland said.
The Casino Control Commission currently regulates one casino; Divi Carina Bay Casino, and issues provisional gaming licenses for potential future St. Croix casinos. By statute it is supposed to have six members and needs three members to act. Currently it has three members but the term of Chairwoman Eileen Petersen has expired, so the commission has been acting without a technical quorum under a provision of the Casino Control Act saying the law cannot be enforced in a way that prevents the commission from performing its duties. (See: "Former Inspector: Actions of Undermanned Casino Commission Not Valid.")
Adding Watson-Anderson and Golden will give the commission a quorum, resolving this problem, though still leaving it below the statutory full complement. Because Casino Control Commission members are paid salary rather than a per diem and there is only one casino to regulate, Petersen recommended several years ago that then-Gov. Charles Turnbull keep the commission below its complement to save money.
All three nominations were approved and sent to the full Senate by unanimous votes. Voting yea were: James, Thurland, Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Usie Richards, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Simeon Sprauve and Alvin Williams. All members were present. Sens. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly and Shawn-Michael Malone, who are not members of this committee, were also present.
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