The V.I. Joint Board of Elections voted to name St. Thomas/St. John member Alecia Wells as chairwoman during the joint body’s organizational meeting Saturday.
The joint board is comprised of members of the elected St. Croix District Board of Elections and St. Thomas/St. John District Board of Elections. The district boards have authority over elections in their districts. By law, the joint board must meet quarterly to set territory-wide elections policy. Also by law, it votes to select new officers at its first regular meeting after elected members are sworn in, which was the agenda for Saturday’s meeting.
St. Thomas/St. John member Wilma Marsh Monsanto first nominated St. Croix District Board chairman Adelbert Bryan as chair. That motion was defeated, eight to five, with one not voting. Voting yea were Bryan, Monsanto, Roland Moolenaar, Lilliana O’Neal, and Glenn Webster. Voting nay were Wells, Arturo Watlington, Lawrence "Larry" Boschulte, Claudette Georges, Harry Daniel, Lisa Harris-Moorhead, Rupert Ross, Raymond Williams. Lydia Hendricks of St. Thomas abstained.
Then Watlington nominated a slate of candidates as a group, nominating Wells as chair, Harris-Moorhead as vice chair and himself as secretary.
Bryan objected and moved to amend the motion to have each of the three candidates voted on separately. The motion succeeded and the joint board proceeded to a roll call vote on Wells.
Voting for Wells as chair were: Boschulte, Georges, Daniel, Wells, Watlington, Harris-Moorhead, Ross and Williams. Voting nay were Monsanto, Hendricks, O’Neal, Webster, Moolenaar and Bryan.
Wells then called for a vote on Harris-Moorhead as vice chair – the next of the three candidates nominated in Watlington’s motion. Bryan said "point of order," and said he wanted to add nominees to the motion. Wells and others objected that the motion and amendment process had already occurred, and one of three votes agreed to in the motion had already transpired, so the votes had to be completed before a new motion could be offered.
With Bryan supporters in the audience muttering "thief" and "break the quorum," the board proceeded to install Harris-Moorhead as vice chair and Watlington as secretary, with the same eight-to-six vote as Wells received.
Wells introduced herself, saying she had served on the St. Thomas/St. John board for a number of years.
"I know the perception is a lot of things were done under a cloud, under the joint chair prior to this time, and we’ve seen all the people who wrote letters to the board," Wells said. "We still have work to do and I am hoping with this new board in place, that perception would be cleared up. … We are looking forward to a smooth running of the district boards and the joint board," she said.
Wells moved to adjourn the board, but the motion failed. Watlington moved to have Deputy Supervisor of Elections James Weber II oversee the St. Croix elections office and Sharon Benjamin to oversee the St. Thomas office, bypassing the St. Thomas/St. John Deputy Supervisor of Elections Mabel Maduro.
Supervisor of Elections John Abramson has direct oversight over all these officials and their day-to-day roles, but Abramson is out on extended medical leave, and has submitted his resignation, effective May 31.
The board suspended Maduro last year at Supervisor of Elections John Abramson’s request, but ultimately rescinded the suspension and apologized to Maduro.
Williams said he was concerned about the propriety of appointing a staff employee to head the office, bypassing the actual deputy supervisor. Watlington’s motion failed.
Bryan moved to have the joint board approve the St. Croix District Board’s recent vote to have Weber take supervisory responsibility on St. Croix. That motion passed, with Georges, Monsanto, Watlington, O’Neal, Webster, Moolenaar, Bryan and Williams voting yea. Voting nay were Boschulte, Wells, Harris-Moorhead and Ross. Hendricks and Daniel abstained.
The joint board then adjourned.