To kick off its three-day educational workshop at the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort and Spa, the Joint Boards of Elections got together in a formal, public session at the St. Croix Cardiac Center on Thursday.
Before the meeting could conclude, though, oddly it was put in recess – not adjournment – until Sunday at 7:30 a.m. when it will reconvene at Carambola during breakfast.
By putting the meeting in recess as opposed to adjournment, another public notice of the meeting is not necessary.
The board also announced a public discussion of ongoing issues to take place Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Carambola where no votes would be taken.
Until Sunday’s continuance of Thursday’s meeting, and during the course of the next three days, the board will work together to hammer out numerous issues they need to address prior to the 2014 election season, which will see the territory use new tabulating equipment for the first time.
“We have lots of work to do,” Joint Boards Chairwoman Alecia Wells said of the weekend ahead.
According to Wells, the last time the Joint Boards held a similar workshop was in 2008 on St. John.
Wells said, “It is important for the Joint Boards members to get together in an informal session to discuss the policies and procedures, the governance issues, each board member’s responsibilities, parliamentary procedures, and more importantly the DS200 (new tabulating equipment to be used in the 2014 election) and the preparation for the upcoming Election cycle.”
She continued, “This is also a time for bonding and informal dialogue. We have had a tumultuous year, and with the season of giving, joy, happiness and peace, what better way to heal and move on than by conducting a year-end workshop bringing all of us together.”
Among the biggest items on the board’s to-do list this weekend, getting the official 2014 elections calendar set.
Perhaps the biggest action item the board took Thursday before going into recess was agreeing unanimously to adopt the election calendar set by the legislature in Act 7565.
Some board members were going to spend the weekend finalizing those exact dates.
In her supervisor’s report, Caroline Fawkes said the Election Systems’ St. Thomas/St. John district was still working on making all its facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but that alternate spaces on St. John had potentially been identified.
“We’re looking at Marketplace. And if that’s where we have to go, then that’s where we have to go,” Fawkes said. “All these other agencies are there and we need to get our offices on St. John up to par. We need to treat our citizens better.”
In other news, Fawkes said the Elections System still needed to update an internal database of voter histories from 1996 to 2013. To that end and based on employee recommendations, she said beginning Jan. 1 and lasting through April, voter registrations will only be conducted twice a week, the hope being the database can get updated as quickly as possible without interruption on the days staff are not registering voters.
Fawkes seemed committed to the cause, too, adding she’d bring in temporary employees to finish the job if necessary.
The meeting had gone “drama free” up until about 45 minutes into it when board member Wilma Marsh-Monsanto brought up her continued fight against the results of the 2012 election. In a motion she raised, Marsh-Monsanto requested the board to “undertake discussion for the purpose of scheduling an evidentiary hearing pertaining to the formulation and imposing of sanctions against members Alecia Wells, Arturo Watlington Jr., Sharon Benjamin and ex-Supervisor of Election (in absentia), for their willful roles in obstructing access and review of public election records, as ruled by the Superior Court on Nov. 25, 2012.”
The motion failed with only board members Roland Moolenaar and Liliana Belardo de O’Neal of St. Croix supporting Marsh-Monsanto’s request.
After the vote, St. Croix board member Glenn Webster expressed his disgust with the continued bickering over the last territorial election.
“I’m really disappointed in this board,” Webster said. “I’m getting annoyed because I got out of my hospital bed to get involved in this process and it’s just been … whatever happened before we need to let it go and move on. Let’s just move on because we have a lot of work to do.”
After the meeting went into recess, Marsh-Monsanto acknowledged that she knew her motion would fail. But she said she wanted something on the official record because Wells, Watlington Jr. and Benjamin were not doing the “people’s business.”
“This has to do with them obstructing, willfully and maliciously, the individuals (who wanted to count the tally sheets and the votes),” she said. “Once we get the final count on this thing it will show that the certification on the 2012 election was fraudulent. And anyone who certifies a fraudulent election goes to jail.”
Specifically Marsh-Monsanto’s motion said, “The acts of obstruction were perpetrated in contravention to public records laws, Title 3, Section 881, and Title 18, Section 53, and require further sanction and legal action as per Title 18, Sections 47(8), 799 and 854.”
“It’s nasty, corruption to the max,” she said. “The voters are at a total disadvantage.”
When the Joint Board reconvenes Sunday, they’ll take up the issues of updating and revising their bylaws, the establishment of the state plan advisory committee and a discussion on Title 18 reform measures.
In executive session, the Joint Boards are planning a policy and procedure discussion related to the new tabulating equipment.
Absent from Thursday’s meeting were board members Adelbert Bryan and Lisa Harris-Moorhead from the St. Croix district and Larry Boschulte from the St. Thomas/St. John district.