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Elections Board Chooses Its New Hire

With three board members absent and just enough members present for a quorum, the St. Croix District Board of Elections met in a special session Monday so it could finalize its choice for the newly created administrative assistant position that will specifically work for the district board.

After a roughly 20 minute executive session to finalize its choice, St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan announced that Patrick Cawdette had been selected from an initial applicant pool of 41 people, of which 14 interviewed for the job.

The next step, Bryan said, would be extending the offer to Cawdette and seeing if he accepts.

Bryan also explained the selection process from those 14 individuals interviewed, adding that the board was looking for a person with a college degree and who possessed skills in business administration, accounting and management, among other things.

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When Bryan announced the position would pay $35,000 annually, Lawrence “Scott” Liburd questioned that amount during the 10-minute public comment portion of the meeting.

“With all this gentleman’s qualifications, $35,000?” Liburd asked. “We’ve got people who don’t even have a high school diploma and didn’t even go to school making more than $35,000.”

Bryan said he agreed it was a low salary but said the board was hamstrung by what was available to them as appropriated by the Legislature.

He added that after the person chosen made it successfully past a one-year probationary period, the board would petition that the salary be increased.

“We just can’t raise the salary to $40, $50, $60,000 without going through the Legislature or the budget office to increase that position beyond what it is budgeted for right now,” Bryan said. “The board cannot set the salary beyond what is budgeted.”

In other news, Elections System supervisor Caroline Fawkes announced an update on the yet-to-be-released official 2014 election calendar as set by the V.I. Joint Board of Elections.

“We may have it by the end of the day,” Fawkes said. “It’s here. It’s drafted. I just need a few signatures and the goal is by the end of today.”

Bryan responded to an additional question from Liburd about the “vetting of candidates for the Senate” and when a further discussion on that issue might continue. Bryan said at the next board meeting, currently scheduled for March 5.

That discussion stems from the St. Croix District Board passing a motion in December that would require candidates to answer a seven-question yes or no questionnaire with the questions ranging from candidates declaring whether or not they’ve been a convicted felon or convicted of a crime of moral turpitude as defined by the Supreme Court to whether or not they’d solicited bribes, favors or payments for approval of government services or contracts.

The last questions asked about sexual crime convictions including pedophilia and unlawful sexual contact, and whether or not the candidate was up to date in filing his or her local and federal taxes.

The Joint Board of Elections voted against utilizing the questionnaire.

In a letter received by Fawkes from V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer dated Jan. 30 – in which she asked for his opinion on the questionnaire – Frazer wrote it “should not be utilized in its current form.”

“The Revised Organic Act and the election code provide the exclusive test for candidates seeking to run in an election,” Frazer added. “Therefore the St. Croix district board lacks jurisdiction to superimpose new conditions for candidacy beyond those prescribed by the Revised Organic Act and the election code.”

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With three board members absent and just enough members present for a quorum, the St. Croix District Board of Elections met in a special session Monday so it could finalize its choice for the newly created administrative assistant position that will specifically work for the district board.

After a roughly 20 minute executive session to finalize its choice, St. Croix Board of Elections Chairman Adelbert Bryan announced that Patrick Cawdette had been selected from an initial applicant pool of 41 people, of which 14 interviewed for the job.

The next step, Bryan said, would be extending the offer to Cawdette and seeing if he accepts.

Bryan also explained the selection process from those 14 individuals interviewed, adding that the board was looking for a person with a college degree and who possessed skills in business administration, accounting and management, among other things.

When Bryan announced the position would pay $35,000 annually, Lawrence “Scott” Liburd questioned that amount during the 10-minute public comment portion of the meeting.

“With all this gentleman’s qualifications, $35,000?” Liburd asked. “We’ve got people who don’t even have a high school diploma and didn’t even go to school making more than $35,000.”

Bryan said he agreed it was a low salary but said the board was hamstrung by what was available to them as appropriated by the Legislature.

He added that after the person chosen made it successfully past a one-year probationary period, the board would petition that the salary be increased.

“We just can’t raise the salary to $40, $50, $60,000 without going through the Legislature or the budget office to increase that position beyond what it is budgeted for right now,” Bryan said. “The board cannot set the salary beyond what is budgeted.”

In other news, Elections System supervisor Caroline Fawkes announced an update on the yet-to-be-released official 2014 election calendar as set by the V.I. Joint Board of Elections.

“We may have it by the end of the day,” Fawkes said. “It’s here. It’s drafted. I just need a few signatures and the goal is by the end of today.”

Bryan responded to an additional question from Liburd about the “vetting of candidates for the Senate” and when a further discussion on that issue might continue. Bryan said at the next board meeting, currently scheduled for March 5.

That discussion stems from the St. Croix District Board passing a motion in December that would require candidates to answer a seven-question yes or no questionnaire with the questions ranging from candidates declaring whether or not they’ve been a convicted felon or convicted of a crime of moral turpitude as defined by the Supreme Court to whether or not they’d solicited bribes, favors or payments for approval of government services or contracts.

The last questions asked about sexual crime convictions including pedophilia and unlawful sexual contact, and whether or not the candidate was up to date in filing his or her local and federal taxes.

The Joint Board of Elections voted against utilizing the questionnaire.

In a letter received by Fawkes from V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer dated Jan. 30 – in which she asked for his opinion on the questionnaire – Frazer wrote it “should not be utilized in its current form.”

“The Revised Organic Act and the election code provide the exclusive test for candidates seeking to run in an election,” Frazer added. “Therefore the St. Croix district board lacks jurisdiction to superimpose new conditions for candidacy beyond those prescribed by the Revised Organic Act and the election code.”