Gov. Ken Mapp has moved out of the St. Thomas villa he has used when on St. Thomas since taking office, and the government returned the property to the West Indian Company, which has been paying the $14,500 a month rent. WICO will return the property to the landlord, Saturday’s statement from Government House said.
The governor lives in his private home on St. Croix. On becoming governor, he decided – as his predecessor John deJongh had before him – that the official governor’s official residence at Estate Catherineberg was not suitable for living, and used a privately owned villa as his residence when government business required him to be on St. Thomas.
The government had been reluctant to address the cost of the rental. The Virgin Islands Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request and reported Saturday that the cost of that villa was $12,500 a month for the first two months of the year, and then rose to $14,500 March 1. That amount was paid by WICO as an offset against payments in lieu of taxes. The resolution obtained by the newspaper also shows that WICO agreed to pay all costs of the governor’s residence in the estate, not just the rent.
The chairman of WICO’s board of directors, Randy Knight, is also Mapp’s chief of staff.
Earlier in the year Government House spokeswoman Kim Jones had said the cost for the governor’s housing was $4,000 a month, but Mapp corrected that at a Feb. 13 news conference in which he cited the $12,500 figure for rent, without mentioning any other living expenses. He also did not reveal at that time that the rent was due to go up the next month by $2,000.
Thursday, the governor announced he would not continue to use the villa while on St. Thomas, saying after he returns from a 12-day trip to Guam he will find a new place to sleep. Saturday’s news release confirmed that statement.
Mapp said he hoped the decision will advance the confirmation of his cabinet. The Senate has refused to confirm Mapp’s appointees because of the salaries proposed for the officials, which in many cases are more than 25 percent higher than the salaries paid to the previous holders of the offices.
“I made this decision to show an additional willingness to reduce expenses and make a path forward to confirm my cabinet," Mapp said. "This has been a sticking point in the community, and I hear that. I suspect that I may be the only governor that does not have a home in the capital in the jurisdiction in which he presides. This is not a priority for me … I ran for this office because of a vision, a passion and my concern about the welfare and well-being of the people of the Virgin Islands, not for a home.”