One of two quarreling groups of V.I. Republicans – both of whom claim to represent the territorial GOP committee – was issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing the second from using the party’s official name and logo.
Ever since an April meeting of the GOP Territorial Committee that ended in reports of resignations and an alleged assault, of which the aggressor is disputed by witnesses, two different factions of the V.I GOP have been organizing two separate territorial conventions (See Links Below.)
On May 18, V.I. GOP Chairman John Canegata filed a complaint in Superior Court against Herbert Schoenbohm, Warren B. Cole, Leigh Goldman, Holland Redfield, Fred Vialet and James Oliver seeking to prevent them from organizing a territorial convention scheduled for Saturday under the name of “The Republican Party of the Virgin Islands.”
Canegata, who says the real GOP territorial convention is scheduled for June 11, also sought to block the defendants from using the logo of the Republican National Committee, a red, white and blue elephant with stars across its back.
Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks gave Canegata an initial victory Friday by issuing the temporary restraining order. Willocks said Canegata is likely to prevail in his complaint based on the fact that “those in control of the Republican Party of the U.S. Virgin Islands may lawfully prevent the appropriation of their name by organizations not functioning under the aegis of the Republican Party of the U.S. Virgin Islands."
The court agreed with the plaintiff that the two separate conventions, both claiming to be officially organized by the local Republican party, is likely to cause irreparable harm.
"The confusion that would result from having two different dates set for the territorial convention for the Republican Party of the U.S. Virgin Islands would undoubtedly interfere with the rights of the voters and cause them to be disenfranchised – the confusion will likely negatively impact the turn-out at the territorial convention, which will in turn negatively impact the selection of Republican nominees and the election of members of the Territorial Committee,” Willocks wrote.
“Moreover, the confusion will also likely negatively impact the Republican Party of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ reputation and credibility," he continued.
The temporary restraining order is effective for two weeks, until a preliminary injunction hearing can be held.
In the meantime Canegata wrote in a press release issued Friday that he had officially removed Cole, Goldman, Redfield, Vialet and Oliver as members of the Republican Party pursuant to the party rule that “a member must be recognized as being in good standing with the state chairman.”
Canegata also said he had removed Schoenbohm from the party under a provision of party rules banning convicted felons. Schoenbohm was convicted of long-distance telephone fraud in 1992.
“It is clear their intent was to defraud unsuspecting Republican voters with their illegitimate, unlawful gathering of the Schoenbohm Party,” Canegata wrote in the press release. “The real Republican Party – the Republican National Committee-recognized state party of the Virgin Islands – will hold its legitimate and lawful Republican Territorial Convention on June 11.”