The Water and Power Authority’s governing board plans to meet as scheduled after jettisoning a member to comply with a new law, officials said Tuesday.
The contentious law reduced the size of the WAPA board from nine members to seven and allowed board meetings to go forward with only four members present rather than five. Only one member is allowed to be a cabinet-level member of the governor’s team, the director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office, down from three under old rules. The new law also required members to reside in the districts they represent and all non-government members to have formal education in any one of several fields, from energy production to information technology.
The Senate passed the act in May 2021 but Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. promptly vetoed the legislation. The Senate then overrode the veto, meaning the board change was law. Bryan sued, arguing in part that the new law was simply a way of reducing the Executive Branch’s influence at WAPA. The suit also argued the law was incompatible with WAPA governing documents. Board members can only be removed before the end of their three-year terms for cause — meaning they’d done something wrong.
On March 8, a Superior Court ruling sided with the Legislature and soon after, Sen. Kenneth Gittens lashed out at WAPA for not initiating the board reshuffle. WAPA CEO Andrew Smith said the Authority had no power over the Board, rather, it was the Board that governed what WAPA did.
In announcing its Thursday meeting, the Board said it had reviewed the law and the appropriate response to it.
“After thorough legal review, the Governing Board and legal counsel confirm that the Governing Board structure is legally compliant after reflecting the removal of Joel Lee, director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue because the legislation limits government Board membership to the Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office,” the Board wrote. “With the conclusion of its review, the Authority will be proceeding with its monthly Regular Governing Board meeting as scheduled and looks forward to continuing efforts to improve our essential services to the people of the Virgin Islands.”
The Board now includes Virgin Islands Energy Office Director Kyle Fleming, who serves as the chairman. Fleming has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master of science in energy systems and has more than a decade of energy industry experience. Hubert Turnbull is the Board’s Planning and Economic Committee chair and a WAPA retiree. Turnbull is also a former president of the Rank-And-File Union. Cheryl Boynes-Jackson is vice president of Boyson Inc., Ocean Link Enterprises, and Marine Transportation Industry, which schedules ferry and barge transportation throughout the territory and Puerto Rico. Juanita Young has a bachelor of applied science degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as 18 years of experience in finance and more than 20 years of accounting experience. Elizabeth Armstrong has been the private owner of the Buccaneer Hotel for more than 40 years.