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Friday, June 21, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentFrett-Gregory Not Seeking Re-Election; Governor’s Financial Team Dodges Revenue Hearing

Frett-Gregory Not Seeking Re-Election; Governor’s Financial Team Dodges Revenue Hearing

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory announced Tuesday she would not seek re-election. (Photo by Eustace Browne and Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory announced Tuesday she would not seek re-election to the Senate but vowed not to leave public service. The revelation came after members of the governor’s financial team were a no-show for a hearing Frett-Gregory had convened to discuss the state of the territory’s revenues, among other things.

The former Senate president and current chair of the powerful Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance said she planned to serve her community in other capacities after her term ends in January. She also planned to devote more time to caring for her 91-year-old mother.

“I came to this decision after careful reflection and discussion with my family members, friends, supporters, and constituents,” Frett-Gregory said. “After 30 years of public service, the last six of which I have been a member of this body, I think, I know as of now it’s time to write a new chapter by continuing to be of service to the people of the Virgin Islands in a different forum.”

Her announcement came on the deadline day for candidates to file with the Elections System of the Virgin Islands.

In December, Frett-Gregory told the Source she was considering running for governor in 2026. Messages left at the senator’s office to confirm her intentions were not immediately returned.

Prior to serving as senator, Frett-Gregory was the Virgin Islands Port Authority’s chief financial officer, commissioner and assistant commissioner of the Virgin Islands Education Department, and director of operations at the Virgin Islands Justice Department.

Before Frett-Gregory’s surprise announcement, the hearing had been more notable for what didn’t happen than what did. The committee approved two long-awaited leases, moving them on to the Rules and Judiciary Committee, but did not hear from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s financial team, or delve into a plan to remove nearly $1.4 million Community Facilities Trust Fund money for “soft costs” associated with a $17 million proposed harbor dredging.

The dredging discussion was scuttled because Kevin McCurdy, executive director of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, which oversees the fund, did not show up for the hearing. Frett-Gregory said her team reached out to McCurdy later, who said he thought the meeting had been canceled.

McCurdy’s mistake may have been caused by another miscommunication, she said.

“Apparently there was a letter sent to my attention on May 15 — to my attention and to my attention only — by the governor, which is unusual,” Frett-Gregory said, “that says the governor’s financial team will not be coming to today’s meeting, once again.”

McCurdy, Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal, Finance Commissioner Joel Lee, Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Ira R. Mills, and others were scheduled to provide a financial overview, including budget appropriations versus revenue collections to date, total allotments to date, projected revenue through Sept. 30 and proposed adjustments for FY 2024, the status of union negotiations, and the status of outstanding payments due to vendors for FY 2023.

By law, a mid-year review of the government budget must take place no more than one month after the Revenue Estimating Conference, which took place May 7.

“So we’re going to look forward to June 7,” Frett-Gregory said. “We’re going to kill two birds with one stone. We’re going to take night and make day. We’re going to get the information for 2024 before we drill down into 2025.”

A new Senate meeting was tentatively scheduled for June 6.

Earlier in the day, Government House issued a press release saying the financial team had been “rigorously working” to match the 2024 fiscal year budget projections with the actual financial data, “aiming to establish a strong and feasible fiscal plan for FY 2025. This effort highlights the administration’s commitment to prudent financial management and strategic planning.”

Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe urged the Senate to act on the funding quickly as cruise lines depended on the harbor being dredged.

“This really could have a dire impact on when the dredging could start,” Dowe said.

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