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Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsSenators Working to Strengthen Ethics Bill, Express Frustrations Over Federal Funds Probe

Senators Working to Strengthen Ethics Bill, Express Frustrations Over Federal Funds Probe

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. plans to speak with Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens regarding his ethics bill. (Source file photo)

In his weekly press conference on Monday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said he would be reaching out to help put some teeth in an ethics bill that Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens has before the Senate. This comes in the wake of the arrests of Education’s Director of Maintenance Davidson Charlemagne, 50, and his wife, Sasha Charlemagne, 44, and the indictment of former Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Chief Operating Officer Darin Richardson, 56, of St. Thomas.

Bryan said that this past Monday, the Division of Personnel began its conflict-of-interest training program, something that the governor said they had been working on for a while.

He also mentioned that he took time over the weekend to review the ethics bill that Gittens has before the Legislature. He plans to sit with the senator to clarify some of the information in the bill and called it “a good bill.”

The Source reached out to Sen. Gittens, who provided the bill numbers:

Bill 35-0227: To establish the V.I. Commission of Ethics & Conflict of Interest and provides for the appointment of the board, eligibility, term of office and compensation for members of the commission; the bill also addresses the hiring of professional and support staff.

Bill 35-0228:

  • Section 1 divests the attorney general of the jurisdiction to administer ethics and conflict of interest laws and allows the attorney general to enforce them in conjunction with the commissioner on ethics and conflicts of interest when there is a criminal nexus.
  • Section 2 establishes procedures for investigation, enforcing and appealing from ethical and conflict of interest violations of public officers and employees; this section also establishes the ethics commission fund.
  • Section 3 makes an appropriation ($500,000) to the commission for operating expenses.

“The bill is a companion bill or a twin bill,” Gittens said. The bill is from 2013, and he has worked on it with then-Sen. President Shawn Malone and Sen. Janette Millin-Young.

“The reason it is like that is because I am looking for the commission to be the ones to establish the ethics and conflict of interest laws and I’m presenting it to the Legislature for its ratification. Rather than the Legislature in essence creating its own ethics laws.”

“My reasoning for the bill is that there was a call from the people for greater accountability in government and I had pledged to do so,” Gittens said.

Other senators have also expressed their frustrations with the new developments. Sen. Samuel Carrión shared in a public statement, “I have been extremely frustrated with the pace of our hurricane recovery and senators have been inundated with excuses from some of the same people now facing scrutiny.”

“It is very disconcerting to know that there were individuals pursuing personal agendas when they were entrusted to carry out critical duties on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands. I am truly saddened that there might even be more to come. However, it’s about time these individuals – whether appointed or elected – are held fully accountable. I hope the federal government will work to see that monies are spent in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands,” he continued.

“In the meantime, we must move ahead the best way we can and continue to insist that homes and schools are repaired, roads fixed and our new hospitals are built. I am also renewing my call for federal assistance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can provide technical support to WAPA, as we can’t move forward without a reliable source of electricity and WAPA clearly requires expert assistance at this time,” Carrión said.

Sen. Marvin Blyden, who is the vice president and chairman of the Committee on Housing, Transportation & Telecommunications, also expressed deep concern amidst the latest corruption allegations. “Let me state from the outset that I have no comment on any of the specific allegations that have been made, as these are matters that the investigators and the courts will handle,” he said.

To read Blyden’s full statement, click here.


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