Unsuccessful in disqualifying Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen from eligibility for elected office, V.I. Action Group began another attempt by filing suit in V.I. Superior Court on Wednesday.
Several St. Croix residents allied with St. Croix Board of Elections member Adelbert Bryan to first petition the St. Croix Elections Board to disqualify Hansen in October of 2011, arguing that her three convictions for failure to file an income tax return are "crimes of moral turpitude" that render her ineligible.
In December, after receiving an opinion on the legal issues from Attorney General Vincent Frazer, the board rejected that request. (See related links below.) V.I. Action Group then tried unsuccessfully to recall the members of the board who voted against their position.
Unhappy with the Election System's determination that it had not collected sufficient signatures, V.I. Action Group challenged the system's method for determining how many signatures are necessary for a recall in court. In August, the court rejected that challenge.
Colleen Clarke, head of V.I. Action Group, a citizens group based on St. Croix, filed a request Aug. 16 asking the V.I. Joint Board of Elections – a joint body composed of members of both the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John boards – for an investigation into Hansen's eligibility.
Joint Board Chairman Rupert Ross responded saying V.I. Code gives the supervisor or deputy supervisor of elections authority over the question of eligibility and the St. Croix board had previously determined it had no jurisdiction over the status of a sitting senator.
The St. Croix board appointed Zandra Petersen from the Public Employee Relations Board as hearing examiner to gather testimony, which Petersen did, presenting it to Supervisor of Elections John Abramson and Deputy Supervisor James Weber II.
Abramson ruled in early September that Hansen was eligible. In a statement explaining the decision, he said the lack of a definition of "moral turpitude" in either the Organic Act of 1954 as amended, or in the V.I. Code, was an important fact in rejecting the challenge to her candidacy [Order: Clarke V. Senator Hansen].
Another factor Abramson cited as influencing his decision was the fact that no court has notified the Board of Elections of any conviction that would result in the loss of voter privileges. Mirroring code in most U.S. jurisdictions, V.I. law requires courts to notify the registrar of elections when a candidate is convicted of a crime that results in the loss of voting rights.
Abramson also found it relevant that the St. Croix District Board of Elections affirmed Hansen was eligible to register and hold office by a majority vote Dec. 22, 2011, and that Hansen presented a valid nomination paper for the Nov. 6 General Election.
The court case filed Tuesday raises the same legal issues concerning moral turpitude and eligibility as the previous efforts to have Hansen declared ineligible. It seeks injunctive relief, asking the court to declare the failure to file convictions to be crimes of moral turpitude, and to order the election system to remove Hansen from the ballot.[VI Action Group v. V.I. Election System]
Hansen was convicted in 2009 of three counts of failure to file tax returns, after a long investigation related to improper influence and public corruption in the handling of a government sewer contract.
Former government officials Ohanio Harris, Ashley Andrews and Campbell Malone were sentenced to prison for their role in the scandal. Hansen was initially charged with conspiracy, fraud, accepting a bribe and conflict of interest violations. Several of the charges were dropped prior to her trial, and a jury acquitted her of the conflict of interest charge (See related links below). She was later convicted and sentenced to probation for the three much less serious misdemeanor offenses of intentional failure to file a tax return.