In the rift between Gov. Charles Turnbull and his former choice for Tourism commissioner, "the straw that broke the camel’s back is the bond issue," as Michael Bornn sees it.
Turnbull’s announcement last week that he was withdrawing Bornn’s nomination has led to public displays of support for Bornn, although many longtime political observers say the action was not surprising, because Bornn was not supporting administration initiatives.
Over the weekend, St. Thomas Source requested interviews with both men.
So far, only Bornn has responded. Speaking Saturday, he reiterated his opposition to the government taking on long-term debt for operating expenses, an opposition he had stated publicly in a "manifesto" for economic recovery that was published on St. Thomas Source shortly before Turnbull nominated him for the Tourism post.
Bornn denied "lobbying" senators against the recently passed authorization for a bond issue of up to $300 million. But he said that "senators asked me my opinion, and I gave it." He declined to say which legislators, stating only that there were "two or three."
"I’m not going to give up my principles for a job," he said. "It (selling bonds to cover operating expenses) is too big of an issue for me to say I’m going to be a team player" and not speak out.
On other possible points of disagreement with the governor, Bornn was less forthcoming.
"The Department of Tourism has an army of political appointments," he said. But, asked to name those he had recommended for firing, Bornn said, "I won’t touch that one."
He noted that, as reported in The Source in August, he had scuttled a pending contract for Dahlia Magras, the wife of Clement "Cain" Magras, Turnbull’s first nominee for commissioner. Cain Magras' name was withdrawn in the wake of sexual harassment charges brought against him by a longtime Tourism employee that are still pending.
The $200,000 contract, at $50,000 a year for four years, was for Magras’ wife "for, quote, 'marketing the Virgin Islands in Florida' – where we already have a tourism office," Bornn said. "It was left on my desk for signature. I didn’t sign it – threw it away. That was one of the first things I did."
He added that he did not know whether the governor had agreed to the contract, or if it was just the Magrases’ idea. "The governor never talked to me about it," he said.
A neophyte in government and politics, Bornn said some "career politicians" have told him he was wrong not to build support. Instead, "I ruffled an awful lot of feathers up at Government House."
Did his enemies influence the governor against him?
"I’m not going to get into petty nonsense," he said.
As for party affiliation, Bornn said "technically I’m a Republican. He’s a Democrat," but added that this should make no difference in his ability to serve.
He denied reports that he had been bragging about his party affiliation at a recent tourism conference in Florida, although he said the subject came up briefly in one private conversation.
Although his title was to be Tourism commissioner – and he was serving in that post in an acting capacity – Bornn said it was his belief that Turnbull was going to tap his expertise in economic development. However, the governor relies almost exclusively on Rudolph Krigger Sr. for financial advice.
"I had very little interaction with the governor, period. I think that was one of the problems," Bornn said.
Was he surprised at the outpouring of public support for him?
"Yes and no," he said. "I think the majority of people are tired of politics as usual."
The bottom line, Bornn said, is "he had the right to fire me and he fired me."
Is he sorry to go?
"My job was to turn around the economy, and that’s what I was focusing on. . . In six months I could have had some serious impact."
If the governor were to reconsider, would Bornn?
His response: "I’m not even going there."

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