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Thursday, February 22, 2024


April 5, 2001 — Attorney General Iver Stridiron said Thursday he has no financial interest in the contract his brother-in-law made for a government water desalination barge, did not give any special treatment to it, and that he was careful not to get involved in the contract approval.
The barge contract was a hot issue Wednesday night in a Senate confirmation hearing for Wayne D. Callwood as commissioner of Public Works, the department that contracted out the barge last month. A longtime Public Works official, Callwood was acting commissioner at the time.
The contract between the government and Jost Van Dyke Water Co. allowed the small company to use the barge for three years, producing water and selling it. According to testimony at the hearing, the barge is capable of producing 300,000 gallons of water a day, but the V.I. government has never operated it.
The federal government gave it to the Virgin Islands in 1998. Callwood said it was vandalized last year and is in need of repair.
The Rules Committee adjourned holding the nomination and voted to ask all the participants, including Stridiron, to testify at a later meeting.
"And you know I'll go," Stridiron said. "They don't even have to send a subpoena. All they have to do is pick up the phone. I'll be there in a heartbeat."
Although some senators raked him over the coals in the televised confirmation meeting, Stirdiron's response the next day was devoid of obvious anger.
"I take this job truly, truly seriously," he said.
He said his wife's brother, David Blyden, is a "belonger" — the son of a native British Virgin Islander — and therefore able to do business in the BVI. He has been in several ventures since retiring from the police departments in both the USVI and the BVI.
Stirdiron said Blyden first formed the Jost Van Dyke Water Co. in 1999 with the intention of operating a land-based desalination plant. Later he asked Stridiron about the barge and whether anyone could lease it or buy it.
Stirdiron said he told Blyden he would have to submit a proposal to Public Works, and that was the extent of his involvement.
He said he told his staff to route the paperwork to Chief Deputy Attorney General Alva A. Swan when it arrived at Justice. The department reviews all government contracts.
Some senators questioned the seeming speed with which the contract was handled. It took less than a week for all parties to sign off on it.
Stridiron said the contract was at Justice twice; the six-day signing cycle did not include the first review by the department.
In fact, "I think it went back (to Public Works) for some corrections," he said, but he did not know what they were.
When it came back a second time, as is the normal process, it was reviewed for legal sufficiency by an assistant attorney general in the Solicitor General's Office.
"I don't know" who that attorney was, Stridiron said.
"We've been trying to improve on the speed and thoroughness in which we get contracts out of here," he said. Last year, when school repairs were in crisis, "we were turning out contracts in 24 hours."
Stridiron said he is always careful about possible conflicts of interest. By virtue of his office, he sits on the Port Authority Board. He said he recently excused himself from a board meeting when the subject turned to a dispute that the Port Authority's contractor for harbor dredging, R&R Construction, was having with Blyden, who is a subcontractor on the job.
Moreover, he said he never handles contracts at Justice that involve a close friend or relative.
Noting it is a small community, he said, "we're related to almost everyone."

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