May 14, 2001 – After two lengthy hearings before the Senate Rules Committee that ran into the night April 4 and May 3, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's nomination of Wayne Callwood to be commissioner of Public Works cleared the full Senate in slightly more than one hour Monday.
Sen. Adelbert Bryan cast the only dissenting vote against Callwood, which surprised no one. Bryan has been consistent in his criticism of Callwood and said on Monday, "All he [Callwood] says is 'I don't know,' 'I don't remember,' which means 'I don't give a damn.'"
Bryan had been especially critical of a controversial Public Works contract giving a British Virgin Islands company use for three years of a floating water desalination plant that had been given to the territory by the federal government. The V.I. government, which received the government surplus water barge in 1998, had never gotten it into operation. The day after his first nomination hearing, Callwood canceled the contract, which had been executed in March during his tenure as acting Public Works commissioner.
Callwood is a native Virgin Islander with an engineering degree. Even so, Bryan said, "I do not believe he is eminently qualified to be commissioner."
The other senators were more charitable in their assessments of Callwood's ability, although almost all of their remarks Monday cautioned the nominee to use his authority as commissioner, stand up for himself and not let others tell him what to do. During the Rules hearings, concerns had been expressed about the Public Works Department being micro-managed from Government House.
Sen. Emmett Hansen II had some advice. Holding up a sheaf of papers, he told Callwood, "Get documentation. This is stronger than iron, this will save you. Don't listen to people without documentation." Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said, "You want to break a man, put him in Public Works; this man did not break."
The Senate set a relatively manageable agenda for Monday with the one nomination, one resolution and eight bills, four of which were rezonings just approved by the Rules Committee on Thursday.
After receiving committee reports, Sen. President Almando "Rocky" Liburd opened the floor to motions to override vetoes by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. Sen. Carlton Dowe moved to override the governor's rejection of a bill authorizing the Internal Revenue Bureau to implement an incentive program involving monetary bonuses for individual revenue agents. With six of the seven minority senators voting "no," the motion failed to get 10 votes, the two-thirds majority necessary for an override. Sen. David Jones was absent for the vote.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen succeeded in getting an override of the governor's veto of appropriations for public swimming pools on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron has questioned the Legislature's authority to override vetoes from a previous Legislature. He has said it conflicts with the Organic Act. Liburd and Hansen produced documents from the National Conference of State Legislatures that included
examples of legislation passed in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina, which allow gubernatorial vetoes to be taken up at the next session.
Liburd called Stridiron's opinion "political, not legal." He said the Legislature's legal counsel will issue an opinion later this week.
Dragging out the day in time-honored tradition, the senators used most of their time to comment on bills for their personal agendas.
White took the opportunity to lambast Sen. Lorraine Berry about "siding with [Alphonse] Nibbs." Berry has said she is not "siding with Nibbs." She asked White to convene a meeting of his Committee on Housing, Parks and Recreation to hear accusations Nibbs has made in public and on radio shows about former government housing officials. White subpoenaed Nibbs for a meeting on May 21, a date when Nibbs has said in public that he will be off island. Berry claims the accusations should be heard, so as not to cast a poor light on the committee.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg voiced his objections to the firm selected by the Public Services Commission to conduct rate investigations of Innovative Telephone and the Water and Power Authority. He said AUS Consultants has performed work for the former V.I. Telephone Corp., now Innovative Telephone, in the past. He also criticized Liburd for not having yet brought his legislation to reduce the size of the Legislature to nine senators. "The majority must agree with the idea of a smaller legislature," Donastorg quipped, "since they are running it now with eight" — the number of majority senators.
Donastorg also asked, as he has at past sessions, about the status of the Senate's $59,000 electronic voting system, which was installed late last year and has yet to be used. Liburd replied, as he has at past sessions, the matter is "being looked into." The system would enable senators to vote when not on the floor; would order the sequence in which the senators speak, providing parliamentary order; and would make it possible for documents in linked computers to be displayed on a special screen in the Senate chambers.
Also approved in the morning session in addition to Callwood's nomination were:
– A resolution to honor Donald C. Johnson for his dedication, contributions and outstanding service to the American Red Cross, and to the people of the Virgin Islands. Johnson has served the Red Cross St. Thomas-St. John chapter as a disaster action team leader, disaster specialist, hurricane watch manager and instructor. In 1998, he was recognized as Virgin Islands Volunteer of the year. In 2000,he received the Clara Barton Leadership Award.
– A bill providing for mandatory professional psychological evaluation and treatment of class III emergency service employees. The bill's sponsor, Norma Pickard-Samuel, added an amendment that no employee should face dismissal because of the counseling.
All senators attended the session. At mid-day, Sen. Emmett Hansen II was taken to Roy L.Schneider Hospital complaining of stomach pains, but he returned to the Senate later in the afternoon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email