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HomeNewsArchivesWAPA CHIEF'S ABSENCE ON RECORD AS UNEXCUSED

WAPA CHIEF'S ABSENCE ON RECORD AS UNEXCUSED

Aug. 24, 2001 – Senate Finance Committee chair Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was indignant Thursday when she learned that the Water and Power Authority executive director, Joseph Thomas Jr., would be a no-show for a scheduled hearing.
As a presentation before the committee by the V.I. Port Authority was ending, Hansen announced she had just received a letter from Thomas and then proceeded to read it into the record. Thomas said in the letter that he had just heard about the meeting that day on the radio and asked her to reschedule the hearing for a later date.
Hansen then questioned the post auditor, Maureen Rabsatt-Cullar, who said her office had sent Thomas an invitation a week earlier to appear before the committee. Rabsatt-Cullar told Hansen the letter had been received by a WAPA employee.
At a Finance Committee session on Wednesday, Hansen had reacted sharply to a letter from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull stating that henceforth he would decide which of his department and agency officials would appear in the Senate to give testimony. Repeatedly throughout the 24th Legislature, commissioners and other top government officials have been called to testify at hearings, then kept waiting half a day and more while the lawmakers attended to other business.
In response to Turnbull's letter, Hansen said Wednesday she wanted "to put on record that no commissioner fails to attend these budget hearings … I am not accepting any second or third person to come and represent any department." And if the officials called to appear before her committee fail to do so, she said, the committee might issue a subpoena for them, or it might dismiss any lower-ranking representatives who appear and then decide that agency's budget without its input.
All of this had no bearing on Thomas's conspicuous absence Friday, because WAPA and other semi-autonomous agencies don't receive budget allocations from the General Fund. However, the Finance Committee in its oversight regularly invites their executives to present a financial report of their operations.
In Thomas's introduction to the Legislature, at a May hearing before the Finance Committee, Hansen warned the new WAPA executive, who had just moved to the territory from Atlanta to take the position, that he should proceed with caution in his new post. At one point in the hearing, she told Thomas: "Many tough guys come into WAPA, but our people can be tough, too; so, be careful."
Displeased that a non-Virgin Islander had been hired to head the utility, Hansen also commented that evening that "a lot of people think they can come in and cool down the people, but we cool them down first.
Thomas's reaction the next day to how he had been treated was that "I couldn't believe it." But he added, "It didn't deter me one iota … I've dealt with legislatures before."

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