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Monday, January 30, 2023



Sept. 18, 2001 – Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said Tuesday that her announced refusal to appear at a Senate Education Committee hearing scheduled for Friday on St. Croix stems from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's general directive to his department heads not to attend Senate meetings unless he gives the okay.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, the committee chair, circulated copies of a letter he sent to Simmonds on Tuesday to the news media. In it, he told Simmonds that he was "duty bound to issue subpoenas to ensure that the people's business is conducted."
Later Tuesday, Simmonds called Jn. Baptiste's actions "politicking." "Politicians are good at stirring up the pot," she said.
Simmonds said that, according to a policy implemented by Turnbull in an Aug. 1 letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, the senator needed to write to the governor to request her presence. She said Jn. Baptiste failed to do so. "All he has to do is make a request," she said.
In his written reply to Simmonds' letter of refusal, Jn. Baptiste noted that, despite the governor's mandate, other commissioners and agency heads have appeared to testify at Senate hearings. He said the policy has never been enforced. "What is your motive here?" he asked Simmonds, noting that she had committed to attend a Finance Committee meeting on Saturday.
Simmonds' explanation is that all agency heads were told by the governor to attend budget hearings, which is what the Finance Committee session on Saturday is. "We're defending the budget," she said.
Jn. Baptiste said he scheduled the Education Committee session to get information about Education Department procurement practices, including contracts, staffing and equipment and supply needs. He also wants to know about projects financed under the Youth, Education and Training Endowment Fund. In his letter to Simmonds Tuesday, he said the meeting will be "geared towards righting the wrongs of our education system."

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