74.2 F
Cruz Bay
Friday, February 3, 2023


Sept. 29, 2001 — As the country reels in the aftermath of catastrophic terrorist attacks on the mainland, the territory’s top two leaders are sniping at each other over office location.
On Thursday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced that for security reasons he was ordering Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II to move his administrative offices from the newly renovated Government House on St. Croix. Turnbull said the move was spurred by concerns of security experts in Washington, D.C., and in the territory. Turnbull has both a residence and an office in the historic Christiansted building, while James has an office.
In a statement Thursday, Turnbull said it is standard security practice for a chief executive and the next in the chain of command to avoid traveling together on the same airplane, boat or other carrier, or occupying the same working environment for long periods of time.
On Friday morning, however, James held a lengthy press conference to refute Turnbull’s claim that the move was ordered from "higher-ups." And he flatly refused to relocate his office, which he moved into about 10 months ago.
"I have no intention of moving out of Government House," James said.
James said that after learning of Turnbull's order to move, he called the offices of eight other lieutenant governors around the country, including Gov. Jeb Bush's second in command in Florida, to find out if they had been told what Turnbull had said. He said they had not.
In fact, James said, except for Virginia, all of the offices of those governors and lieutenant governors are housed in the same building, sometimes even on the same floor.
"I think it is ironic that Jeb Bush, the brother of President Bush, wouldn’t receive the same information Gov. Turnbull received," James said.
But Turnbull reiterated his position Friday afternoon, saying he was in personal contact with the U.S. Secret Service, in the presence of local security personnel, about security issues, including moving the lieutenant governor’s office.
"At this critical time when our entire nation, including the Virgin Islands, is under attack and all Americans are uniting to fight terror and fear, I will not engage in any unseemly dispute with Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II," Turnbull said in the opening lines of a release Friday. He said the Secret Service fully endorsed the security plan.
Since they formed a political team in 1998, Turnbull and James have had several public spats. They disagreed over the Beal Aerospace deal and Southern Energy’s bid to purchase the Water and Power Authority.
They also had a dispute over the rededication of the Christiansted Government House last year, something James alluded to on Friday.
That disagreement centered on tickets to the rededication ceremony and James’s refusal to attend because he wasn’t initially given the amount of passes he wanted. At the time, James said the move was orchestrated by Turnbull and was a sign of the disrespect that the governor’s St. Thomas staff has for St. Croix.
"It’s someone’s intent to make me angry … and get me out of Government House," James said Friday. "I think they want me completely out of the territory." He added, "I am not getting into a power struggle. If there is, I will regress."
James said the reason he moved his office into Government House in the first place was to save taxpayers' money. His former Christiansted office, about a block up King Street from Government House, still houses the Office of Banking and Insurance and the Tax Assessor’s Office, which fall under the auspices of the lieutenant governor. He said there is no more room there for his office.
In their back-and-forths over the relocation, both men said there are more pressing issues to focus on, such as the economic fallout caused by the terror attacks, crime in the territory and other issues.
Asked if he would share the ticket with Turnbull in a re-election bid next year, James said, "We have not reached that road yet."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.