June 3, 2002 – Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said on Monday that he won't participate in a town meeting called for Wednesday evening by the St. Thomas Board of Realtors to examine the territory's "insurance crisis."
James, who by virtue of his office also serves as the territory's commissioner of Insurance, wrote to Jeyan Stout, chair of the Realtors' town meeting committee, saying that "It would not be appropriate for me to participate in a forum that might present a conflict with my statutory responsibilities."
He did not spell out what he envisioned as a conflict with his responsibility for "regulating the business of insurance in the territory."
In the letter, dated June 3, James also said that "we will not be able to attend the forum due to prior engagements." It was not clear whether he was using the editorial "we" or speaking also for Maryleen Thomas, director of the Banking and Insurance Division, in sending his regrets.
In a release circulated Saturday, the Board of Realtors said invitations extended to James and Thomas had "gone unanswered."
That release said the purpose of the town meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. in the Mark C. Marin Center at Antilles School, is to examine "the nature and the causes of the present emergency in the territory due to the lack of reasonably available hazard insurance coverage, and to formulate solutions." (See "Realtors call town meeting on 'insurance crisis'".)
James also wrote that he wanted "to correct an erroneous perception that one might draw" from the letter he received inviting him to take part in the meeting. That, he said, was the implication that the casualty insurance market, and especially the windstorm insurance market, "has become a crisis during the past year." The problems, he said, "have been in existence for many years."
He also charged, as he has previously, that "many insurers raised their rates to astronomical levels without providing any information to the commissioner of Insurance to justify the high rates, although the law required them to do so." And, he said, the companies have not adjusted their rates back downward despite mitigation measures within the construction industry. Finally, he invited Stout to contact his secretary for an appointment if she wanted to discuss insurance issues or concerns with him.
Stout could not be reached for comment Monday night. Her husband, John Stout, confirmed that she had received the letter from James in the afternoon. Efforts to reach other Board of Realtors members involved in planning the town meeting also were unsuccessful.
In January, James declined two days before the fact to take part in another public forum on insurance. He had been scheduled to be a principal presenter at the Jan. 26 forum hosted by the Virgin Islanders for Democratic Action Club. On Jan. 24, he notified Sen. Lorraine L. Berry, club president, that he could not attend because he would be off island meeting with Lloyd's of London representatives.

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