Caneel Bay Resort sent the government a Aug. 26, 2002 – Caneel Bay Resort sent the government a check for $500,000 as part of its Sept. 1, 2000, Economic Development Commission tax benefits deal, but the money may not have found its way to the intended destinations.
The one-time contribution was to be "seed capital for a Community Development Fund, a portion of which will be earmarked for St. John projects," the "special conditions" portion of Caneel Bay's EDC certificate states. The resort's general manager, Brian Young, after a call to corporate headquarters, said the money was to benefit St. John's two public schools, Julius E. Sprauve in Cruz Bay and Guy Benjamin in Coral Bay.
"The funds were earmarked for education — books, materials, etc.," Young said.
EDC assistant executive officer Nadine Marchena in a June 19 letter to Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg confirmed that Caneel Bay wrote the $500,000 check on Feb. 27, 2001. It was made out to "Government of the Virgin Islands," she said, and was turned over to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
"I understand that the check was subsequently handed over to Mrs. Bernice Turnbull, commissioner of Finance," Marchena wrote.
So where's the money? "I never heard about it," Shirley Joseph, principal at Julius E. Sprauve, said.
She said when Caneel Bay decided to apply for EDC benefits, she wrote a letter to the commission supporting the proposal because Caneel Bay assists the school in many ways.
Blanche Bello, principal at Guy Benjamin, said she didn't know of any Caneel Bay money having come to the school. However, she said she couldn't be sure one way or the other, because the school gets Education Department funding from multiple sources. "Education might not tell us where it came from," she said.
Juel Anderson, Education public relations director, said she had no information on the Caneel Bay money. "I don't know where to start," she said.
Finance Commissioner Turnbull did not return a call requesting comment, and no one could be reached at Government House for information.
Donastorg, who made information about Caneel Bay's $500,000 check public, said in an Aug. 1 letter to the governor that he feared the money had been allowed to disappear into the General Fund. "It both shortchanges the people of St. John and defeats the purpose of our tax benefit program," the St. Thomas-St. John district senator wrote.
Saying the people of St. John have been disenfranchised, Donastorg suggested that if this was the pattern the government planned to follow, it should "just skip the EDC agreement process and assess taxes."
He asked that all or part of the money be returned to St. John for its intended purpose. "It is long past the time that we reform the financial working of this government and fairly enforce tax benefit agreements," he wrote.
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