Aug. 5, 2003 – Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood found himself facing allegations of fraud and corruption within his department during the agency's Fiscal Year 2004 budget hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
"I have evidence of kickbacks, corruption and fraud in the Department of Public Works," Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste told Callwood during the hearing.
Callwood denied the charges. "When people come to you and talk this foolishness of corruption, I take exception to that," he said.
But Jn Baptiste proceeded to surprise Callwood with two pieces of correspondence alluding to fraud in the department.
First, Jn Baptiste handed out copies of a letter written by Robert Moorehead, Public Works assistant commissioner, dated March 24.
In the letter Moorehead states: "Rumors abound concerning the illegal use of DPW government resources to work on private properties. Some investigations may have been launched into the subject areas."
Callwood told the senators he had not received Moorehead's letter and had not seen it until Tuesday's hearing.
Moorehead, who was present at the hearing, said he had faxed the letter to Callwood but supposed he had not received it.
The second letter Jn Baptiste brought onto the Senate floor was addressed to V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt, dated March 26 and signed by Randy Germain, Public Works deputy commissioner for operations. It was written on DPW letterhead.
In the letter, Germain told the inspector general that "several complaints and confessions have been brought to my attention that monies have been paid to a very high level DPW official for services rendered, to include kick-backs, in short, quid pro quo." Germain asked van Beverhoudt to investigate the matter.
Callwood said Germain went against policy by not forwarding the letter to him. He added that if Germain wanted to be a "whistleblower," he had no problem with that as long as he didn't do it on company time, with company stationery.
Senators also asked Callwood about the status of the Anguilla landfill, which the Federal Aviation Administration has been telling the government to close since 1996. Now FAA officials have vowed to cut funding to the Port Authority for the territory's airports because the landfill has yet to close. The FAA says the landfill, located near Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, poses a hazard to planes taking off and landing because of scavenging birds and dogs and smoke from fires.
Landfill Technologies, a Puerto Rico-based company, was hired in June of last year to develop and operate a bale-and-wrap system for disposing of waste at the landfill on an interim basis. However, a contract has yet to be worked out with the company.
Callwood said Public Works is not responsible for the delay. The contract has to be approved by the Property and Procurement Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said, and the deadline for contract negotiations with Landfill Technologies is Aug. 12.
"We have a record in the Virgin Islands of waiting until the final hour, the final moment to take action," Sen. Louis Hill said. He adding that he hopes work will begin on the landfill before the FAA closes Rohlsen Airport.
In its proposed Fiscal Year 2004 budget, DPW asked for $46.2 million — $27.2 million from the General Fund; $9.9 million from the Anti-litter and Beautification, Sewer Waste Water and St. John Capital Improvement Funds; and another $9 million as a supplemental appropriation.
Anti-litter and Beautification Commission
The St. Thomas-St. John Anti-litter and Beautification Commission also testified at the budget hearing, requesting a budget of $2.1 million for FY 2004, an increase of 15 percent over FY 2003.
The commission's duties include funding anti-litter, beautification and recycling programs. It also is responsible for the removal of abandoned motor vehicles on the territory's streets.
Committee members present at the hearing were the chair, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg; and Sens. Roosevelt David, Hill, Jn Baptiste and Luther Renee. Two committee members, Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Ronald Russell, were excused. Sens. Carlton Dowe and Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who are not members of the committee, also were present.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.