April 5, 2004 – Attorney General Iver Stridiron said on Monday that he is holding off on deciding whether to appeal an opinion by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a District Court ruling highly critical of the V.I. government's handling of a contract for sewage system repairs.
A three-judge panel issued its ruling Friday on an appeal brought by the V.I. government. The panel upheld District Judge Thomas K. Moore's March 2003 ruling ordering the Turnbull administration not to revive its multimillion-dollar contract for St. Croix sewage system repairs awarded without bidding to a start-up company in which government officials were involved.
The appellate panel rejected the V.I. government's arguments that Moore lacked jurisdiction and/or exceeded his jurisdiction in ordering the administration not to reinstitute the contract with Global Resources Management. (See "Appeals court upholds sewage contract order".)
Pennsylvania attorney Howard J. Bashman, who argued the case on Dec. 9 for the V.I. government, said on Monday that he is reviewing the appellate court decision. Bashman was with the Philadelphia law firm of Buchanan and Ingersoll when he presented the arguments but left that position in February to start his own practice. However, he said he is continuing to represent the Virgin Islands in the matter.
"The attorney general has asked me to prepare a summary of the 3rd Court's ruling and a recommendation on how to proceed — whether to appeal to the full circuit court," Bashman said on Monday.
Stridiron did comment on one point in the court's opinion, regarding Moore's directive to the government to deposit money into a trust account. The issue for the appellate court was whether the District Court abused its discretion in requiring the government to deposit $7.4 million into the wastewater repairs account, which was $4 million more than had previously been specified.
The appellate panel vacated that part of Moore's opinion and directed the District Court to "make findings of fact as to whether the $4 million increase is actually justified and conclusions of law as to whether it is proper."
Stridiron said on Monday that he didn't know the exact amount currently in the account but that it could exceed $7.4 million. He said the account "is funded by federal grants, the V.I. General Fund and some bond funds."
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