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Governor Reverses Position on Procurement Bill

Sept. 9, 2004 — Gov. Charles Turnbull called for a withdrawal of his controversial Property and Procurement bill Thursday, claiming that he was not aware that language in the bill had been changed.
In a release to the media Thursday, Turnbull said the proposed bill was supposed to have addressed "the critical matter" of nonpayment of mainland vendors housing the territory's disabled children and also to prevent an impending lawsuit against the V.I. government.
Turnbull claimed he signed the transmittal letter to Senate President David Jones "believing the language contained in the proposed bill was what had been agreed upon during discussions dating back as far as March of this year between the departments of Property and Procurement, Justice and Education to address the issue of nonpayment for child-care service on the mainland," the release stated.
The Justice Department was charged with the responsibility of providing the language for legislation to address the matter. However, when the bill, signed by Turnbull, was released to senators Wednesday, it created quite a stir. (See "Senators Oppose Bill to Endorse Illegal Contracts.")
Turnbull called a meeting Thursday morning to determine the circumstances surrounding the inclusion of language that called for the approval of contracts entered into "fraudulently and in bad faith." It was found that the language had been included by the Justice Department at the suggestion of Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
The governor voiced his "extreme displeasure" at the language stating he was "not aware of the need to authorize "fraudulent" or "bad faith contracts" or else he would "never have agreed" on the inclusion of such language. Although he called for the withdrawal of the bill, Turnbull said the issue of the unpaid mainland vendors still needs to be addressed to prevent lawsuits against the government. Acceptable language should be added in the proposed procurement laws amendment that will soon be before the Legislature, Turnbull added.
Turnbull said as chief executive he assumes "full responsibility" for the error and "has taken action to prevent its reoccurrence."
Stridiron has since sent in his resignation effective 5 p.m. Friday. Turnbull has also appointed Deputy Attorney General Alva Swan as acting attorney general effective Saturday. (See "Attorney General Resigns in Controversy over Bill.")
"First and foremost, I think it was irresponsible for the bill to be sent to the Legislature, or even be put in writing," Sen. Ronald Russell said Thursday evening. "It demonstrates why we need an elected attorney general and a chief financial officer to help steer the executive branch in the right direction." Russell added it was wise for the governor to withdraw the bill.
"I hope that all approved items that come from his office will be reviewed by an outside body as soon as possible," Jason Budsan, St. Thomas resident and political activist, said, adding that the Global Resource Management and video lottery terminal contracts "should be put on the top of the list."
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