Caveat emptor, a Latin phrase meaning “Let the Buyer Beware,” is a label that cautions buyers to be very careful about what they purchase. The League of Women Voters of the VI has coined a new phrase Caveat Elector to mean “Let the Voter Beware,” to caution voters about those whom they elect to public office.
For the second time within the past 3 years, VI voters have learned of misuse and mismanagement of public funds and resources purchased through public funds. How can it be explained that yet again millions of dollars cannot be accounted for? How can it be explained that yet again equipment purchased by public dollars cannot be located? How can it be explained that yet again standard accounting principles and procedures have not been followed when handling public funds? How can it be explained that bank statements for critical public accounts are missing? Is it due to incompetence? Is it due to fraud? It’s about time that VI voters become far more thoughtful in their selections when choosing persons not only for the legislature, delegate and governor positions but also for the elected boards as well. It’s about time for voters to learn that the lack of accountability of those whom we elect diminishes needed services for us all.
We learned of the mishandling of government funds by the Legislature about 3 years ago; recently, a federal audit exposed gross mishandling of federal dollars by the election system. Additionally, retirees and public employees are learning that questionable decisions by GERS boards, previous legislatures, previous executive branch directors and even investment consultants have contributed to the wanton evisceration of pension funds. While the GERS Board is appointed, elected legislators vote on these appointments.
When will VI voters realize that those whom we elect to make critical decisions about our dwindling funds must be able to stand up to scrutiny which analyses professional, intellectual and ethical fitness? Why do we as voters continue to vote for candidates on the basis of a tee-shirt received, a job given to a relative, good looks, place of birth, families and friendships, how well they can joke or “tark like we”, their age, or the free food offered at campaign events? When will we as voters finally realize that these criteria are not only worthless… they can be deadly?
Yes, as voters, we have brought much of this calamity on ourselves by the way we vote. Indeed, we can use the law to correct some of the outrageous acts. However, the Election Boards and the legislators report to the people of the VI. Remember: we are their employers. Let us act as responsible employers and hold those whom we elect accountable. Wake up, voters, wake up. CAVEAT ELECTOR !!
Editor’s note: Gwen-Marie Moolenaar, Ph.D., is the president of the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands.