After almost 40 minutes of discussion on his recent trip to the Biggest Loser Resort in Palm Springs, Calif., Gov. Kenneth Mapp quickly confirmed Tuesday the resignation of his chief of staff, Randolph “Randy” Knight, who he thanked for his “service and friendship.”
The Source reported on Knight’s resignation over the weekend, with sources attributing it to recent differences over the West Indian Co. Ltd and the V.I. Port Authority. Knight served as WICO’s board chairman and Mapp confirmed Tuesday that Knight had also resigned from that post.
Mapp made it clear, however, that Knight’s departure was not due to conflicts with government staff or members of the governor’s cabinet. When he was appointed to the position, Knight said he would be able to give the administration a year and instead gave 20 months, Mapp explained.
“He has investments on the mainland and other business matters and I think he reached the point where he said, ‘I stuck it out as much as I could and now I have other things to do,’” Mapp said. “The timing was right.”
With the November general election coming up, Mapp said he would take a break before naming a successor, but that he would continue to consult Knight “from time to time” on issues facing the territory.
While confirming Knight’s departure, Mapp also announced a new addition to his staff: Bureau of Information Technology Director Col. Angelo Riddick, who comes to the territory with 32 years of experience in the U.S. Army, including cyber warfare, project management and overseas security.
At one point, Riddick also managed the U.S. Army help desk and operations center for the Pentagon and greater Washington, D.C., area.
Mapp said Tuesday that Riddick’s first task would be to streamline the information technology system for the V.I. Departments of Police and Justice, and to ensure that both agencies have access the “real time information” needed to fight and prosecute crime in the territory. This includes access to facial recognition software, video technology, and digital records that officers would need on the streets, Mapp said.
On the topic of staff, Mapp also spoke about conflicts with Government Employees Retirement System Austin Nibbs, who he said Tuesday “needs to be replaced.” Responding to reporters’ questions about the government’s ongoing lawsuit with GERS – which is seeking to find the government in contempt of court on a decision made in the 1980s about paying contributions – Mapp said that he returned home from the territory this week to 17 letters from Nibbs discussing missing contributions from 17 employees that have applied for retirement.
Mapp said that each year, $2.5 million is budgeted for government and missing employee contributions, along with a portion of the funds granted to the territory from the Lonesome Dove Petroleum Co. settlement, which was recently signed into law. Even if each of the 17 employees owed $40,000 in missing contributions – Mapp said Nibbs’ letters showed amounts ranging from $21,000 to $45,000 – it would still not add up to the $2.5 million included annually in the budget, and what’s more, once missing contributions are noted, they are immediately paid by the Department of Finance, Mapp said.
“GERS can do in court what it wants to do in court but the better question is, why is the GERS board of directors and Mr. Nibbs, who I am now convinced needs to be replaced, wasting time and holding retirees’ money hostage on some premise of holding contributions that need to be paid?” Mapp asked, adding that Nibbs’ actions are coming as a result of the government not acting on an authorization granted by the Legislature to float $600 million in pension obligation bonds for GERS.
“I recognize that the government must make additional monetary contributions to the GERS, but I also realize that GERS, on its current trajectory, is not sustainable,” Mapp said. “They have to stop throwing away money and start demanding more … We’re not going to hand them money to make foolishness with. There needs to be a change in the system and we need to put people on the board that understand investments and find a competent administrator.”