Gov. Kenneth Mapp has ousted his latest director of communications, Cherie Munchez, administration officials confirmed Friday. Munchez was the third person in the post since Mapp took office in January 2015.
A statement from Government House on Friday afternoon referred all future media communications to Deputy Director of Communications Sam Topp. Reached by phone, Topp confirmed Munchez was out.
“She is no longer with the department. There has been a restructuring,” Topp said. Asked why the change was made and if the administration would be naming a replacement, Topp said he could not comment further.
Munchez took the position in May 2016 and served a little more than nine months. She replaced Nicole Bollentini, who served about four months as director of communications and is still with Government House, directing social media. Bollentini replaced Kimberly Jones, who was Mapp’s initial director of communications. Mapp appointed Jones to be deputy commissioner of the Health Department.
Before coming on as director of communications for Mapp in May, Munchez headed her own marketing and public relations firm, Clever Maniacs, based in Ft. Lauderdale, which she founded in 2011. She held management positions in several marketing firms prior to that. Calls and emails to Munchez for comment had not been returned as of 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The Mapp administration has seen a number of top officials replaced to date.
In February, Mapp replaced Commissioner of Human Services Anita Roberts after she faced criticism for abruptly moving some residents of St. Thomas’s Sea View Nursing Home without coordinating with families and other agencies. Mapp appointed Felicia Blyden, a career Human Services employee, in her place.
Also in February, Mapp ousted Property and Procurement Commissioner Randolph Bennett, without explanation, replacing him with Lloyd Bough Jr., who has served as chief of procurement contracts at the department since 2007.
In October 2016, Mapp’s chief of staff, Randy Knight, abruptly resigned with no public explanation.
Attorney General Claude Walker is the fourth person to serve as attorney general since January 2015 when Mapp took office. Walker took office in August 2015.
While not under the governor’s direct authority, the territory has also seen the heads of the V.I. Water and Power Authority and the V.I. Port Authority ousted by board members aligned with Mapp. In December 2016, three Mapp cabinet members and a cousin of Mapp’s voted to oust VIPA Executive Director Carlton “Ital” Dowe, putting the governor’s brother, David Mapp, in the position until a new director is hired by the board. No permanent replacement has been selected to date and David Mapp continues to serve.
In January, three Mapp cabinet members and a member of Mapp’s transition team voted to oust WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. (See Related Links)
In November 2015, Mapp fired Special Assistant Attorney General Laverne Mills-Williams, citing only her “association” with her own attorney, St. Croix attorney Lee Rohn. Rohn was representing Mills-Williams in a whistleblower action concerning Mills-Williams being relieved of her duties after giving out information in response to V.I. Open Records Act requests regarding Mapp’s use of Government House funds at restaurants and bars. Rohn also was an attorney in a lawsuit regarding Mapp’s use of WICO funds to rent a villa on St. Thomas.
In May 2015, Mapp ousted V.I. Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Percival Clouden, who was placed in the position by Mapp’s predecessor, Gov. John deJongh Jr. He replaced Clouden with Wayne Biggs, who served previously as head of the Division of Licensing and Consumer Affairs under deJongh. In February of 2015, Mapp replaced Jennifer Nugent-Hill, the EDA’s assistant chief executive officer. Those positions serve at the pleasure of the governor and have historically often changed hands with a new governor’s arrival.