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Horse Racing Commission at a Standstill

The conference table on St. Thomas is all ready for a teleconference with the St. Croix members of the Horse Racing Commission, but the St, Thomas commissioners are no-show. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)
The conference table on St. Thomas is ready for a teleconference with the St. Croix members of the Horse Racing Commission, but the St. Thomas commissioners were a no-show. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)

The Virgin Islands Horse Racing Commission attempted to conduct a meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12, but were without a quorum due to the absence of all St. Thomas commission members.

Chairman Jay Watson said the commission has been unable to conduct any official business since Aug. 30, the last time the commission had a quorum.

During the last quorum on Aug. 30, the Commission voted to replace Watson with Laura Palminteri as chairman. But Watson remained consistent that because of the Feb. 8 meeting, where the Commission voted to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order for conducting its official business, this vote did not count because, per the adopted rules, the vote required a two-thirds majority.

Watson said the reason for not having a quorum since August is because “this matter was settled. It’s clearly settled.” He said the position of the St. Thomas commission members, that the commission needs a legal opinion from the attorney general to clarify the vote, was out of order.

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“So that’s what we are waiting for,” he said.

Though Watson has obtained a parliamentary opinion from a professional registered parliamentarian, Mona Calhoun, which concludes the vote that took place on Aug. 30 is invalid, he said St. Thomas committee members appear to be waiting on the legal opinion of the Attorney General’s Office.

“I beg to differ that it would take the Attorney General’s Office four months to come up with a legal opinion as to whether Robert’s Rules procedurally was not adhered to,” Watson said.

He said he is unsure of who even requested the legal opinion and has asked Sports, Parks and Recreational Commissioner Calvert White for a copy of the request but has yet to receive a response.

“This is what St. Thomas is using to try to hold things back,” Watson said.

Without a quorum the committee cannot conduct any business. The minimum quorum, specified by the V.I. Legislature Assistant Legal Counsel Sharline Rogers, must include two members from both the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John districts.

“It is clear from the letter invalidating the reorganization, the subsequent legal counsel opinion saying you should get a parliamentarian opinion, and the subsequent parliamentarian opinion. Since the parliamentarian opinion, we have got nothing to dispute,” Watson said.

The parliamentarian’s opinion, made available by Watson and Calhoun, concludes, “Any motions and votes taken at the Aug. 30, 2019, meeting of the VIHRC related to reorganization and removal of the current chair, Commissioner Jay Watson were improper and out of order and therefore null and void.”

The reasoning cited by Calhoun states the rules of order, whether contained in the parliamentary authority or adopted as special rules of order, can be suspended by a two-thirds vote. But during the Aug. 30 meeting the VIHRC did not have a two-thirds vote, rendering the removal of the Watson as chairman invalid.

Though all three St. Croix district members were present for Thursday’s meeting, because St. Thomas/St. John district members did not show up, the meeting was canceled and nothing on the agenda regarding the horse track was discussed, voted on or completed.

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