Open Forum: Former Horse Racing Commissioner Responds to Removal

Jay Watson. (Photo provided by Jay Watson)
Jay Watson. (Photo provided by Jay Watson)

Dear Governor Bryan,

I am in receipt of your letter dated Dec. 13, 2019. After reviewing your correspondence, it is clear that you have taken an arbitrary and myopic perspective on your decision to remove me from the Virgin Islands Horse Racing Commission. Though I am fully aware that you have the right to remove any member of the VIHRC “For Cause,” ethics require that you be diligent, objective, factual and thorough in your actions. I would first like to address your reasoning of my removal “For Cause” in accordance with 32 V.I.C Chapter 11 Subchapter 1 Section 201(d). As you are fully aware, I have made several attempts since January 2019 to meet with you to discuss matters relating to horse racing in the territory. Your decision to remove me from the commission without even a meeting, correspondence, or phone call over the past year along with not affording me any due process, has left me no choice but to respond to your written communication in kind.

It is inconceivable to me that you could take such actions without even the most casual attempt at due diligence, getting the facts and talking to the people involved on both sides of the issue to make sure that you have a firm grasp of the situation so that you could make a factual, evidence-based decision to resolve the issues plaguing the VIHRC. There is always two or more sides to any issue. Evidently in the world according to Governor Bryan, there is only one side to this issue and that is the side of the St. Thomas VIHRC members, keep in mind, those five members have demonstrated unethical, if not outright illegal conduct while serving in their official capacity.

Advertising (skip)

So let’s begin by fact checking what you, the Chief Executive of the United States Virgin Islands, has presented as facts used in your attempt to justify removing me as the Chairman of the VIHRC and the spurious agenda that prompted it.

Governor, with all due respect, it is quite obvious that you are conflicted and confused, misguided and misinformed. In your first paragraph you wrote “l imposed arbitrary rules on fellow Commission members.” In the next breath you wrote “Although it is the duty of the Horse Racing Commission pursuant to 32 V.I.C section 201 (b) to adopt and amend rules under your Chairmanship this duty was not executed.” Which one is it? Either I imposed rules or didn’t. Your carriers are bringing you empty information while leaving the facts behind.

The fact is, the minutes where Robert’s Rule of Order was unanimously adopted on February 8, 2019 by Jay Watson, Dr. Laura Palminteri, Ronald Phillips, Henry Schjang, and Seldon Turnbull was taken and transcribed by Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahina a professor at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix Campus. PDF copies of the minutes were provided to all Commission members.

MISINFORMATION – Your statement that, “In fact at the April 25, meeting Commissioner Phillips requested that rules and regulations must be approved.”

The fact is, this statement, which was attributed to Commissioner Phillips, was intentionally taken out of context to suit your intended purpose. His statement had absolutely nothing to do with the approval of any rules. Had you had any inclination to know the truth you could have simply contacted Mr. Phillips or looked at the April 25, 2019 meeting minutes.

MISINFORMATION – Your statement that, “These actions lead to the Horse Racing Commission’s inability to conduct meetings in a professional manner and disrupted the actual functions of the Commission and prevented the Commissioners from undertaken their duties.”

The facts are that Commissioner Sheldon Turnbull (STT) went so far as to state publicly that he was not attending any meetings of the Commission knowing that his actions would prevent the Commission from establishing a quorum to conduct business. His actions were supported by the other St. Thomas Commission members as they also did not attend meetings. This essentially sabotaged the work of the Commission for the entire year. The St. Croix members were always in attendance and ready to make a quorum to conduct the business of the V.I. Horse Racing Commission. This was the root of the dysfunction within the VIHRC. The St. Thomas members in fact boycotted commission meetings, which by your silence and inaction implies tacit support and encouragement for their actions. This is an established pattern of disruption. One has only to look at the hospital’s Territorial Board to see similar patterns of disruption when it comes to the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.

MISINFORMATION – Your statement that, “The Commissioner of Sports, Parks and Recreation who is authorized to supervise the Commission pursuant to 32 V.1.C 202 (a).”

The fact is, nowhere in 32 V.I.C 202 (a) does it state that the Commissioner for Sports, Parks, and Recreation has supervisory responsibilities over the Commission. The only reference to supervision is, “Horse racing in the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas and St. John shall be conducted subject to the supervision of the Horse Racing Commission.”

MISINFORMATION – Your statement that, “It was made clear that these request for documents were for items requested by the Attorney General to evaluate this matter and you failed to response. This failure to provide records as directed led to the obstruction of the attorney General’s Office and the Commission’s duties.”

The facts are, documents of the Commission are public documents and have been turned over to all Commission members. The documents that Commissioner Calvert White stated that the Attorney General needed were already in his possession and this was communicated to him via email on October 23, 2019. Not only was the information provided to the Attorney General’s Office which is evidenced by my email dated October 1, 2019, but I also provided additional information which was being intentionally withheld from the Attorney General to include the PDF version of the February 8, 2019 meeting minutes where Robert’s Rules of Order was unanimously adopted by all Commission members who were in attendance and established a quorum to conduct business, the Legal Opinion from the Legal Counsel of the VI Legislature along with the parliamentarian opinion of Ms. Mona Calhoun Professional Registered Parliamentarian. The Attorney General has never sent me any direct request for any information, on any matter, and has never sent me any correspondence period. While ! on the other hand have sent her a formal request for a legal determination of Conflict of Interest issues involving Dr. Palminteri’s self-admitted Conflict of Interest along with Sheldon Turnbull’s business dealings with VIGL which is also a conflict. To date the Attorney General has not substantively responded to my request even though she has acknowledged receipt of my request. Additionally, the Attorney General was copied when I requested a performance audit of the both Horsemen Association as well as the former St. Thomas and St. Croix Horse Racing Commissions in order to prevent the abuses of the past from being repeated in the present.

Governor, your conduct in this matter has been disingenuous and misleading. Your actions were employed as a means of distraction so that the focus and the blame for the dysfunction of the VIHRC would be shifted from the machinations, covert agendas and objectives of the St. Thomas Commission members, which you apparently support. This thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat me will not go unanswered. Your actions reek of cronyism and tarnishes the reputation of the Office of the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. The exercise of authority must be done with due consideration and restraint. Verbal or written communication must be concise and coherent. Factual in content, and objective in presentation, you have displayed none of these traits. The facts speak for themselves. All that you have presented in your correspondence are misrepresentations, baseless assumptions and outright falsehoods in reaching your conclusions. One thing that is definitely clear is your desire to make sure to remove me from the Commission and replace me with your friends and cohorts who have clear

cut conflicts of interest issues in charge, because we both know that while I am there, things like, trips paid for by VIGL will definitely not be happening and VIGL will be held to the Franchise Agreement which includes the performance bond which has yet to be posted as of todays date. Horse racing on St. Croix will continue to languish under the current conditions while the rest of the Caribbean region grows by leaps and bounds.

Your letter accused me of having personal objectives, and in that you are absolutely right but not for any nefarious reason you attempted to imply. My personal objective has always been to build and elevate the VI Horse Racing Industry to a level where it is recognized and accepted by the national and international governing bodies that govern horse racing in the US and here in the Caribbean Region. My personal objective has always been to remove corruption and conflicts of interests from the operation of the VI Horseracing Commission from its members and the conduct of its official business. My personal objective has always been to hold those entities the commission is charged with regulating to the highest standard of ethical behavior while ensuring that those entities fulfill their obligations under the law and agreements with the government. I can also say without fear of contradiction these objectives are shared by the two other St. Croix members of the commission.

My tenor on the commission began with my appointment by your predecessor, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp, along with the advice and consent of the Virgin Islands Legislature. Although you have identified the section of the VI Code that affords you the right to remove me for cause, the exercise of that authority must be fact based and rise to the level of malfeasance. This could be determined by affording me due process which you have casually denied me in arriving at your decision and which I am entitled to under the US Constitution and the revised Organic Act.

As I have insisted that members of the commission conduct themselves and the business of the commission at the highest professional and ethical standards, I am now insisting that you do the same by respecting my right to due process where the facts can be presented and sworn statements of witnesses to the events you referenced earlier can be vetted. Anything short of that may confirm a corrupt intent behind your action to remove me from the VI Horseracing Commission.

Sincerely,

Jay Watson

Chairman Virgin Islands Horse Racing Commission

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support the VI Source

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall - we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. Our sites are more popular than ever, but advertising revenues are falling - so you can see why we could use your help. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. If everybody who appreciates our reporting efforts were to help fund it for as little as $1, our future would be much more secure. Thanks in advance for your support!