March 12, 2003 – The V.I. government will appeal Monday's order by District Judge Thomas K. Moore concerning a contract awarded without competitive bidding for sewer system repairs on St. Croix, according to Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Meanwhile, a top Public Works Department official says the judge's order doesn't really change much, since the government has been facing federal mandates to fix the system since 1984.
A one-sentence statement released by Government House on Tuesday evening cited Stridiron as saying that the government "will file an appeal of the memorandum and order" by Moore in the case of the United States vs. the territory "involving the terminated contract with Global Resources Management Inc. for emergency repairs of the St. Croix sewage system."
Stridiron could not be reached for comment Tuesday night or during the day on Wednesday. Government House legal counsel Paul Gimenez and an assistant attorney general, Kerry Drue, said that to their knowledge the appeal had not been filed as of Wednesday afternoon.
The appeal would be to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the appellate court with jurisdiction for the Virgin Islands.
Moore conducted three days of hearings in connection with the case brought by U.S. Attorney David Nissman in cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department asking that the V.I. government show cause why its contract with Global Resources should not be set aside by the court.
On the final day, Feb. 3, Stridiron had told reporters that he would have "a hell of a lot to say" once the judge issued his ruling.
V.I. Justice Department attorneys argued that under a declaration of emergency by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, the government had the right to award the contract without going through the bidding process. They also contended that the federal court had no jurisdiction in the matter.
In his opinion issued on Monday, Moore declared there was no emergency, in that the sewer system crisis was of long years' standing, and that the federal court did have jurisdiction because the contract concerned repairs ordered by U.S. government and the District Court and agreed to by the territorial government.
Referring to "the reek of politics and political influence, and quite possibly of political corruption," Moore termed the awarding of the contract to Global and its chief executive, Ashley Andrews, as "yet another example of elected and appointed officials of the Virgin Islands government putting crass politics ahead of fiscal responsibility, not to mention the health and safety of the people."
The judge also wrote of "the corrupting political pressure from the Turnbull administration through Ohanio Harris, Gov. Turnbull's special assistant for St. Croix." Harris was the chief executive of Global until a year ago, when Andrews assumed that position.
Moore also wrote that he was most disturbed by "the paucity of evidence that the government was even half-heartedly trying to get these sewer lines repaired" over the years.
His order included a list of actions to be taken by the V.I. government to advance the completion of the federally ordered repairs.
On Wednesday, Sonia Nelthropp, a key official at the Public Works Department, which is largely responsible for overseeing the repairs, said that both Moore's order and a possible appeal are peripheral. Nelthropp is in charge of solid waste and wastewater management, where finding, fixing and/or replacing non-functioning elements of the territory's sewer systems is part of the job description.
Nelthropp said she had not yet seen the actual memorandum and order but that from what she had heard and read, the only change to the status quo is Moore's order that the territory within the next 90 days hire a private contractor to operate and maintain St. Croix's wastewater collection system and pump stations for at least 18 months.
"None of this affects what we're doing. It can't. We're under a consent order. Period," Nelthropp said, referring to an agreement entered into by the V.I. and federal governments in 1984 and revised in 1996 concerning federally mandated repairs and upgrades of the territory's wastewater system.
Nelthropp said she has never viewed Moore's series of orders since 2000 to bring the territory into compliance with the mandates of the consent decree as punitive measures. Rather, she said, she has seen them as a means of keeping the repair process moving forward in a positive direction.
Moore on Monday also ordered the V.I. government not to revive the contract with Global Resources — which Turnbull canceled two days before the show cause hearing was to begin — and to notify the court if it enters into any sewer contracts for more than $250,000.
He also ordered the government to fix any new failures in the sewer system within 120 days, report on the amount of funds set aside in a special bank account to fund the repairs, and make deposits into that account over the next few months to bring the balance to $20 million by Oct. 1.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here