March 13, 2003 -More than a dozen white-owned companies won contracts totaling more than $26 million to repair St. Croix's sewage system under the governor's public exigency order that allows the bypass of the normal bidding process, former Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen said on Thursday.
And the single black-owned company that received a contract fell under scrutiny and was blocked by the federal government as an act of racism, she charged at a press conference.
Hansen called the meeting to address a portion of District Judge Thomas K. Moore's ruling this week barring the government from awarding a $3.6 million sewage system repair contract to a company which employs her husband.
When U.S. Attorney David Nissman filed a petition in District Court last month seeking to halt the V.I. government's contract awarded to Global Resources Management Inc., Hansen told reporters outside the courtroom that it was a "racial trial."
She said Thursday that she stands by that statement and takes issue with Moore's mention of it in his opinion.
Moore in a lengthy memorandum filed on Monday described as "outrageous assertions" Hansen's statements to the press. He said Hansen had characterized Nissman as being "motivated by racial or anti-local prejudice to challenge the conflict of interest of the governor's administrator in the procurement process and the validity of awarding this multimillion-dollar contract to an assetless consulting company with no construction experience or equipment or employees."
The "governor's administrator" to whom he referred is Ohanio Harris, special assistant to Gov Charles W. Turnbull, who was listed as chief executive of Global Resources Management until a year ago.
"Such public comments maligning the motives of federal of offices and, by implication, this court, simply do not help solve the serious problems of sewage running in the streets and harbors of St. Croix," Moore wrote.
Hansen said Thursday that her statement was made as a private citizen. "I still believe it was a kangaroo court, and I still believe it was a racist act," she said.
The companies she said were granted contracts without going through the normal bidding process were also not required to have a surety bond, while Global Resources was. But those contracts apparently were for services that did not require such a bond, Moore said in a footnote to his memorandum.
Hansen served 16 years in the Senate but did not seek re-election last fall, instead making an unsuccessful run for the governorship. She said Thursday that she had been aware of St. Croix's sewage problems while in office and had tried for years to persuade her colleagues to address the issue of the island's aging sewer system.
Moore, in his opinion, noted that the system continued to deteriorate while Hansen was in office and went on to say that her husband, Esdel Hansen, was a supervisor at the Public Works Department during the years of deterioration.
"That's why I called this a political opinion," Hansen said. "My husband was selected for his position by someone who wanted to see him shine, former Commissioner Gordon Finch."
She said others in powerful political positions over the years looked to Esdel Hansen on sewage issues because of his experience.
Esdel Hansen, also at the press conference, broke his silence on the contract controversy. He said GRM owner Ashley Andrews approached him — and so did several white-owned companies — to head up the project. "We worked out a payment plan that was very nice to me," he said, "and we started to make contact with the companies and with the other parts to put this thing together."
He said GRM was hiring employees and contractors as well as preparing to open a new office. But before happened, he said, the U.S. attorney began to question the contract's validity.
Esdel Hansen said he agrees with his wife that the questioning and ultimate blocking of the contract was racially motivated.
Asked about the awarding of contracts by the V.I. government to the white-owned firms, Alicia Hansen said the "powerhouse" companies with the most money are the ones that get chosen.
She declined to provide any information about a $25,000 contract she awarded to GRM during her last term as senator, except to say that she hired the firm to do work "dealing with the technology park," an apparent reference to the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park that is to be developed on St. Croix.

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