July 29, 2004 In the midst of the Water and Power Authority's fiscal year 2005 overview presentation on Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone threw in a request to subpoena financial records from three top V.I. Carnival Committee officials.
The Carnival Committee has adamantly refused to disclose pertinent aspects of its finances to the Finance Committee, arguing that as a not-for-profit organization it is not required by law to do so. It has gone to Territorial Court seeking an injunction to prevent the Finance Committee from demanding its records.
The senators complied with Malone's request, voting to subpoena the records from the Carnival Committee's chair, Kenneth Blake; its executive director, Caswil Callender; and its treasurer, Derek Gumbs.
Malone said after Thursday's hearing that an earlier subpoena the Finance Committee had issued to the Carnival Committee wasn't specific enough.
This time, the committee is asking to see contracts with calypsonians who were paid with government money, contracts for services paid with government money, documents showing revenues from events held at government-owned locations such as Lionel Roberts Stadium, and a list of expenses for events that used government funds.
The committee officials have until Aug. 13 to deliver the records.
Malone said the time is past for the Carnival Committee or other organizations to refuse to explain their taxpayer-funded operations. "We have to get real here," he said.
Noting that the government provided $325,000 for the St. Thomas celebration this year, he suggested that, with exposure, the Carnival Committee might be able to find ways to do more with less.
After hearing the rest of what WAPA's executive director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, and his staff had to say, the Finance Committee segued into testimony from the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute and the V.I. Council on the Arts. The V.I. Hospitality Institute also was on the agenda, but it was announced that the organization is inactive.
Cultural Heritage Institute
The Cultural Heritage Institute request for $649,647 for FY 2005 is vastly larger than the governor's proposed budget of $133,670.
"It's not too often that departments ask for something totally different," Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who chaired the meeting, said. "I was wondering if it was a typographical error."
Institute board member Claudette Lewis, who is assistant commissioner of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said the additional money is slated to fund a folklife festival.
Council on the Arts
The Council on the Arts requested $340,206 from the General Fund. Of that figure, $85,000 is to be distributed to local artists in the form of grants. The agency also gets $239,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts for that purpose.
VICA's executive director, Betty Mahoney, said the territory is supposed to provide a one-to-one match with the federal funding, but local budget constraints have historically prevented that from happening.
Several senators suggested that all government arts-related organizations, including the Cultural Institute and the Council on the Arts, be combined under one funding roof to provide focus.
Sen. Luther Renee said the territory is not cashing in on the economic boon that comes from promoting cultural and art-related tourism.
Malone agreed, adding that "the cultural heritage market is a multimillion-dollar market."
Malone also said he has heard from several St. Thomas hotels that want to book quelbe bands to play regularly for their guests, but to his knowledge none exist on St. Thomas.
Committee members present for the hearing were Sen. Donastorg, the chair; and Sens. Roosevelt David, Louis Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Malone and Renee. Sen. Ronald Russell was not present. Also attending the hearing were Sens. Emmett Hansen II, Usie Richards and Celestino A. White Jr., who are not members of the committee.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix 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.