May 16, 2005 Senate President Lorraine Berry was removed from her position as head of the Women's Caucus by the Territorial Democratic Party Saturday at its monthly meeting at Victor's New Hideout.
Citing committee by-laws, Committee Chair Cecil Benjamin, wrote Sens. Berry, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Shawn-Michael Malone informing them their committee vote was "forfeited" for the duration of their terms, as long as they remained "associated with another caucus which is not recognized by the Territorial Committee."
Berry, Donastorg and Malone broke from the Democratic Party after the 2004 election, and aligned themselves with five of the then-minority made up of Independents and Independent Citizens Movement members in the 26th Legislature, to create an eight-member majority.
Berry took great umbrage in her Monday radio spot on WVWI Radio One to the committee's action. She devoted almost the entire five-minute address to denigrating the committee and its actions. She called the group that removed her, a "desperate group of individuals, a den of iniquity, and deceitful."
Berry said she had sent a proxy to the meeting, as she was attending a graduation ceremony at Sts. Peter and Paul cathedral for the Roy L. Schneider Hospital licensed practical nurse program.
She said a "handful of dishonorable individuals, led by Edward De Lagarde, proceeded to vote on a discriminatory action to remove me. I have the most time and most service as a humble servant. There is a handful of Democrats who don't want me.
"The caucus is the only committee operating with purpose," she said. "Under my leadership, we were organizing a major honoring of first ladies of the Virgin Islands."
Berry continued, calling the group "envious activists, including Delegate Donna Christensen." She said Christensen had been sitting next to her at the graduation ceremony, when Christensen "left to attend the meeting to pass the vote to remove me. They are all hypocrites," she said. "What is their position on Cecil Benjamin who had to be reprimanded and sent home for a month? He was sent home because of ethical lapses. (See "Labor Commissioner Suspended Without Pay").
"They resent my success," Berry continued. "There are racists in the Territorial Committee. How did I earn 12 terms? Look at all my women's conferences. Even Tito Morales (Central Labor Council head) agreed with me and did not pass a vote against me.
"The vindictiveness reminds me of the politics of our neighbors," she said, "You're either against them, or for them. There are two parties which are racially based as in Guyana, where Cecil Benjamin is from." She concluded, "Independent thinkers, beware of this lynch mob."
Benjamin said Monday, "We cannot continue to have a political organization when people cross the line; you're either fish or fowl. It's wrong for us to continue to allow this type of behavior. The organization is bigger than the individual members. It is based on principal and discipline."
He made clear that his remarks were his "initial response" to Berry's comments. "I have heard about it, but I haven't listened to Berry's address," he said. "I am getting the tape from the station, and then I will make an appropriate response."
Glen Smith, St. Thomas district chair of the committee, said Monday "A part of the cause for Sen. Berry's vigor and venom (in her address) was because in January she was elected chair of the Women's Caucus. However, many of the members had a problem with that because of our by-laws, which state that a person who associates himself or herself with another caucus automatically forfeits her vote. If you lose your vote, you lose your right to chair a committee, according to Roberts Rules of Order."
Smith continued, "On Saturday, we simply reversed that decision. A motion was made and seconded, it was debated, and the motion carried. The vote installing her in that position shouldn't have been made in the first place.
"There are some members who think since she is the only female senator, and therefore the best person for the job, she should remain. They say we should let bygones be bygones and we should start healing in the party," he continued. "But, what about those seven minority Democratic senators who stuck with the party? Should we reward somebody who has broken away, when, in fact, she aligned with a group aligned with an opposition to destroy the Democrats?
"We need to move on. We have work to do." Smith said, however, "The Women's Caucus was doing an excellent job, with plans to bring the plight of women forward."
Smith said there is a way for Berry to retain her vote and her chairmanship. "She could come back home and join with the other seven Democrats in the minority. I would pledge my full support for her to regain her status as chair, once that is done."
He added, "I don't think she will do it, but that's the path she should follow, and bring the other two (senators) along with her."
Smith is also the Labor Department director of labor relations.
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