Home Commentary Op-ed The Governor's Hands Are Tied

The Governor's Hands Are Tied

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I share the majority of the public's disdain at the outgoing governor calling a special session so late in his term to primarily consider raises (including a three month retroactive raise for him), massive financial matters and the deliberate absence of some members of the body for the vote. However, I also find the public's mad rush to judgment against our new governor because he hasn't "revoked" the raises inappropriate according to the limitations imposed upon him by the Organic Act of 1954.
According to Title 1, Sections 1 and 2 of the Virgin Islands Code, the present governor, in this instance Gov. John P. deJongh Jr., cannot veto or revoke legislation that has been signed into law by a previous governor. The length of time between the two chief executives doesn't matter. The present governor cannot unring a bell struck by a previous one. Please, don't take my word for this – look it up for yourself.
Only a sitting governor who has been presented with legislation passed by a majority of a current Legislature can act upon that particular piece of legislation. Also, an executive order can be revoked, but legislation must be repealed or amended. They are separate processes, which govern separate ordinances.
Further, even if Gov. deJongh were to send down legislation to repeal the pay increase legislation (which again is a different process than a revocation), both he and the legislature are barred from affecting their own salaries during their term in office. To be sure, they can move legislation to do so, however, it will only take place when the succeeding administration or Legislature is sworn in.
Thus, deJongh's hands were effectively tied in the matter prior to even taking the oath of office.
Incidentally, this raises a good question as to whether or not the retroactive pay raise for outgoing Gov. Charles W. Turnbull is valid since he did sign legislation, which affected his compensation while still in office. I find this to be a point, which has the bearing to be legally challenged.
French Modernist author/poet Paul Valery once observed: "Our judgments judge us; and nothing reveals us [or] exposes our weaknesses more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows."
I've never found this to be truer than at this moment with the mad rush to judgment and the condemnation of our newly inaugurated governor, the Honorable John P. deJongh Jr. whose hands are legally tied.
I find it personally dismaying that although this information is so readily available, the public is ready to flay the skin off the back of the one public official that didn't send down the legislation or have the opportunity to vote for or against it. I find the constant rush to judgment without ascertaining the facts to be a major weakness in our community. I mean seriously, the man hasn't been in office for two weeks. Is this really fair given the limitations of his position?
I know that some won't care about the legal limitations of the position. I do understand that mentality as well. After all, it didn't take too long for another celebrated personality to go from being cheered while riding into town on a donkey to being nailed to a cross a few days later either.
Emmett Hansen II
St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].
Editor's note: Emmett Hansen II was a member of the 24th and 25th V.I. Legislatures, holds degrees from Dillard University and the Defense Information School, and has taken graduate courses in public administration at the University of the Virgin Islands. He is presently at work on a book about his experiences while in the Legislature.

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