OPINION: Soraya Diase Coffelt Denounces ‘Yet Another’ Secret Meeting Held by Governor, Senators and Urges Elected Leaders To Observe ‘Full Transparency’
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Soraya Diase Coffelt said that she strongly denounces the secret meeting that the media reported took place between Gov. Kenneth Mapp and certain senators at Government House on Monday.
There is no question that this meeting should have been open to the public as well as the media, Diase Coffelt said.
“The V. I. Government in the Sunshine law requires that government meetings be open to the public, except for very limited exceptions,” Diase Coffelt said. “With our community questioning what is being done to improve our economy and our everyday lives, our elected government officials must respect the law and the rights of the people to be fully informed.”
Diase Coffelt added that she is still awaiting full financial transparency. Besides Monday, Mapp and members of the 32nd Legislature also held a series of secret meetings in January in violation of the territory’s Sunshine Law.
Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen of St. Croix said that she did not attend yesterday’s meeting and that she thought the meeting should have been open to the public and press.
On July 25, 2017, Diase Coffelt said that she wrote to Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the V.I. Department of Finance, asking him to answer questions raised by the incomplete financial accounting given by the government to the independent auditors and as stated in the auditor’s written report of June 27, 2017.
To date, she has not received any response whatsoever either from the Commissioner or anyone else on behalf of the administration.
Over the past week, two of the three most respected credit rating agencies, Fitch and S&P, have downgraded V. I. bonds further into “junk” status.
“The simple truth is that, if the territory was a person, its credit score would be so low that it would no longer be
able to borrow money from a bank, whether to purchase a house, a car, or even a new refrigerator,” she said.
Sen. Kurt Vialet of St. Croix, who attended Monday’s meeting, dubbed it “a very informal discussion.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with the meeting at all,” Vialet told the Virgin Islands Daily News.
The two-term senator spent the majority of his professional career as an education administrator at the St. Croix Educational Complex High School.
Diase Coffelt said that cruise lines are cutting back visits, businesses are shutting down, and
talented people are leaving as follows:
1) According to the U. S. V. I. Bureau of Economic Research, cruise line visits
are down 16 percent through June, and five more visits were just canceled last
week to St. Thomas;
2) An award winning, world-renowned chef is leaving the Virgin Islands and the
restaurant he just recently opened;
3) A long time, internet service provider went out of business; and
4) Some 81 school teachers have resigned since last year, leaving 151 total vacancies in
the V.I. Department of Education.
The lack of transparency in our government continues to destroy trust among the
people, businesses, and potential new investors, Diase Coffelt said.
“If anyone from the public wants to find out what is the monthly general revenue for the Virgin Islands, there is nothing more than a two-page, and what appears to be a haphazardly copied General Fund Statement
of Revenue posted each month on the V.I. Department of Finance’s website,” she said. “And, even
that document shows revenue to the General Fund is down 27 percent from last year!”
According to Diase Coffelt: “The Mapp Administration owes full transparency to the people of the Virgin Islands. It
is only when the people speak out, ask questions, and demand answers from their
government officials, will there be any form of a proper accounting to them.”