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USVI Gov’t employees being terminated due to ‘financial crisis

- Bureau of Corrections termination letter says
Some workers employed at the Bureau of Corrections have been terminated because of the 'continued financial crisis' affecting the US Virgin Islands government. Photo: VIC
VI CONSORTIUM

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St Thomas, USVI- While US Virgin Islands (USVI) Governor Kenneth E. Mapp has said on multiple occasions that the territory’s financial condition has been improving and that government employees would not be furloughed or terminated, some workers employed at the Bureau of Corrections have been terminated because of the “continued financial crisis” affecting the government.

This is a contradiction that Government House refused to address on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 with the Mapp administration’s acting communications director, Samuel Topp, choosing to instead chide a Consortium reporter for asking Government House about the matter.

Mr. Topp, after arguing that Government House should not be the first point of contact concerning whether or not the administration was terminating employees because of financial constraints, contending that the government department experiencing the trouble should be reached first, later said he had no idea what was going on and would not comment on the situation.

“The response is, from my perspective, I have absolutely no idea what that person may be talking about,” Mr. Topp said. He later added, “I have no information to confirm anything that is being alleged in that letter or any correspondence with you regarding layoffs because of inability to pay. As far as I know, payroll is going to be met tomorrow, and there is no indication that it is not going to be met at anytime in the future.”

Financial Crisis

But the letter informing former B.O.C. employee Fred Esannason that effective May 19, 2017 he would no longer be employed at the Bureau of Corrections because of continuing “financial crisis” at the central government, was signed by B.O.C. Director Rick Mulgrav. It reads:

“Due to the government’s continued financial crisis, the Bureau of Corrections has been forced to consolidate/eliminate positions and/or services. Therefore, it is with considerable regret that I inform you of your dismissal from your position at B.O.C. as project coordinator, effective May 19, 2017. You will be compensated through June 16, 2017.”

The letter continued: “This action has been made necessary due to the government’s lack of funds. I wish to assure you that this separation of employment is not related to your job performance. I regret that circumstances have made such action necessary and unavoidable.”

Mr. Mulgrav, contradicting his own letter, told The Consortium late Wednesday that the terminations at B.O.C. were not necessarily associated with financial constraints at the central government. Instead, he said, the employees had been terminated because their positions at B.O.C.  were duplicates and needed to be eliminated. Asked whether the project coordinator position that Mr. Esannason served in was a duplicate, Mr. Mulgrav said it was. He said Mr. Esannason was chosen for termination because B.O.C. followed its seniority protocol, suggesting that the person who remained employed at the bureau had served for a longer period of time.

“If you had duplicate positions doing more or less the same type of work, it didn’t make sense,” Mr. Mulgrav said. “So we’re looking at cutting back all the way around at the Bureau of Corrections in order to reach our goals.”

Lies!

But in a phone interview with Mr. Esannason following the phone interview with Mr. Mulgrav, Mr. Esannason flatly denied the director’s statement. ”

“That’s a lie,” Mr. Esannason charged, describing his position as an employment coordinator whose duties included working with inmates to help them secure jobs, as well as to organize video visits, among other duties. “There is no duplication of that job. Lies.”

Mr. Mulgrav said three B.O.C. employees so far have been terminated: a maintenance position and a warehouse position were the two others. He said the warehouse position was a duplicate, while the maintenance position “wasn’t being utilized at all for its original purpose.” Mr. Mulgrav added that further terminations were “possible in the near future.”

The reasons for the employees’ dismissal, as stated in the letter, brings to the fore a continuing tumultuous financial condition at the central government, even as the governor continues to paint a picture of stability. During a recent press conference, he said tax increases levied through his Revenue Enhancement and Economic Recovery Act of 2017 — which raised taxes on sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco products, as well as hikes to property and timeshare unit taxes — had improved the government’s financial standing, and that there would be no need for furloughs, layoffs, shorter work weeks and shortened school days. He made those claims while reassuring residents earlier this month that the territory would not fall into darkness because the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority had reverted back to oil.

In praising Senate Democrats who supported the bill, Mr. Mapp said, “Because of their vote, we can solve this problem and assist the Water and Power Authority. Because they voted yes, no government worker is struggling in terms of working 80 hours per pay period. Because they voted yes, no school in this territory is being closed. Because they voted yes, we’re not only able to keep the lights on, keep the payroll intact, but are now releasing income tax refunds.”

Yet, Mr. Mapp’s comments came against a backdrop showing a government that has become overburdened with obligations, many of which its failing to meet because of its financial position — a situation that became apparent after the bond market refused the government’s bonds twice in recent months, leaving the territory with a structural deficit of $100 million that local leaders have been working to offset.

The repercussions have been visible: The territory’s hospitals are in dire need of financial support to make critical repairs, with the Juan F. Luis Hospital suffering from major sewage and drainage issues; the Charles W. Turnbull Library is closed because of a malfunctioning chiller; construction at the Paul E. Joseph Stadium remains in doubt, and financial problems at W.A.P.A. — the territory’s sole power supplier — have gotten worse, forcing the water and power company to revert back to oil — which it worked for years, spending over $200 million to get away from.

7 Responses to “USVI Gov’t employees being terminated due to ‘financial crisis”

  • Just saying (25/05/2017, 20:18) Like (8) Dislike (13) Reply
    Bvi next
  • rock city (25/05/2017, 22:50) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    They should be happy they dodged a bullet.
  • WTF (26/05/2017, 00:00) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    The last line of defense just needs to hold out until the USVI elections concludes in 2018.
  • E. Leonard (26/05/2017, 09:59) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    The economic challenges of Puerto Rico and USVI, the BVI westerly neighbors and trading partners, should cause it to take pause. It needs to take note and take a detour of the economic road travelled by its neighbors. One of the realities of a small locale such the VI with a small economy, limited resources and small population is that by necessity government is a major employer( direct and indirect); the cost of governing is high, having to spread the cost over a small population. With limited resources and high employment burden, government must be a model of efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. It must optimize and maximize output from its limited resources.

    Assuming a government workforce of approximately 3,300 ( 3,300 out of a labour force of approximately 13,000) and a population of approximately 30,000, the ratio is one government worker per 9 residents. Is the ratio of 1 employee to 9 resident too small? Is the government workforce too large? Though no policy maker will touch the size of the civil service with a 100 metre pole, it is an issue that needs to be addressed, in spite of it being unhealthy for decision makers. The information is needed to more effectively manage governing. The problem is not self healing and action is needed to address it. It cannot be wished away. Procrastination will not solve it. It has to be solve with fair, bold, reasonable, practical and compassionate action. What is the fix?

    For starters, a comprehensive government workforce analysis should be conducted. Recommendations from study should be more than book ends. Additionally, work processes should be reengineered, performance standards established.........etc. Further, the economy needs to grow, expand and diversified to lessen government employment burden. Nonetheless, the public sector work force needs to be right sized. There is no quick fix but the issue needs urgent attention.
    • judge (14/06/2017, 18:24) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
      Only the land & human resources are limited. We need to reprioritize and think to ourselves if we were Japanese people what would we do? If we were New Zealand what would we do? But we only think like we are NDP or VIP. We have good people here with great ideas who aren't just thinking of political or social ambitions, lets work together.
  • VI REP (04/04/2018, 22:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    VOTE Foncý


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