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Unity Gov’t cancelled contract with Thomas family; Accused of misleading public

- Thomas family says ban on horse racetrack came as a result of Gov’t 'unilaterally' terminating contract
There has been much speculation regarding the ban on the use of the Virgin Islands (VI) only venue for horse racing, Ellis Thomas Downs in Sea Cows Bay, due to the lack of information provided to the public. However, it has been disclosed by the Thomas family that the ban occurred as a result of Government cancelling the contract with the family, the landowners. Photo: VINO/File
Government has cancelled the contract with the Thomas family for the use of Ellis Thomas Downs. Photo: VINO/File
Government has cancelled the contract with the Thomas family for the use of Ellis Thomas Downs. Photo: VINO/File
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has been accused of telling ‘half truths’ regarding the issue of Ellis Thomas Downs and why there is a ban on its use. Photo: VINO/File
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has been accused of telling ‘half truths’ regarding the issue of Ellis Thomas Downs and why there is a ban on its use. Photo: VINO/File
Horse racing fans will be hoping the impasse between Government and the Thomas family, over the use of Ellis Thomas Downs for horse racing, could be ended soon. Photo: VINO/File
Horse racing fans will be hoping the impasse between Government and the Thomas family, over the use of Ellis Thomas Downs for horse racing, could be ended soon. Photo: VINO/File
SEA COWS BAY, Tortola, VI- There has been much speculation regarding the ban on the use of the Virgin Islands (VI) only venue for horse racing, Ellis Thomas Downs in Sea Cows Bay, due to the lack of information provided to the public. This has also resulted in persons making misguided claims and even threats to the Thomas family.

Now, Elaine M. Thomas-Griffith, the daughter of the late Ellis Thomas, has decided to bring some clarity on the matter, in an exclusive interview with Virgin Islands News Online.

Thomas-Griffith said a lot has played out in the media and public over the years regarding the leasing of Ellis Thomas Downs and her family has sought to remain silent to preserve a harmonious relationship with Government.

Thomas family ‘not the public enemy’

However, with confirmed threats being made to the Thomas’ family over the issue, Thomas-Griffith said that is a “line of demarcation” for the family that has been crossed.

She said the Thomas family is not the “public enemy” but simply persons who are landowners and who historically have made their land available for horse racing and, through her late father, have promoted the sport for decades.

In a bombshell disclosure, Thomas-Griffith told Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) that it was recently Government invited the family to a meeting and announced that the leasing agreement between Government and the Thomas’ family was terminated.

The meeting allegedly involved Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) members of the Attorney General’s chambers, and other representatives of government, whose involvement and portfolio involve crown lands.

The three elected representatives; however, excused themselves from the meeting before the announcement was made; however, our newsroom was reliably informed that they were aware of the decision to cancel the agreement with the Thomas family.

Gov’t ‘unilaterally’ made decision to cancel contract

According to Thomas-Griffith, the family expected the meeting would be to discuss issues involving the lease between the family and the Government of the Virgin Islands for the use of Ellis Thomas Downs track.

“When we arrived for that meeting, literally at the inception of the meeting, it was announced to us that our contract was being cancelled on the premise of a technicality, a unilateral statement with no advanced notice to us. I am not at liberty to get into the specific details of the alleged technicality but, suffice it to say, that the pronouncement was made to our family with no warning on the eve of what would be another race day, that the contract was cancelled.”

Thomas-Griffith explained that a contract provides for certain benefits and protections to the land owner as well as certain benefits and protections to the Government as the Lessee; and in actuality, it also provides for certain benefits and protections to the horse owners who use the facilities, as supported through the government.

“When we heard that the contract was cancelled, I asked the question at that table ‘are you certain this is the direction you would like to see this discourse go in?’ Because your position is not going to be one that allows us to continue allowing the use of the property over which the proclamation has come down, that there is no more contract governing the relationship between the parties.

“That is the fact of what allowed us to say if that is the Government’s position as declared when they met with us recently, I can’t see how we go forward from here as much as we want to allow the races to occur as they were expected to on the 18th of this month."

Thomas-Griffith also said no alternative was presented to the family; however, the Thomas family has tried to have conversations with the Premier and the Unity Government around what is the best path forward to address as an interim solution for the horse races to run off on September 18, 2022.

“Because if a contract is terminated it means that the liability and other concerns that were addressed in that document are no longer in place from the perspective of the Government.”

Thomas-Griffith stressed that the family does not agree the government has the “unilateral power, right or authority” to cancel a document that is the contract between two parties.

“But if the government’s position is as they pronounced during the meeting on September 8th and they are no longer willing to stand behind the document; from the familiy’s perspective, our response must be to say to Government that your actions necessitate the discontinued use of a property where there are no protections offered to the family any longer. It is simply an untenable circumstance that the government has caused and that is precisely how these circumstances arose.

“In our response, we said to the government continue to recognise the document, the contract, let’s address whatever irregularities or concerns or technical issues you see as needing to be addressed, let us address the issue of the liability and run the races.”

‘Money not a factor’- Thomas-Griffith

Meanwhile, there have been speculations that the issue might have been about money, including that the Government may have owed money on the lease of the land; however, Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) stated on social media on September 8, 2022, such was not the case.

“The ministry has paid for the year. This is not the problem. More info will be made available in due time,” Premier Wheatley briefly stated.

According to Thomas-Griffith; however, while the issue is indeed not about money, the Premier told a “half truth.”

“Money was not a driving factor in those discussions and I want to make the point, if the public really thought that the races were being cancelled for money why would we then not have attempted to cancel August Tuesday races, the largest racing day over the last five years? We have the power and the right to do so where the government has not been honouring the terms of the agreement between us and them. We possess that right.

"Furthermore, the races set for the 18th were initially to be run on September 4th and there have been no efforts on the part of my family to impede the Government’s access to the property or to allow the Government to grant permission for the Horse Owners Association to have run the race on September 4th had the weather not interrupted that schedule.

She further said there were many other races that the Thomas family allowed to be run off, even though Government was not been honouring its side of the agreement for years.

“This is not about money, it’s about the fundamental premise that government cannot do what it wishes out of its land owners simply because they are called the government, and every landowner in the BVI should stand to have a concern. If government can act as an authoritarian figure with respect to the interests of a private land owner, that is not a position that should be accepted. It has vestiges of colonialism written all over it and we have every right to protect and stand to protect our interests after a proclamation is made that a contract has been cancelled without any consultation by the owner and the other party to that contract.” 

Thomas-Griffith said it is a difficult position for a Government to announce that it is cancelling a land owners contract with it for the use of a property and then still expect that it will continue to have access to that property.

Gov’t statement ‘irresponsible’

Meanwhile, Thomas-Griffith said she found the statement by the Government on September 8, 2022, as well as comments by the Premier about the government not owing anything to the family for the year, as irresponsible, unfair and unjust because, according to her, it created in the minds of the public a factual pattern that was not consistent with the truth.

“I will have to tell you that when the Premier said that statement, I looked at that statement and all I could do was shake my head… the statement that the government has paid a certain sum of rent for this year is half truth, and it bears no reflection to the understanding that the government has a contract that provided other provisions that it is not adhering to and as we sit here today has not adhered to for more than six years.

The Unity Government had advised the public that the parcels of land affected by the ban were listed as Parcels 170, 171 and 246, Block 2736B, Sea Cow’s Bay Registration Section.

According to Thomas-Griffith, 6 and a half acres is the property the government leases and that Government pays 30 cents per square footage.

“You heard me right, 30 cents per square footage. There is nowhere, not in the BVI, not in any modern progressive society where anyone leases land at 30 cents per square footage.

“What we are paid is pennies compared to the value of that land,” Thomas-Griffith explained.

She also lamented that discussions with the government to try to find a solution to allow the September 18, horse races to run off as planned have been futile.

“My father being a lifelong horseman, I feel it at my core that the inability of the horse owners to run is an unjust casualty of the present discourse between the government and my family. It’s unjust because I understand how much it costs and the time it takes to prepare those horses and to prepare the supporting team, the trainers the jockeys and the costs involved in that, in order to get ready to entertain the public,” Mrs Thomas-Griffith stated.

Meanwhile, Premier Wheatley when asked to respond to the allegations by Mrs Thomas, said: “I will issue a statement shortly.”

Thomas-Griffith said that the Premier promised since Sunday to issue a statement correcting the record as to the reasons why access to the track was negatively impacted.  The Premier promised to confirm that it was the Government’s actions that initiated the Family’s response. As of this moment, such a statement has not been issued.

52 Responses to “Unity Gov’t cancelled contract with Thomas family; Accused of misleading public”

  • .... (14/09/2022, 14:53) Like (9) Dislike (7) Reply
    2 OPTIONS SELL THE LAND RIGHT OUT OR #2 BUY THE TRACK LET THE HORSE OWNERS PAY RENT FOR THE STABLES..SELL HORSE FOOD.. SOMETHING HAS TO BE DOWN INSTEAD KEEPING THE SPORT BACK.
    • Poli.Farmer (15/09/2022, 06:43) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      I am waiting to hear the incompetencies of the Premier and Minister of Finance Statement. Any time he Bigs at the Family I will PLOUGH his political bed! Too FAKEEEE!!!
  • Hors races are drug races (14/09/2022, 14:54) Like (38) Dislike (6) Reply
    Shall we call a spade a spade? Gambling, drug money and drug runners run the horse races, AMEN thank you
    • Greg (14/09/2022, 18:41) Like (18) Dislike (2) Reply
      Half Truths are Half Lies. Premier needs to tell the Whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.
  • Jim Jones (14/09/2022, 15:05) Like (31) Dislike (16) Reply

    When she saw the guys cleaning the track and preparing for races no one stepped in and told them not to. You had that right since the land is your but you chose not to. the government wasn't involved, the horse men took that upon themselves to get the track in condition to run those races. you came to this world with nothing and and you will leave with nothing. when there are races you and you family pull a rope and charge for parking. so in all fairness you want to eat twice. but yet you sit and talk about its not about the money? so what is it about.

    • @jim jones (14/09/2022, 21:37) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
      exactly……!charge for parking and now want money.Money will be alot of their shortcomings when they go 6feet under cant take money to hell or heaven.
    • the rock (15/09/2022, 05:56) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

      You are an a$$wh*le

  • Anything else to be added to this mortar? (14/09/2022, 15:10) Like (11) Dislike (0) Reply
    So far we have garlic, cloves, salt, pepper and broad leaf thyme. A LOT more than the pestle, indeed...
    Government may be wise to issue that statement without further delay, IMHO.
  • hog city (14/09/2022, 15:12) Like (23) Dislike (5) Reply
    All I will say is I can’t wait for the next election
    • to hog city (14/09/2022, 21:19) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      We have been saying that for about 20 years now, over and over..
  • Nice (14/09/2022, 15:14) Like (6) Dislike (4) Reply
    Honestly good Goverment bad Government i’ve witnessed for the years how many the same bloggers and the likes always trying to used and abuse even mislead many people. They write post that sounds good while reading, They’re hit thing’s people are actually facing but actually telling or spreading propaganda. The Government and the Thomas family could have worked something out but when greedy and trying to get rich over night things like this happening. Now is a good time to develop the land to another adult entertainment club
  • ann (14/09/2022, 15:38) Like (18) Dislike (3) Reply
    Now the truth came out let’s wait for the slow man set of lies
  • WOW (14/09/2022, 15:39) Like (6) Dislike (11) Reply
    Unity Government, get it together. Have a conversation. Horse-racing is part of our history or at least it was. The whole matter just sounds off. It wasn’t handled right, obviously.
    • ok (14/09/2022, 18:19) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      At the start of meeting it was stated contract will not be renewed, but it's wrong to say, Unity Government get it together? I guess you don't have to give reason either. Good going.
  • represent (14/09/2022, 15:45) Like (12) Dislike (12) Reply
    Natalio is just out of his depth. Why allowed the family to be treated that way is heartless. And they excused themselves from the meeting rather than staying and trying to form a middle ground with a man's family that has done so much for horse racing. Did the COI recommend this ? What cowards those three elected reps. This Unity Government is bad for the people and it is the parties of this Unity Government that is responsible for the country being in this mess that we find ourselves.
    • Who voted unity? (14/09/2022, 21:47) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
      My question is who elected this Unity government????? I sure didn't and I KNOw none of you did either I voted for NDP and VIP so who is this unity government that is running our country that NO ONE elected people wise up none of you elected this unity government to run our country get them out stop sitting on your behinds and talking bout u waiting for next year elections get them out NOW!!!
  • NezRez (14/09/2022, 16:03) Like (22) Dislike (7) Reply
    I knew there was much more to the story that was told only on one side. Now we have both sides and I agree with the Thomas family 100%. If anything happened on their land without the government's backing, they could be held liable and sued.
  • WELL FINALLY (14/09/2022, 16:08) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    THE TRUTH HAS COME TO LIGHT ???? AND WE AWAIT THE BIG YOUTH'S RESPONCE , WE DON'T THINK IT CAN BE LABELED ( UK / RACISM ETC SO THIS SHOULD BE VERY INTERESTING , AS THE HOLY ONE ,WOULD SAY , HONESTLY SPEAKING ???? ( WE NEED THE TRUTH PLEASE
  • rubber duck (14/09/2022, 16:16) Like (10) Dislike (3) Reply
    You watch he going issue a statement with a set of lies i am so happy she told her side which is the facts
  • GREED (14/09/2022, 16:41) Like (14) Dislike (10) Reply
    This is all about money. The story does not add up. In the end, you read it loud and clear, it is about money. They want more for the land. It is best Government sell the land to them. I would have cancel the contract if they wanted more money also.
    • @Greed (14/09/2022, 20:03) Like (6) Dislike (3) Reply
      Crab in a bucket mentality! Only you should make money! That’s what’s wrong with much of us Black people!
  • Citizen (14/09/2022, 16:49) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    They are spineless and ballsless LOL. What a set. I am anxiously awaiting election.
  • Call a spade a spade.... (14/09/2022, 17:30) Like (26) Dislike (3) Reply
    So the COI highlighted many areas... one of which was government leases and how the system was being abused. It is public money that is being used to 'LEASE' the space from the Thomas family. At what cost? I think it would be very interesting to find out the rate the Thomas family wanted for the renting of the land as their family spokesperson does not seem to have wanted to disclose. Unfortunately too many people in the BVI have become used to taking advantage of government money. Whilst enabled by the government ministers, it is not always them who benefit. If the Thomas family were demanding a ridiculous annual fee for the lease that could not be supported and the funds would be better used elsewhere then the government were RIGHT to drop the lease if the Thomas family were not willing to discuss a more reasonable fee..... You cannot bow to dictators. Everyone likes to bash the government, but to me this looks like the unity government actually working in the best interest of the majority and the peoples purse and not the other way around....
  • v (14/09/2022, 17:32) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    All for a handful of people who attend these races the few times their held.
    • @V (14/09/2022, 20:16) Like (0) Dislike (3) Reply
      Do you go to horse races? Almost all the people in the territory attend horse races! Bad election, move!
      • You think (14/09/2022, 20:59) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
        NOT ALL BVISLANDERS ATTEND RACES. I DON'T THINK GOVT SHOULD HAVE LEASED THAT PLACE FOR SO LONG WITHOUT OWNERSHIP. WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO PAY A HUGE LEASE SO A FEW PEOPLE CAN HAVE A FUN DAY EVERY NOW AND THEN. DISTRICT REP MASTERMINDED THIS LEASE FROM JUMP START SO FAMILY COULD FOREVER BE IN GOVT POCKET BOOK.
      • Who is almost all?? (14/09/2022, 21:49) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
        Ummm excluding me I've been living on this earth for 40+ years and I've NEVER set foot on that track much less attended a horse race so don't speak for us all
        • Ok then drink water and mind yo business (15/09/2022, 12:10) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
          Then drink water and mind your business cause you are speaking out of turn without knowing anything or simply return to your homeland you won’t have to worry bout it
  • how much (14/09/2022, 17:43) Like (13) Dislike (5) Reply
    So how much of our taxpayers dollars goes towards this lease annually?
    I agree with the commenter above... horse races are drug races - or at least they were!
  • An option (14/09/2022, 17:48) Like (22) Dislike (1) Reply
    To the family, I say turn this into an opportunity for good by managing your own property. Meet with the horse owners. Come to agreements. Be fair in your business arrangements and all should go well. Don't waste no more time fussing. Just do it.
  • Angry voters (14/09/2022, 17:49) Like (6) Dislike (6) Reply
    Election is the only solution here they trying to get another two years but not over our dead body
  • good news (14/09/2022, 18:08) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    Stop wasting tax dollars on this nonsense. If you want a horse track build a business and make it a commercial enterprise. This is no place for government.
  • Pull up (14/09/2022, 18:11) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    lets the people see how long it will take to settle this local matter because government after government quickly run to the house of assembly to make amendments to laws(for the international trade) when it comes to the voters and all those residing here our political leadership simply drag their feet but can run like lightning looking votes

  • Useless children. (14/09/2022, 18:21) Like (11) Dislike (3) Reply
    Always find away to mess up parent inheritance and legacy, they are lovers of themselves and money they never sweat for... If the old man was alive he would have find away to have horse racing, his love for country, people and the sport would have been priority .!!!
    • Yep (14/09/2022, 21:27) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      Greed will be their downfall.
    • peace (15/09/2022, 11:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      The children remained quiet for years if you read properly you would understand the dynamics and see they were never after money. They followed in their father steps to allow races for love of the sport without just payments. As a member in their community I watched those kids sweat alongside their father working before during and after horse races when no one else helped him so you a johnny come lately don’t know a thing and can’t write (away should be written as “a way”)properly be quiet if you have nothing good to say and get your facts right.
  • Lease (14/09/2022, 19:45) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I can lease the government piece just need to do a little work on flattening it just a little.or try getting a piece west in the flat
  • suggestion (14/09/2022, 20:15) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    There's so much land next to HLSCC PERFECT place for a horsetrack and enough parking, if the land is Government land why not build a track there?
    • HAHA (15/09/2022, 12:07) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
      A conniving person already tried that years ago, see you just arrived to the BVI and don’t know anything, hush and go sit on somewhere and ask the family respectfully
  • Half truths (14/09/2022, 20:21) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Why wasn't I surprised Mitch was a part of this commission. He has showed his vindictive side and now help to turn up the horse racing. Tain just Sowunde we got to be shouting at.
  • WOW (14/09/2022, 20:24) Like (3) Dislike (1) Reply
    Good that she stepped forward to clear her family's name. Whether the land was here before she was born or not as one person said - it is her family's. the premier knew full well what went down and lied. how is he leading his government? we going down the same drain pipe with this liar.
  • BVI Future (14/09/2022, 21:22) Like (4) Dislike (2) Reply
    The Premier and ministers walked out from the meeting before the Thomas family knew what happened. If the Premier cannot handle a contract, how can he run a government?
    • @ BVI Future (15/09/2022, 08:12) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      The slow premier just not ready we from zone 7 will teach him a lesson
  • smh (14/09/2022, 21:24) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    The Thomas family also omitted to state that they own the smallest portion of the track, and want to collect rent at a rate that would allow them to become a millionaire in one year. How is that value for money? With or without the COI, we the people whose money they will be receiving will be robbed over and over with our eyes wide open. Ms. Thomas need to stop looking sympathy from the same people she ultimately robbing!
  • Sour Grapes (14/09/2022, 21:32) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    No sympathy card here for the Thomas family. You try to tie a noose and you end up in it so you sour.
  • Maybelle (14/09/2022, 21:43) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    Lol. see what #HORS RACES ARE DRUG RACES said, that is the truth we don't want to hear. You would have to be deaf, blind and stupid not to understand that these are clear instructions to our inexperienced Unity Government to shut that crap down. Long overdue, because we have been always too willing to look the other way for our own when they are doing the most harm to us. Dominican numbers gambling game PARLE next!
  • nonsense (14/09/2022, 22:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    When she say government who she really talking about. Half of the members of HOA were NOT at the meeting and had no clue who was in this meeting. The Minister responsible
  • WOW (15/09/2022, 07:38) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    Some of you can not read. Its not about money its about the fact the Government carrys the liability for the track ans as they have cancelled the agreement for use the liability is on the thomas family. The Thomas family should run it without the Governement and charge the users a fee.
  • Common Sense (15/09/2022, 12:09) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    6.5 Acres at 0.30 cents per square foot amounts to
    $85,000 per year, that’s not the insignificant number this lady purports 0.30 cents per foot to be.


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