I am a concerned Virgin Islands voter and I am writing to raise a significant issue that has largely escaped attention throughout the present political campaign. The issue is Mr. John deJongh’s consulting firm Chilmark Partners, LLP. Though this is Mr. deJongh’s privately held business, it is a significant component of his professional career, and therefore should be discussed openly during his campaign. Despite this fact, the firm has hardly been mentioned during the campaign, by the media, the opposing candidates, or by Mr. deJongh himself. This creates an unacceptable gap in candidate information that must be corrected before the campaign comes to a close in less than two weeks.
Here is how Mr. deJongh’s bio (as published on www.dejonghfrancis.com and referenced in several media reports) describes the firm:
“In 2003, John along with his good friend Desmond Skeete, established Chilmark Partners, LLC to do financial advisory work in the Eastern Caribbean. They have undertaken engagements in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Barbados involving real estate, banking, and insurance.”
There is no other mention of the firm on the deJongh/Francis webpage or any where else. The firm is not listed in the phone book, does not maintain an office (as far as I can tell), and searching for it online (via a Google search) yields no useful results. There is, in essence, no information on the firm available to the public.
This is troubling for two reasons. First, we must acknowledge that in any job evaluation process, a person’s most recent experience matters the most. Any person who has written a resume or sat for an interview knows this, and this standard should clearly apply to our evaluation of political candidates. Mr. deJongh’s most recent job experience (for over three years) is his work with Chilmark Partners, LLC, but because the firm is private, the details of his work are completely unknown.
I believe that Mr. deJongh, or, alternatively, the media, should fill this gap in public information. Voters can not be expected to make an informed decision on Election Day if they can not review and evaluate one of the most relevant aspects of one candidate’s professional background. The choice to seek public office has the consequence of bringing some relevant aspects of one’s private life (such as work experience) into the public domain.
The second problem with Chilmark is its potential entanglement with the present political campaign. To be perfectly blunt, I find very troubling the close proximity between Mr. deJongh’s gubernatorial campaign, his private firm, and the clearly well-financed individuals and companies who would seek his services. These three entities are simply too close for my comfort. Think for a moment. Is there an easier way to skirt campaign finance limits and disclosure laws than to hire the gubernatorial front-runner as a consultant in the months before the election? Is there a more fertile ground for conflicts of interest?
Let me be perfectly clear on this issue. I am not accusing Chilmark or Mr. deJongh of violating campaign finance laws. There is no evidence of this, and I truly doubt that Mr. deJongh or his campaign staff would do such a thing. We must acknowledge, however, that the interplay of politics and money can be corrupting, with or without the consent or knowledge of the candidate. Individuals seeking access to, or worse, leverage on, a future elected official will take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. This is why the relationships between money and politics should receive such close public scrutiny. This concept contrasts sharply with the fact that at present, there is no public knowledge of who is on Chilmark’s client list, how much they paid, when they paid, or what they paid for.
Public disclosure is critical to ensuring the integrity of the election process, and the principles of openness and transparency which have been so central to the deJongh/Francis platform dictates that Mr. deJongh make this information available to the public now.
Campaign 2006 will come to a close in two weeks, and I believe it would be extremely unfortunate if the public was forced to go to the polls and make a decision without any knowledge of what is Chilmark. At a minimum, the following questions should be asked and answered by Mr. deJongh:
Where is Chilmark incorporated, and where is its office located?
Who are Chilmark’s past and present Principals, Partners, and Staff?
How many Virgin Islanders are (or were) employed by the firm?
Does the firm have any affiliations with outside individuals or organizations?
What is Mr. deJongh’s ownership stake in the company?
Who are Chilmark’s Clients?
When did they become clients?
How much have they paid the firm?
What work was performed on their behalf?
Can Mr. deJongh furnish examples of his firm’s final work product or completed projects?
What is the current status of the firm?
Is it still open for business?
Does the firm currently have any ongoing, active consulting contracts or projects?
Has the firm solicited new business while Mr. deJongh was campaigning for office (officially or unofficially)?
Has the firm received payments while Mr. deJongh was campaigning for office (officially or unofficially)?
I hope that you will not misinterpret my tone or my motives in writing and forwarding this note. I do not have a personal problem with Mr. deJongh. I am not out to “get him” or “smear him” in the closing weeks of the campaign. Between the active media and the four other candidates who have competed for Government House, I thought that this glaring issue would have been raised and discussed at some point in the last six months. I am truly shocked that it has not.
I also do not have a problem with Mr. deJongh operating a private consulting practice. He’s an educated man, he’s worked hard and I feel he’s earned the right, like anyone else, to use his talent, intellect and experience in any way he sees fit. Indeed, he is a fellow Virgin Islander, and as such, I sincerely hope that his business has been successful and that it has benefited him, his family, and his clients.
Lastly, I wish to note, that my intention is not to pry unnecessarily into Mr. deJongh’s private life. I do not believe that all private matters become fair game when a person enters the political arena. I actually agree with his choice to not release his family’s tax returns to the public. The information is simply not relevant to the voter’s decision. The purpose of this note is simply to illuminate an issue in Mr. deJongh’s candidacy that makes me extremely uncomfortable. I have insinuated nothing. I simply ask questions which I hope the deJongh/Francis campaign will see fit to answer before November 7.
A Concerned (and Undecided) Virgin Islands Voter