Latest Challenge to Sitting Senator-At-Large Directed at Senate President

Opponents of Senator-At-Large Angel Bolques Jr. have filed a new complaint with the president of the 35th Legislature. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, V.I. Legislature)

A letter of complaint against a member of the 35th Legislature has been sent to the office of Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. The Aug. 21 letter calls for a resolution to the dispute about the qualifications of Senator-At-Large Angel Bolques Jr. to hold a seat in the first branch of government.

Francis declined comment on the latest demand to determine if Bolques met the requirements to serve, but he pointed to an earlier opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

Critics of the senator-at-large claim the lawmakers serving at large must have three years of continuous residence on St. John.

“The matter of Bonafide 3-year residency requirement needs to be properly investigated and brought to transparency to assure the voting populace that the Board of Election and the Election Supervisor are doing their work and duty pursuant to law,” wrote St. John businesswoman Myrtle Barry.

An earlier complaint letter, sent to election officials by Dr. Cleopatra Peter, also questioned Bolques’ qualifications to serve. As he responded Friday to an inquiry on the latest senator-at-large complaint, Francis referenced the Peter inquiry.

“I did receive a letter of concern from Dr. Cleopatra Peter concerning Senator Angel Bolques. I discussed the matter with my legal counsel; I wasn’t in a position to comment on the matter. I felt the certification is up to the Board of Elections, and the Board of Elections said Senator Angel Bolques met all the qualifications to serve in the position as senator-at-large,” Francis said.

Bolques was seated as the replacement for former Senator-At-Large Steven Payne in July 2022. Payne was ousted after members of the 34th Legislature voted 14-1 to expel him over allegations of sexual harassment.

That vote and subsequent action is now the subject of a civil lawsuit in Superior Court. Bolques went on a few weeks later to defeat Payne in the August 2022 Primary Election and also won the seat in the November General Election a few weeks later.

Former Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying the 34th Legislature no longer existed because its term had ended. Superior Court Judge Renee Gumbs-Carty rejected that argument, saying — among other things — that the statutes governing the Legislature did not include expulsion of an elected member.