Rules Committee OKs 8 Nominees, Passes on 2 Others

Sen. Janelle Sarauw chairs the Senate Committee on Rules and the Judiciary Wednesday. (Photo by Barry Leerdam for the USVI Legislature)
Sen. Janelle Sarauw chairs a September meeting of the Senate Committee on Rules and the Judiciary. (File photo by Barry Leerdam for the USVI Legislature)

The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee approved eight nominations for governing board positions, but rejected the nomination of Vincent Joseph to serve on the Government Retirement System Board of Trustees and Edward Foerstal to serve on the Coastal Zone Management Commission.

Sen. Myron Jackson was the first to take issue with Foerstal’s resume during Thursday’s hearing and asked him to elaborate on why someone in business would be a good fit for the commission.

“Even though I am a small business person, I think that because I have lived here a long time … that preserving what is here and what we love about here would be, well I can separate that from the business side of it. Because I would like to preserve the beaches and the coastal zone and the watershed so that what we have remains what we love,” Foerstal said.

According to Foerstal’s testimony he has lived in the USVI full time since 1997 and is originally from St. Louis, Missouri.

But Jackson continued to question if Foerstal was truly qualified to sit on the CMZ council, asking Foerstal what his position on beach access through the development of coastal areas.

“I think there needs to be clear signage. It needs to have access to all the beaches and all the coastal zone areas and not just by boat. And parking so you know we don’t have to hike a big distance. There needs to be access to all for all,” Foerstal said.

Sen. Novelle Francis asked how Foerstal prepared for Thursday’s hearing.

“Primarily, like I mentioned, just through a lot of research. I went to the Turnbull Library and did touch base with CZM and got some basic information, but mainly through research on the internet,” Foerstal said. He added he had not sat in on any of the CZM board meetings nor had any knowledge of specific board rules and requirements.

Sitting next to Foerstal was CZM and V.I. Historic Preservation Commission nominee Kurt Marsh Jr., who said CZM is a major factor in balancing the needs of communities and development.

“CZM’s mandate under the Coastal Zone Act is to maintain balance in coastal communities,” Marsh said. “It is a process that takes into consideration many factors, including development, the natural environment, coastal commerce, hazardous weather impacts, aesthetics, quality of life, water quality, erosion, and more. The CZM Commission plays a pivotal role in the enforcement of the established regulations set force by the CZM Act, as the commission is required to meet and deliberate permits effecting sites in Tier 1 areas,” Marsh said.

When asked by Sen. Javan James about CZM plans, studies and where the focus of the commission should lay, Marsh said it should be to control development and monitor how it affects the watershed by conducting updated studies on how erosion of the watershed has affected coastal zone areas.

The committee voted unanimously to pass Marsh’s nomination to the full Senate. Sen. Alicia Barnes was absent from these votes.

All six senators presented agreed with Sen. Kenneth Gittens motion that Foerstal’s nomination be turned down.

The committee rejected Joseph’s nomination to the GERS Board of Trustees after he offered what one senator said were vague and incomplete answers to the committee’s questions.

Concerning the financial state of GERS Joseph only said, “It’s in a terrible state,” to which Sarauw replied, “We all know that.”

When Sarauw questioned Joseph on specifics like the liquidation of assets and consulting reports, Joseph only said “I read some of the reports, not all.”

That was not enough for Sarauw.

“The GERS board is a very serious board and of course it was plagued by a lot of un-funded mandates, an economy that is plummeting … the board Mr. Joseph, today I don’t think I can offer my support for you … because of the inability to answer questions as it pertains to the board, our financial situation, and just an overall understanding of GERS.”

Beside Joseph was GERS nominee Nellon Bowry, whose testimony detailed a clear understanding of GERS operations, functions, and responsibilities.

The committee voted favorably on Bowry’s nomination while voting unfavorably on Joseph’s.

Senators endorsed the following nominations:

– To the V.I. Board of Dental Examiners, nominees Lauren Gewinner and Trevor Conner,

– Wynnie Testamark to the position of Commissioner for the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, and

– V.I. Board of Career and Technical Education nominees Genevieve Whitaker, Anastasie Jackson, and Michael Francois.

All nominees will be moved forward to the full Senate. Sens. Sarauw, Jackson, Francis, Gittens, James, and Steven Payne were present for the hearing.