Egos erupted Tuesday at the V.I. Joint Board of Elections meeting, and it recessed after an hour without having accomplished anything substantive because members were unwilling to offer each other the courtesy of the floor – constantly interrupting and talking over one another, officials said.
After less than an hour, the majority of which was spent in executive session, members poured outside the conference room, some shouting at each other. Shortly after, the stenographer walked out because it had been impossible to accurately transcribe the meeting with members continually cutting in and talking at the same time, said Board Chairman Rupert Ross Jr.
The board will reconvene Friday morning to pick up the meeting where it left off, essentially doubling expenses paid for by taxpayers in order to fund the meeting. With flights and board member stipends, the total additional costs amount to about $2,500.
“I just hope that, at some point, we get down to doing the people’s business,” Ross said.
Other board members expressed similar sentiments and dismay about the lack of civil discourse caused by “personality clashes.”
“I would like to see us come together and get the people’s business conducted,” said Vice Chairwoman Claudette Georges.
But the Joint Board – convened in February – has had its short history plagued by such problems, and just about every meeting this year has ended abruptly, often with shouting.
While Tuesday’s meeting was the first to be cut short for want of a stenographer, it was not the first time a stenographer expressed distress about the chaotic discussions. The stenographer at a Feb. 9 meeting on St. Croix threatened to leave for similar reasons, saying she was unable to do her job under those circumstances and would not be able to guarantee the accuracy of her work.
St. Croix Board Member Adelbert Bryan raised the issue at Tuesday’s meeting after reviewing the minutes from the April meeting, saying he did not think the transcript was accurate because it mentioned nothing of the stenographer’s complaints of more than one person talking at a time, causing confusion during roll call. Bryan placed the blame on the stenographer, not the disruption in the room, and said he was considering an inquiry into the stenographer’s certification.