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Legislators must unite against efforts to block WAPA reform

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Senator Kenneth L. Gittens

Senator Kenneth L. Gittens said the 34th Legislature must formally petition the Superior Court to dismiss the V.I. Attorney General’s efforts to stop measures to enforce reform at the V.I. Water & Power Authority.

Act 8472 was passed into law unanimously on August 3, 2021, after previously being vetoed by Governor Albert A. Bryan. The legislation restructures the WAPA board to afford greater accountability and establishes minimum criteria for those who serve. Following last month’s veto override the V.I. Government took steps to prevent the implementation of the new law by filing for both a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction with the Virgin Islands Superior Court.

“This institution must formally petition the Court to dismiss what is a frivolous claim by the V.I. Attorney General,” Senator Gittens wrote in a letter to Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory. “This body established the V.I. Water & Power Authority Board, to include its composition, and it is within our power to reorganize or dismantle it if such an initiative is in the best interest of the people of this Territory.”

Senator Gittens is encouraging his colleagues to unite once again on behalf of consumers.

“The unanimous support of the 34th Legislature’s override of the Governor’s previous veto of the legislation in question is indicative of this body’s clear support for reform at WAPA. The Government’s efforts to block these reforms are without merit and, frankly, repellant,” Senator Gittens wrote. “This said, I am urging that we act as a body to make a strong statement against any effort to prevent lawfully enacted reforms at the Water & Power Authority.”

Senator Gittens spearheaded the 2018 subpoena of WAPA personnel and documents that revealed a plethora of waste, fraud, and abuse at the utility. He is the sponsor of several legislative initiatives to institute reforms, to include the Ratepayers Bill of Rights – which became law last year. He is also the primary sponsor of Bill# 34-0080, which calls for the appointment of a Special Investigator with the authority to thoroughly review concerns related to WAPA and to make prosecutorial recommendations. He noted that an expert analysis of problematic deals and financial transactions at WAPA remained essential to ensuring future accountability.

“I am calling on my colleagues to reconsider the Special Investigator legislation, which was held in Committee last month,” Senator Gittens said. “The effort to stop reforms at WAPA by court order once again underscores the need for an independent investigation of the utility."