Governor of the Virgin Islands (VI), His Excellency, Augustus J.U. Jaspert has denied allegations he is probing the Government contracts issued to outspoken radio commentator Mr Claude O. Skelton-Cline, with the aim of silencing him.
Skelton-Cline on the Thursday, June 25, 2020, edition of his popular and hard-hitting 'Honestly Speaking' radio show had made some serious allegations that Governor Jaspert was threatening his livelihood and family over some alleged probes aimed at bullying him into staying quiet.
"I want the governor to be aware that I am aware of some of these conversations that [are] taking place behind the scenes and this will not be accepted, tolerated, I will not be silenced!"
Skelton-Cline must justify claims - Governor
Now, according to the Governor at a press conference, today, June 30, 2020, the claims are completely false and without basis.
"It is up to Mr Skelton-Cline to justify his words but just factually, to be really clear, it's completely false that there is any kind of threat or intimidation made against him."
Governor Jaspert further said, "I believe fully in the open principle of free speech, I hope that speech is truthful, I hope it represents the correct facts and I hope that it stays decent and I think all of the media have a duty and a responsibility on that."
Premier's job to probe contract - Governor
While the Governor denied any investigations on his part, he said the public money issued to Mr Skelton-Cline is up to the Premier, Hon Andrew A. Fahie to probe relating to the contract and how it was tendered.
Skelton-Cline through 'Grace Consultants' has so far been the recipient of two contracts; a first six-month contract for $98,000 and another for $144,000, with duties being to negotiate for new Cruise Line Berthing Agreements and overseeing the local planning and execution of the 1000 jobs in 1000 days initiative among others.
According to a Cabinet statement of November 22, 2019, Cabinet, "Decided on a new contract between Grace Consulting and the Government of the Virgin Islands for twelve months with effect from 18th September 2019 to 17th August 2020 and approved."
It said, "the request for waiver of the tender process in favour of Grace Consulting, that is deemed to be a suitable company having successfully executed deliverables in a just-concluded contract and provided evidence of the same."
"My office isn't investigating that. I don't know what Mr Cline specifically is referring to, but that's really for the Premier, as its a contract under his ministry," Mr Jaspert said.
It's Gov't's right & discretion- Hon Vanterpool
Fourth District Representative and Opposition Member Hon Mark H. Vanterpool on December 16, 2019, had defended Government’s decision to award a second contract to Mr Skelton-Cline.
"Obviously time will tell on these matters, but I always say in terms of fairness, and in terms of our government's promises that a government, once they get to office, has the right and the discretion as they use it," he told the media in relation to a question on whether there was evidence that Skelton-Cline through Grace Consultants was deserving of a contract extension.
Hon Vanterpool continued, "I may not agree with it, or whoever, but they have the right and the discretion... to help them move forward their agenda... I am not going to make it an issue."
Premier Fahie had stated publicly that Mr Skelton-Cline would be fired if he doesn't deliver.