The board of the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission has pushed back against accusations of unprofessionalism by its former executive director, saying the taxi manager resigned to avoid an investigation into the illegal distribution of taxi license plates.
Linda Smith suddenly resigned on Friday – the commission’s third executive director in three years – complaining that the operation was functionally rudderless and that the board was more interested in playing favorites than solving a myriad of problems systemic. Smith said the commission lacked basic governing documents like bylaws and an employee handbook.
Board chair Loretta Lloyd refuted some of those claims in a written statement late Monday, acknowledging the commission as a “struggling agency” but blaming a series of unrelated executive directors.
On April 19, the commission launched an internal investigation into allegations that Smith illegally issued taxi license plates. Smith’s sick leave and trip to Florida coincided with scheduled testimony about it, Lloyd said.
“Instead of returning to work, Ms. Smith chose to resign. The investigation remains active and ongoing,” Lloyd wrote.
Smith claimed the board was trying to get her out of work from her hospital bed, where she was recovering from emergency heart surgery.
The Council wanted information relating to the license plate investigation and for Smith to sign a notice of personal action allowing the hiring of an assistant – curtailing Smith’s ‘excessive inter-island travel’, Lloyd said .
Details of Smith’s condition revealed two days after her resignation were inconsistent with documentation she provided to the board on May 5, Lloyd said, as well as subsequent documentation submitted by her doctor.
Lloyd said she also requested information about questionable personal expenses submitted for reimbursement with Smith’s resignation letter.
Strangely, in a separate email on the effective date of Ms. Smith’s resignation, she submitted a spreadsheet laden with expenses from September 2021 to present, with no justification for each date identified, paid through her personal credit/debit cards and personal checks,” Lloyd wrote, saying the expense was over $16,000.00. Smith never sought board approval and is now seeking a refund. As Chair of the Board of Directors, I had been requesting this information from Ms. Linda I. Smith since mid-April 2022, as she had not disclosed the expenses she was incurring in a timely manner as of the date on which she started working.
Lloyd said the charges of unprofessionalism and political politics by the board were “shameful and unacceptable”. She alleged it was Smith who, shortly after being hired on Aug. 31, 2021, sought out senators to help with a power grab. Lloyd said Smith wanted the executive director to take on the duties assigned to the board.
Lloyd pointed to language in Smith’s effusive resignation letter praising the Taxi Commission as dishonest or at odds with his criticism of the board.
Smith wrote, “I wish you and everyone at VITCC the best and look forward to staying in touch and helping in any way I can – during and after this smooth transition.”
She added: “I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve a constituency that I have come to love and which has made my brief tenure a rewarding and wholesome experience. To those who have taken the time to help guide me along the way, I say a sincere thank you not only for believing in the vision and mission of VITCC, but also for envisioning an agency that has great potential to become one of most respected agencies in the territory.
Later in the resignation letter, Smith described his accomplishments, saying the Commission “expanded my unwavering level of expertise.”
Lloyd said Smith’s motive for the tongue was questionable. “Over time, the culmination of the investigations currently underway will reveal the truth,” Lloyd wrote.
This is far from the first time the Commission has struggled with leadership, Lloyd said.
The problems began in 2015 when then-Governor Kenneth Mapp hired an executive director without going through the necessary legal process, skipping the necessary board approval, Lloyd said. This director did not liaise with the board as required.
“Currently, numerous actions taken by the illegally hired executive director are being investigated, which may result in criminal prosecution,” Lloyd said.
The next executive director was hired in 2020 but fared little better. “Unfortunately, upon being hired, he decided to follow the direction of the previous Executive Director in ignoring the provisions of Title 3 VIC Section 274 in defiance of the current Board. As a result, his employment was terminated,” Lloyd said.