PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Infrastructure VROMI Christophe Emmanuel announced last week during a radio programme “Online with Fernando Clark” that he has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office against his colleague Minister of Health and Social Affairs Emil Lee for misuse of his Government-issued fuel bonds for his business and placing his Government-owned vehicle licence plate on his personal vehicle post-Hurricane Irma.
Emmanuel said, “The Minister misused his Government number plate MR4 when he placed it on his personal vehicle following the hurricane. I filled a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office.”
The Daily Herald contacted the Prosecutor’s Office on Monday to determine whether indeed the complaint was filed, but no confirmation was given by the spokesman, who is presently on vacation until January next year.
Lee did respond publicly when the allegations first surfaced in November. He said that despite attempts to safeguard his Government vehicle during Irma, the front windshield had been “badly damaged.” This made driving the vehicle unsafe and use would have subjected the vehicle to additional water damage. The vehicle has been covered and unused since Irma.
Lee said instead of requesting that Government rent a vehicle, it was decided to use a personal vehicle, a pickup truck, as a temporary replacement vehicle.
“The vehicle was purchased shortly before Irma and, while properly registered and insured, no licence plates were available since Government had run out of licence plates. Since only authorised emergency vehicles were allowed on the road and since only authorised emergency vehicles were allowed to access certain gas stations, it was decided to temporarily place the MR4 licence plate on the truck,” he said.
Lee went on to say in his statement that he had discussed the matter with then-Prime Minister William Marlin and it was agreed that these were unusual times and for the moment many atypical things were taking place. It was agreed that efforts were better invested in other things and to continue as is until a more permanent solution could be found.
However, Marlin said in a subsequent press statement that he never gave permission to put the MR 4 vehicle number plate on Lee’s private vehicle. Marlin added that when the matter was discussed in a Council of Ministers meeting at the Cabinet of the Governor, he “could recall telling the Minister that it was actually illegal and that if he was to get in an accident it would pose a problem.”
Switching a plate from one vehicle to another was possible, he said, but had to follow proper procedures.
The investigation by the Prosecutor will hamper Lee’s screening as candidate for the current position he holds in the Franklin Meyers cabinet.