ST. THOMAS — Governor John P. de Jongh pleaded not guilty to charges of government corruption alleged by the Department of Justice in Superior Court today. Following the plea, de Jongh issued a press release emphatically stating that he is innocent.
“I appeared this morning to enter my plea of not guilty in Superior Court to the charges of embezzlement of public accounts and neglecting to pay over public monies because I am, in fact, not guilty,” the former governor said.
“With respect to the security measures that were undertaken at my property at the beginning of my first term as governor, each and every step taken was taken with full transparency and in adherence to standard government procedures on procurement. Moreover, I provided the Government with a Bank Manager’s Check equal to the current market value of those security measures that would remain on my property. I kept my commitment, but the check was returned,” he added.
De Jongh took office in 2007, but instead of living at the Governor’s mansion in Estate Catherineberg, he chose to reside at his private residence — where Public Works spent over $490,000 erecting a fence, building a guard house and installing a camera system. The project was given the green light after Public Works sought and received an opinion from the V.I. Attorney General’s office, stating it was permissible to move ahead with the work once public interest was served and was the main reason for the expense.
But in 2010, the U.S. Interior Department inspector general’s office concluded in a report that the renovations of de Jongh’s private home with public funds, “usurped the Legislature’s authority to determine how to spend public funds” and should be returned.
In April of this year, de Jongh attempted to pay the Government of the Virgin Islands, via Property and Procurement, the sum of $202,832.60 for the property, less than half of the $500,000 of government monies used. De Jongh argued that the $202,831.60 was the appraised, fair market value of the guard house and fence built for security measures at his private residence, located in Estate Mafolie.
The Mapp administration, however, rejected the offer.
“The primary concern was, and continues to be, that the funds were improperly redirected from public roadways to the security improvement of your personal residence,” wrote then-Acting Attorney General Terri Griffiths in a response letter to the former governor.
But de Jongh says he believes justice will prevail and he will be exonerated.
“I have confidence that the judicial process will result in the just and proper outcome. I thank my many friends for their expressions of support and ask them to keep faith in the certain knowledge that justice will be done.”