Contract bid? No.
Business license? No.
Experience in medical field? No.
Yet, a startup company — whose two main principals just happen to be Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s daughter and his former marketing intern — is in line for a $1 million contract with the Health Department for contact tracing of COVID-19 cases.
The bombshell revelation earlier this week during a Senate Finance Committee meeting about the proposed three-year, $998,000 contract to Avera Tech, LLC, is coming at a time when real public health emergencies are being ignored.
We don’t know yet the details that placed Avera in line for the contract, but we do know it took just 72 hours for the no-bid process to be finalized. In the meantime, there’s sewage gushing down the streets of Nadir and trash piling up in Red Hook as recently as this week. All this is being ignored while vendors go unpaid for work already completed.
While the Bryan Administration wouldn’t be the first to be granted unfettered authority to dole out contracts, it has magnified the need for senators to revamp laws governing state of emergencies. No longer should a state of emergency be used as an invitation for public officials to give special deals to family and friends. No longer should it be an invitation to possible fraud and corruption.
News of the planned contract with Avera was met with swift backlash and comments of hypocrisy and tone deafness by the Bryan Administration. After all, the Bryan-Roach Campaign, in a brutal ad mocking then-Gov. Kenneth Mapp and titled “Mapp Family Tree,” spoke of jobs being doled out because of DNA, not resume. When the history books are written, it will be that ad that brought Bryan across the finish line in the race for Government House. Whether the Avera contract shenanigans will come back to haunt Bryan, as the family tree ad did to Mapp, depends on the memories of V.I. voters.
As for today, the “Change Course Now” slogan that voters embraced and believed in has taken a backseat to “government business as usual” where elected officials promise to change lives, but instead use state of emergency declarations to put friends and familiy first, and all others last.
A state of emergency shouldn’t be used as a license to profit, and it’s up to our senators to change that course now.