VI Government, Legislative of THE VI, And Senator Russell Sued By Terminated Soldier Serving His Country
Case Number 11-CV 83
Government of Virgin Islands and Legislative of The Virgin Islands, and Senator Ronald Russell in his official capacity as president of senate
Follow this, another embarrassing act by the leadership of our Senate. And even after Senator Russell's own attorney advised him he was more likely violating the law, failed to act to correct resulting in a later lawsuit filed.
Goggle Shorn Joseph and you can read the entire pending court case.
Soon to hit national news as a friend of mine tells me the Army Times is doing a story on it and has interviewed government officials in Washington DC and quotes really slam the VI government.
Here is the article months ago on cruciansinfocus.com. Google it, and you can be linked to all the letters from Senator Russell and letters to him advising him he was violating the law.
The Case Of National Guardsman Shorn Joseph: “Veterans Affairs” Ronald Russell And The “Senate Majority” Style
November 12, 2011
First Lt. Shorn Joseph, shown above at far left in dress blue uniform, marches in Veterans Day Parade. Joseph, a National Guardsman and attorney, was terminated from his position in the Legislature's Office of the General Counsel while on authorized military leave last February.
Last February, Atty. Shorn Joseph was in the final and most physically demanding phase of the Judge Advocates Officers Basic Course (JAOBC) his military status required.
After he had been appointed a Judge Advocate and promoted to First Lieutenant, Joseph, a member of the Virgin Islands National Guard, was required to attend the JAOBC described above.
He was on authorized leave from his position as Assistant Legal Counsel for the Virgin Islands Legislature. His history with the Legislature began with an internship in the summer of 2006 and when he graduated from law school in 2007, he returned to a full time position with the Legislature in July of that year.
He was only a few weeks away from completing the last phase of the course when he received a letter from Sen. President Ronald Russell terminating his employment.
Imagine his shock when he received a hand delivered letter dated February 7, 2011 informing him that his employment with the Legislature would end two days later on February 9. One of Joseph’s military superiors, who wrote Russell demanding that Joseph be reinstated, called the action “heartless.”
This is a case in which the documents tell the story far better than a lengthy narrative, and those documents are attached below for your review. Joseph has filed a lawsuit against the Legislature and Russell that is pending in District Court.
But before you review them, a few pieces of background to set the stage.
•All military personnel are protected from adverse employment actions related to their military obligations by the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) as well as Title 23, Sec. 1524 of the Virgin Islands Code.
•USERRA specifically prohibits any employer from failing to reemploy military personnel returning from authorized training or other service and requires that the individual be returned to a position with no loss of time, level, salary or benefits as a result of their absence to perform the required military service
•The provisions of the Virgin Islands Code relating to this issue are substantially equivalent to those in USERRA, however, when evaluating the rights of military personnel, USERRA is the governing law
•In taking this action, Russell disregarded the provisions of the law, the opinions and strong resistance from Joseph’s military superiors and even a clear and concise opinion in Joseph’s favor written by the Legislature’s own counsel, Yvonne Tharpes.
•Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson requested the Tharpes opinion; Sen. Sammuel Sanes also wrote a letter in support of Joseph’s reinstatement however, he reportedly has recently reversed his position on the matter.
•The reasons given for Joseph’s termination were inconsistent and not supported by other circumstances surrounding the incident. For example, in one of two letters attached here from Russell he attributes the decision to terminate Joseph to the reorganization activities of the new senate Majority and the desire to operate “more efficiently.” However, two attorneys have been hired since Joseph’s termination; in another letter, Russell attributes Joseph’s termination to his status as an “independent contractor” (which Joseph was not) as a way to evade the USERRA protections
The documents are arranged below to give a cohesive overall view of this story as it has unfolded and to illustrate what we believe is another example of arbitrary and unlawful use of the power that has become such a common denominator in the behavior of many of our elected officials.
We will keep you informed as this case progresses.
Happy Veterans Day…
Joseph Complaint Updated As Of September 27, 2011
Russell Termination Letter
Feb. 9 Letter From Major Marise James To Russell
Russell Feb. 11 Response to James
Russell Feb. 15 Follow Up Letter to James
Sanes Feb. 16 Letter To Russell
James February 16 Letter to Russell
Tharpes Memo On Joseph Termination
After reading the article and the letters, I am shocked. A retired veteran with 22 years, this conduct is unheard of.
The federal laws are being violated. Moreover, senator Russel did it in writing, first saying his position was not choosen for extension. To boot, follow up with another letter saying he was a contractor; according to the information i read, he was employed by the VI government for 4 1/2 years, collecting benefits and a check like any government employee.
Moreover, he was granted military leave by his superior and followed procedures WHILE on military active duty--only to be notified of the termination.
Senator Russell, correct this wrong on this soldier, follow the law, admit a mistake like any great leader will do. Don't let the USVI be embarrassed in a court case that appears to be ready to go national.
Shorn Joseph, THANK YOU for your service--GOD SPEED, this wrong will be corrected, hopefully sooner than later.