St. Thomas — Senator Janelle K. Sarauw has released 9 transparency reports since taking office in July of 2017. After winning a court battle between then senate candidate Kevin Rodriguez, Sarauw went on to win the special election that followed.
After taking office, the newly elected senator swiftly released her office’s first financial report, detailing expenditures, significant events and legislation making its way through senate chambers — then it stopped.
State of the Territory News regularly covered the senator’s reports, with our last report landing in May before we refreshed our site. The reports were a first for any politician at the time, especially for a first term senator in the Virgin Islands.
Sarauw’s last financial report was released last March. The report details senators attending the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference, an event in Florida that was heavily covered by local newspapers last year.
As it stands, Senator Sarauw is arguably one of the most transparent members of the 33rd Legislature and perhaps the most transparent elected official. However, the absence of new transparency reports after March 2018 blurs the line on how much the senator’s office spent during her first term.
Senator Sarauw advocated for more transparency from government officials on the campaign trail in 2016. While monthly financial reports were not discussed during the campaign, the addition adds a gentle nod to the senator’s take on public policy — transparency.
The last report notes that Sarauw’s office spent an estimated $34,285.82 in the first nine months of her first term. The senator took office nearly 5 months after her colleagues, giving them a headstart on accessing their budget.
“Before we draft legislation, we host town hall meetings — that has been our practice,” Sarauw says in a video interview below.
Documenting a senator spend $34,285.82 over the course of nine months is the closest preview taxpayers have gotten to financial documents detailing the spending habits of any senator in 32nd Legislature — making Sarauw the most transparent member of the body.
If transparency reports became the standard for all government agencies and elected officials in the Virgin Islands, our work here at State of the Territory News would be much easier.
It’s unclear why Senator Sarauw stopped issuing releases but they are missed. Compiling information — similar to a monthly newsletter — is a daunting task. So kudos to the senator’s team for keeping it going for so long.
You can access Sarauw’s latest report here.