The Dutch St. Maarten Taxi Association (DSTA) says it has learned a few lessons after a contentious year in 2008.
The membership challenged the results of elections at least three times last year, prompting the association to reconsider how it defines majority wins, how it elects an executive board and how the other members join the board.
However, incoming DSTA Executive Board members Wilhelm "Scottie" Priest, Clyde Hook and Imelda Hodge are positive and they expect a good year and a fresh start for 2009. The three were voted into the board Monday after an unproductive year filled with allegations of election fraud and monetary misappropriation culminated with membership meetings to decide the association’s future.
Hook did not run for the president’s post for the first time in three years, quietly vacating his embattled and contested position ahead of Priest being named president. At least one other member of the former board had stepped down after DSTA members alleged money was unfairly lining the pockets of the board members.
Hook was elected secretary ahead of two other contenders. Hodge was re-elected as treasurer.
Instead of the association’s members going to the polls a second time to elect six more board members, the DSTA passed a motion on Monday, January 19, allowing the board to appoint the remaining members. "That way we can pick people we have faith in," Hook told reporters at a short press gathering at his A.Th. Illidge Road office.
Members also approved a motion to declare an executive board candidate with the most votes the winner.
An unsuccessful presidential candidate challenged Hook’s election to the post last year, suggesting that a win meant a majority of 50 per cent plus one, which did not happen. This argument involved notaries and other legal professionals in interpreting the bylaws, which agreed with the contention, but had in the past been handed to the majority winner, despite voter turnout.
Hook said the board had decided to streamline the election process by discussing the past year’s happenings with members days ahead of voting "so there would be no discussion on Election Day. We did that prior to (the election)," he said.
Priest won against long-time presidential contender Otis Hughes with 66 votes while Hughes received 41 votes. Hook beat out former treasurer Terrance Fredericks and another member with his 46 votes. Once called the "new blood" of the DSTA board when he was first elected in 2007, Fredericks received only seven votes. The other candidate had 37.
DSTA members turned out in almost full numbers, with 111 drivers voting at the Philipsburg Mutual Improvement Association (PMIA) Hall on Monday. The usually media-lined gathering was kept quiet and local media were informed about the occasion the next day.
Speaking on behalf of Priest, Hook said the board had resolved questions of financial mistrust among the membership and had planned to appoint the remaining members by Monday.