Without further delay, Speaker of the House Julian Willock should swear in Mark Vanterpool as the Fourth District representative and stop squandering taxpayer dollars on pointless legal action.
If he refuses, the House of Assembly should find another speaker who will handle the matter expeditiously so that the House of Assembly can get on with more important business.
Attorney General Baba Aziz and Governor Gus Jaspert both have advised that Mr. Vanterpool should be sworn in, and this month the High Court agreed.
But Mr. Willock has appealed the court’s decision, and public expenses are mounting. The cost of Mr. Willock’s legal team alone — which according to him includes multiple lawyers based here and abroad — likely will reach into the hundreds of thousands.
Meanwhile, the people of the territory’s capital city have no district representative. Given the slow pace of court proceedings and the possibility of a lengthy by-election, there is no telling when they will get one.
The speaker should remember that Mr. Vanterpool was duly elected by the people of the Fourth District. Moreover, he won a fairly strong margin of more than six percent of the vote: 442 votes to 385 for his closest contender. It seems unlikely that a by-election, an expensive exercise that would take months, would change that outcome.
True, Mr. Vanterpool’s actions were remarkably juvenile. To attempt to resign eight days after the election — and then to change his mind — was disrespectful to his constituents, to the HOA, and to the territory as a whole.
That said, he has acknowledged his mistake, apologised and committed to serving the people. The question of whether or not he actually resigned, then, is academic.
Some have argued that the matter involves an important constitutional question that urgently needs to be clarified by the courts. We’re sceptical of this claim.
Yes, the 2007 Constitution apparently contains a grey area: It doesn’t explain how an elected HOA member should resign when no speaker is in office. However, the likelihood of a similar situation arising again in the near future is extremely slim. And in any case, the phrasing in question easily could be amended during the next constitutional review, which is expected to get under way soon.
The speaker should drop his crusade, swear in Mr. Vanterpool, and let the HOA focus on more important matters facing the territory.