After working for the BVI Tourist Board for 19 years, Rhodni Skelton left his post as deputy director early this month after being passed over for the agency’s top job.

His troubles, he said, began after former Director Sharon Flax-Brutus stepped down in 2020, a little more than a year after then-Premier Andrew Fahie’s Virgin Islands Party took power in the February 2019 general election.

When the director role opened, Mr. Skelton applied, thinking he was “a natural successor” for Ms. Flax-Brutus, he said.

But the interview process didn’t play out as he expected.

“When I got to my first interview, there was only one person in the interview that had anything to do with tourism, and that was [then-Chairwoman Kenisha Sprauve], so instantly I know something was amiss, because this body was not the board of directors,” he told the Beacon last week. “This was a special body that was set up. … So it was clear right then that there was an effort to kick me out.”

According to Section 6(1) of the BVI Tourist Board Ordinance (1991), the board is responsible for appointing a director subject to the approval of the minister of tourism, who at the time was Mr. Fahie. But Mr. Skelton said that multiple board members later approached him and said they had not been involved in the decision-making process.

Ultimately, another BVITB employee junior to Mr. Skelton — Clive McCoy — was hired for the director role instead.

“I said I’m going to be the humble person,” Mr. Skelton said. “I’ll work even though I know this person is not more qualified than I am to be the deputy director. I did that for two years and three months.”

Mr. Skelton’s contract ended about nine months ago, but the BVITB kept him on through monthly extensions, he said. Meanwhile, last September, Cabinet approved 11 appointments to the board, and Delma Maduro took over Ms. Sprauve’s position as chairwoman.

Mr. Skelton hoped the new board might make a change, he said, but last month he learned that Mr. McCoy would remain in place. After dealing with mental health issues caused by the circumstances at his workplace, Mr. Skelton said, he decided that he couldn’t operate at the BVITB any longer.

He added that his relationship with Mr. McCoy had “deteriorated” over time, and some days he debated whether he even wanted to “get up and go to the office.”

Meanwhile, board members — who get paid a monthly stipend as high as $1,800 after recent reforms following the Commission of Inquiry — had been getting “more involved in the day-to-day operations” of the board, he added.

“I found myself becoming a little nonchalant, a little belligerent when dealing with the director and other people,” he said.

No ‘amicable separation’

He eventually decided to separate from the board, but he wasn’t given an “amicable separation,” he added.

“I just filed a complaint with [the Department of Labour and Workforce Development], so I won’t get into too much detail, but in essence I was given a take-it-or-leave-it type of offer, and if I didn’t take it I should consider myself no longer employed at the Tourist Board,” he said.

Outside of his recent troubles, Mr. Skelton described working at the BVITB as his “dream job.”

“This is the only place I ever really wanted to work in the Virgin Islands,” he said. “I love my team. … I love talking about tourism. This is my passion.”

No comment

BVITB officials declined to make further statements about Mr. Skelton’s departure from the organisation, and Ms. Flax-Brutus said she has chosen not to speak publicly about her resignation.

Ms. Sprauve said she has no comment on the matter since she is no longer the BVITB chairwoman.

Freeman Rogers contributed to this report.