Territorial Court Judge Alphonso G. Andrews declined Tuesday to issue a temporary restraining order that would have halted ongoing talks between Southern Energy and the V.I. Water and Power Authority over SEI's interest in acquiring a controlling share of the local utility.
The hearing before Andrews resulted from a suit brought last week by community activist Gail Watson Chiang. Chiang charged that the exclusive negotiations have prevented "other interested parties" from negotiating with WAPA.
Attorney Lee Rohn, who represents Chiang and several other plaintiffs in this case, suggested that Gov. Charles Turnbull had no authority to negotiate with Southern Energy, having not received the Legislature's consent.
According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, Rohn accused WAPA governing board members as being "wined and dined" by Southern Energy. Rohn told the court that by Monday she would file additional documents that "will substantiate the charges outlined in the suit."
SEI attorney Henry Feuerzeig argued that there is no signed contract between SEI and the government, and therefore there is no way to decide what is in the best interest of the community. "For the court to get involved now would be invading the power of the executive and legislative branches of the government," Feuerzeig said.
He dismissed as "scandalous" suggestions of bribes and improper conduct that are in the Watson complaint against the negotiations.
The Virgin Islands Independent quoted Andrews as saying he did not have sufficient evidence to determine whether the ongoing negotiations would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.
Southern Energy has offered to purchase up to 80 percent of WAPA's assets for upwards of $100 million.