March 20, 2003 – In an effort to show that the former V.I. Telephone Corp. — now Innovative Telephone — helped foot the bill for a probe of his personal life, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg brought a television set and videotape to Thursday's Public Services Commission hearing on St. Croix.
The tape showed a segment of Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee hearing, repeatedly quoting Innovative attorney Joel Holt saying "Dennis Sheraw was hired at the request of Vitelco." Sheraw is the owner of a private investigation firm formerly employed by Innovative Communication Corp., the parent company of Innovative Telephone.
Donastorg filed a complaint against Innovative Telephone with the commission last month, charging that the company spent more than $100,000 in regulated funds to delve into his life and those of his family, friends and Senate staff.
Frederick Watts, counsel for the PSC, told the commission during the February hearing that the checks cited by Donastorg appeared to have come from the parent company, ICC, which is not regulated by the PSC.
"I don't think he made the bridge to show that it was the regulated company" that paid for the investigation, Watts said then, referring to Donastorg. The commission asked the senator to file additional information supporting his claim by March 10.
As of Thursday, only one commissioner had seen the 6-inch-thick dossier Donastorg said was put together by two firms hired by Innovative, documenting details of his personal and professional activities. The dossier also includes copies of checks written to the investigators and signed by ICC owner Jeffery Prosser.
Donastorg said the package was delivered to the PSC on time. The commission's executive director, Keithley Joseph, said he forwarded it to the office of Desmond Maynard, PSC chair.
In response to Donastorg's complaint filed with the PSC, Innovative requested that the dossier be sealed and that the commission reconsider acting on the complaint. Innovative argued that the PSC has no jurisdiction to act on the issue because Innovative Telephone was not involved.
At Thursday's PSC meeting another Innovative lawyer, Julio Brady, said the issue is a matter for the courts to decide. He also said that Holt misspoke in his Senate testimony and later corrected himself.
"The investigative report in this matter is a contract," Brady said. "By law it is a criminal act, a misdemeanor to divulge an investigative report, except in the judicial process."
Donastorg said obtaining the social security numbers of his family members, too, is a misdemeanor. "I'm here simply to demonstrate that, in this investigation, Vitelco had a part and very well may have paid for it," he said.
Brady said that even if Vitelco paid for the probe, "the senator is a public figure and is not above investigation. The electorate ought to know the lives, habits and virtues of public officials."
Commission member Verne David said the matter deserved further scrutiny. "Since we have the authority to regulate" how Innovative Telephone funds are utilized, he said, "we ought to at least hear this."
David said that such things as Donastorg's "personal bank account, family issues — I don't care about." But he added that he does care about public utility funds allegedly being used to pay for something such as an investigation, "when they could be used to lower rates."
Donastorg went public last October with the dossier. ICC's vice president for corporate affairs, Holland Redfield, subsequently acknowledged that ICC did conduct such an investigation but said the action was justified because of Donastorg's "ongoing attacks" against Innovative Telephone and ICC.
Redfield said the investigation was undertaken to see if there was "an unsavory relationship between the senator and our competitors." He also said that what the investigation found "wasn't intended to be released" publicly. (See "ICC executive: Investigation of senator justified".)
Donastorg has said he was investigated for protecting ratepayers.
"We are regulators of your company also," commission member Jerris Browne told Brady. "I think that is significant."
Donastorg told the commissioners they "have reason to be concerned." He added: "I think the commission should be concerned to the point that you ask them [Innovative officials] to turn over all investigation files and see if they have any investigations of yourselves."
After viewing the tape, Renee pointed out that ICC recently demanded in writing that Maynard step down as chair of the PSC because as an attorney in private practice he represents a former V.I. Daily News photographer who is suing both the newspaper and its parent company, ICC.
Innovative attorney Kevin Rames in that correspondence said that Maynard would not be able to act without bias in matters relating to Innovative Telephone because of his representation of the former Daily News employee
Renee asked Brady why it is okay for Innovative Telephone to be related to ICC in one situation and not in another.
The interrelationship of the companies will be the basis of the next installment of information headed to the PSC, Donastorg's attorney, Lee Rohn, said. She said there are contradictory court cases in which the company claims its subsidiaries are independent of each other and at least one case in which they are represented at a single entity.
The issue is supposed to be taken up at the next regular meeting of the commission.
Maynard did step down as PSC chair, and the commission on Thursday elected Valencio Jackson to succeed him. Alric Simmonds was elected vice chair. Maynard was the only voting commission member absent. Present were Browne, David, Jackson, Renee, Simmonds and Alecia Wells.
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