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RTFC Denied Opportunity to Be Heard by PSC

Feb. 24, 2005 – Without giving any advance notice to involved parties, members of the Public Services Commission voted to "scratch" a docket from their agenda dealing with Innovative Communications Corp's pending litigation with the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative at the start of its Thursday hearing.
PSC member Alecia Wells made the motion to table docket no. 558, which also includes a report of ICC's Greenlight Settlement, a discussion of the repayment of monies loaned from Vitelco, also known as Innovative Telephone, to Belize Telecommunication Ltd. and the status of the telephone company's consent order and settlement with the Federal Communications Commission.
The motion was approved by a 4-1 vote. PSC Chairman Valencio Jackson, and members Jerris Browne, Alric Simmonds and Wells voted in the affirmative. Verne David voted against the motion. Commissioner Yvette Canegata-Jones was excused and Commissioner Desmond Maynard was absent. Wells later told the Source her reason for making the motion was that the matters were "in the courts" and therefore had legal ramifications.
This was the second time in the last two months the matter of the pending law suits didn't get heard by the PSC. In December Vitelco representatives didn't show up for a hearing on the same matters. (See "Phone Company a No-Show at PSC Meeting").
Representatives from RTFC, who had traveled from Washington, D.C. and St. Croix to attend the hearing, walked in Thursday afternoon for their portion of the meeting to be told they had been removed from the day's agenda.
The four RTFC representatives sat through another Vitelco matter – a request from Choice Communications, a potential Vitelco competitor, to purchases DS3 service from Vitelco at a mutually agreeable rate — and then waited while commissioners and others had lunch.
When the meeting was called back into session and after a brief discussion about a request from Centennial that they be given eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status, which only Innovative Telephone currently holds, Jackson called for an executive session.
RTFC attorney Jonathon Siegfried, after struggling to get Jackson's attention, asked the commission, for an opportunity to be heard before the executive session.
"We have traveled a long way," Siegfried said. "Our job in being here is to serve you and the ratepayers by keeping you informed."
Jackson told the RTFC representatives that their concerns would be heard at the March hearing because the commission needed to go into executive session to discuss matters relating to a current court case with the V.I. Water and Power Authority that began this week and they had "already scratched" the RTFC docket from the agenda.
Siegfried told the Source that no notice or warning had been given to RTFC that they might be removed from the agenda.
However, another source said Vitelco representatives did have prior knowledge that the docket was not going to be heard.
When told that Wells had said the agenda was changed due to "legal issues," Siegfried said he did not understand because the PSC was not the one being sued by RTFC and the two companies would know not to reveal anything that would jeopardize the case.
In fact, the same matters have all been discussed at several previous PSC hearings.
"We're not aware what those legal issues would be," Siegfried said, adding that as far as he knew all the matters on the docket in question were public record anyway.

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