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Saturday, August 13, 2022
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PSC HEARING TO START WITHOUT KEY PLAYERS

A Committee of the Whole meeting set for Wednesday to investigate practices of the Public Services Commission will start without at least three key players — PSC Chairman Walter Challenger and Commissioners Dora Hill and Desmond Maynard.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said in a release Tuesday that he would move to subpoena any major party who fails to attend the meeting.
In a June 2 letter to Senate President Vargrave Richards, Challenger said the PSC's legal counsel was not available to attend Wednesday's meeting and therefore he and other members of the PSC would also not attend.
Challenger claimed the meeting was originally called for June 16 and Joseph Arellano, attorney for the PSC, said he would be available on that date. But when the date was changed, Arellano said he would not be available.
Challenger said the date change indicates "the Legislature does not wish for the PSC to have its counsel present at the hearing."
Richards said Tuesday, "Members of the PSC have informed my office they are unable to attend the meeting tomorrow." However Richards said he is bound by the petition to convene the meeting Wednesday.
Richards confirmed that he had attempted to change the date of the meeting to June 16, but said, "The main petitioner did not think I had the authority to do that."
Donastorg twice circulated a petition calling for a Committee of the Whole meeting. He finally got the eight signatures required immediately after the Legislature passed the controversial "Prosser bill."
Four of the senators who signed the petition also voted to pass the Prosser bill, which would have given 30 years of tax breaks to 10 companies under the umbrella of Innovative Communications Corp. owned by businessman Jeffrey Prosser. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull vetoed the bill last Friday.
One of the ICC companies that would have benefitted is V.I. Telephone Corp., a public utility regulated by the PSC.
Donastorg's request for an investigation of the PSC goes back to a mandate by the 22nd Legislature to hold a hearing on the PSC's decision not to investigate Vitelco's rates, despite a strong recommendation from its consultant that it do so. But the meeting never happened because the vote came so close to November's election.
The investigation that Donastorg has requested is, in part, to look into the PSC's dismissal of a resolution passed unanimously by the Legislature calling for a 20 percent reduction in phone rates in light of near-total tax breaks given to Vitelco through the Industrial Development Commission.
After ignoring the resolution for a time, the PSC hired an independent consultant to review the matter, and then chose to ignore the consultant's advice as well as the advice of the PSC's own legal counsel. PSC attorney Maria Tankenson-Hodge resigned in the midst of the controversy.
Hodge was called to testify at Wednesday's meeting. Challenger asked, "Is the PSC expected to confront its accusers – including, I must presume at this point, its former counsel — without the benefit of the assistance of its current counsel?"
Challenger suggested that if there was testimony that could only be received on June 9, the Legislature take it and adjourn until June 16 when the PSC could then make its presentation with "the assistance of its counsel."

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A Committee of the Whole meeting set for Wednesday to investigate practices of the Public Services Commission will start without at least three key players -- PSC Chairman Walter Challenger and Commissioners Dora Hill and Desmond Maynard.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said in a release Tuesday that he would move to subpoena any major party who fails to attend the meeting.
In a June 2 letter to Senate President Vargrave Richards, Challenger said the PSC's legal counsel was not available to attend Wednesday's meeting and therefore he and other members of the PSC would also not attend.
Challenger claimed the meeting was originally called for June 16 and Joseph Arellano, attorney for the PSC, said he would be available on that date. But when the date was changed, Arellano said he would not be available.
Challenger said the date change indicates "the Legislature does not wish for the PSC to have its counsel present at the hearing."
Richards said Tuesday, "Members of the PSC have informed my office they are unable to attend the meeting tomorrow." However Richards said he is bound by the petition to convene the meeting Wednesday.
Richards confirmed that he had attempted to change the date of the meeting to June 16, but said, "The main petitioner did not think I had the authority to do that."
Donastorg twice circulated a petition calling for a Committee of the Whole meeting. He finally got the eight signatures required immediately after the Legislature passed the controversial "Prosser bill."
Four of the senators who signed the petition also voted to pass the Prosser bill, which would have given 30 years of tax breaks to 10 companies under the umbrella of Innovative Communications Corp. owned by businessman Jeffrey Prosser. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull vetoed the bill last Friday.
One of the ICC companies that would have benefitted is V.I. Telephone Corp., a public utility regulated by the PSC.
Donastorg's request for an investigation of the PSC goes back to a mandate by the 22nd Legislature to hold a hearing on the PSC's decision not to investigate Vitelco's rates, despite a strong recommendation from its consultant that it do so. But the meeting never happened because the vote came so close to November's election.
The investigation that Donastorg has requested is, in part, to look into the PSC's dismissal of a resolution passed unanimously by the Legislature calling for a 20 percent reduction in phone rates in light of near-total tax breaks given to Vitelco through the Industrial Development Commission.
After ignoring the resolution for a time, the PSC hired an independent consultant to review the matter, and then chose to ignore the consultant's advice as well as the advice of the PSC's own legal counsel. PSC attorney Maria Tankenson-Hodge resigned in the midst of the controversy.
Hodge was called to testify at Wednesday's meeting. Challenger asked, "Is the PSC expected to confront its accusers - including, I must presume at this point, its former counsel — without the benefit of the assistance of its current counsel?"
Challenger suggested that if there was testimony that could only be received on June 9, the Legislature take it and adjourn until June 16 when the PSC could then make its presentation with "the assistance of its counsel."