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LAWYER: PSC CAN AND DOES HIRE PRIVATE COUNSEL

Nov. 12, 2002 – Attorney Lee Rohn said Tuesday that she does not understand a published statement attributed to Attorney General Iver Stridiron that only his office can represent the Public Utilities Commission in court matters.
Rohn has been retained by the PSC chair, Desmond Maynard, to represent him in a lawsuit The V.I. Daily News has filed against the commission. The suit seeks details of an executive session discussion on Sept. 12. The newspaper contends the session violated the Open Meetings Act.
The commission sent the news media representatives out of the room that day while it met behind closed doors. Many believe the discussion had to do with Maynard's hiring of Georgetown Consulting Group to take over AUS Consultants' investigation of Water and Power Authority customer rates. (See "PSC chair: Georgetown back, but AUS still in".)
Tuesday's issue of The Daily News quotes Stridiron as saying last Friday: "It is my position as attorney general that only the Attorney General's Office, pursuant to law, may represent the PSC, which is a government agency."
Rohn said this is not so. "The PSC has been hiring its own attorneys for 25 years," she said. "Maria Hodge was its attorney, and Fred Watts is now its attorney … The PSC can hire whomever it wants." She pointed out that the money the PSC spends to do so comes from fees the utilities pay for rate investigations, not from government funds.
Rohn filed documents in Territorial Court on St. Croix last week requesting that the court strike anything that Kerry Drue, assistant attorney general, has filed on behalf of Maynard and the PSC. Drue is the lawyer the government assigned to represent the PSC.
According to Rohn's motion, neither the PSC nor Maynard has retained the services of Drue. "In fact, these parties were never contracted prior to the unauthorized answer," it states, "and it appears that the answer was filed without even any consultation with the parties as to the facts regarding the allegations, nor the affirmative defenses. Further, neither party authorized the attorney general or attorney Kerry Drue to waive service of process."
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the PSC is a different kind of agency because its funds come from the entities it investigates, not government coffers, she said. "The Legislature has never acted to stop the practice, so the Legislature is in favor of it," she added.
On Tuesday, Rohn said of Stridiron, "It's beyond me why he'd want to represent a client that does not want to be represented by him."
Rohn's motion states that "the Attorney General's Office and Drue were specifically informed that they did not represent the parties, and the parties did not want to be represented by them," and were asked to so notify the court. But as of the date of the filing they had not done so, the motion says.
Rohn said she wonders why Stridiron's office would want to take on more work. "I don't understand what he is up to," she said. "He should be glad it's not coming out of his budget. He needs to conserve his resources."
An aide in Stridiron's office said on Tuesday that he was off-island and could not be reached for comment.

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Nov. 12, 2002 - Attorney Lee Rohn said Tuesday that she does not understand a published statement attributed to Attorney General Iver Stridiron that only his office can represent the Public Utilities Commission in court matters.
Rohn has been retained by the PSC chair, Desmond Maynard, to represent him in a lawsuit The V.I. Daily News has filed against the commission. The suit seeks details of an executive session discussion on Sept. 12. The newspaper contends the session violated the Open Meetings Act.
The commission sent the news media representatives out of the room that day while it met behind closed doors. Many believe the discussion had to do with Maynard's hiring of Georgetown Consulting Group to take over AUS Consultants' investigation of Water and Power Authority customer rates. (See "PSC chair: Georgetown back, but AUS still in".)
Tuesday's issue of The Daily News quotes Stridiron as saying last Friday: "It is my position as attorney general that only the Attorney General's Office, pursuant to law, may represent the PSC, which is a government agency."
Rohn said this is not so. "The PSC has been hiring its own attorneys for 25 years," she said. "Maria Hodge was its attorney, and Fred Watts is now its attorney ... The PSC can hire whomever it wants." She pointed out that the money the PSC spends to do so comes from fees the utilities pay for rate investigations, not from government funds.
Rohn filed documents in Territorial Court on St. Croix last week requesting that the court strike anything that Kerry Drue, assistant attorney general, has filed on behalf of Maynard and the PSC. Drue is the lawyer the government assigned to represent the PSC.
According to Rohn's motion, neither the PSC nor Maynard has retained the services of Drue. "In fact, these parties were never contracted prior to the unauthorized answer," it states, "and it appears that the answer was filed without even any consultation with the parties as to the facts regarding the allegations, nor the affirmative defenses. Further, neither party authorized the attorney general or attorney Kerry Drue to waive service of process."
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the PSC is a different kind of agency because its funds come from the entities it investigates, not government coffers, she said. "The Legislature has never acted to stop the practice, so the Legislature is in favor of it," she added.
On Tuesday, Rohn said of Stridiron, "It's beyond me why he'd want to represent a client that does not want to be represented by him."
Rohn's motion states that "the Attorney General's Office and Drue were specifically informed that they did not represent the parties, and the parties did not want to be represented by them," and were asked to so notify the court. But as of the date of the filing they had not done so, the motion says.
Rohn said she wonders why Stridiron's office would want to take on more work. "I don't understand what he is up to," she said. "He should be glad it's not coming out of his budget. He needs to conserve his resources."
An aide in Stridiron's office said on Tuesday that he was off-island and could not be reached for comment.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.