Aug. 30, 2004 – A temporary restraining order was issued Friday directing the St. Thomas law firm of Dudley Topper and Feuerzeig to refrain from further representing Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative in its case against Innovative Communication Corp.
Territorial Court Judge Darryl Donohue issued the order, stating that the firm was committing an ethical violation by representing RTFC because it previously represented ICC in past dealings with RTFC.
"We received the order by fax Friday evening," George Dudley, partner in the law firm, said on Monday.
RTFC hired the firm to represent it in a lawsuit filed earlier this summer against ICC. RTFC says Innovative has more than $550 million in outstanding loans from the cooperative, which provides financial assistance to rural telephone companies, and that ICC is in violation of agreements relating to those loans. ICC says that under an earlier agreement it has done nothing improper.
ICC filed a motion on Aug. 19 seeking the temporary restraining order after learning that RTFC had hired Dudley Topper and Feuerzeig to represent it in the case.
According to Dudley, however, "We never represented ICC. We represented its predecessor, Atlantic Tele-Network, in 1987."
ATN, then owned by partners Jeffrey Prosser and Cornelius Prior Jr., bought V.I. Telephone Corp. from ITT. Prosser and Prior later parted ways, with Prosser retaining ownership of Vitelco and Prosser keeping the ATN name and the company's other holding, a telephone company in Guyana. Both have since acquired numerous additional holdings, and Prosser's are now mostly under parent company ICC.
Dudley said a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10 to consider the merits of ICC's requests for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the law firm. "Once we present our side of the case, we believe that the judge will reverse the temporary restraining order," he said.
Meanwhile, also on Sept. 10, ICC and RTFC representatives are scheduled to appear before the Public Services Commission to testify on the telephone company's financial viability and the sale and distribution of $81 million of Innovative's preferred stock earlier this year.
RTFC claims that Innovative Telephone has loaned ICC $28 million of that money to acquire a telecommunications company in Belize. The PSC has ordered the local phone company, which it regulates, not to spend any more of its stock sale proceeds. (See "Stop Spending Stock Proceeds, Phone Company Told".)
"The meeting is still on as far as we know," Sandra Setorie, PSC assistant executive director, said, adding that no one from Innovative or RTFC has requested a change in the date.
Holland L. Redfield II, ICC vice president for corporate affairs, could not be reached for comment Monday. His staff said he was off-island. He is a V.I. delegate to the National Republican Convention in New York.
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