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HomeNewsArchivesDONASTORG TAKES ON VITELCO -- AGAIN

DONASTORG TAKES ON VITELCO — AGAIN

Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has filed new complaints with the Federal Communications Commission and the V.I. Public Services Commission against the V.I. Telephone Corp., asking for a new investigation into fair practices by both Vitelco and the PSC.
Donastorg had to file the new complaint with the PSC to keep the matter before the commission, according to a release from his office.
He asked the FCC to step in because of the PSC's "inability or unwillingness to regulate this utility company," including allegations of "a failure to enforce FCC regulations regarding pay phone fees and numerous reports that monies are being shifted from Vitelco into its sister companies in order to lessen the companies' appearance of profitability."
Donastorg has made three requests this year that Senate President Vargrave A. Richards call a Committee of the Whole meeting to hear testimony on the Vitelco/PSC issue. So
far that meeting has not been called.
Richards told Donastorg that the 23rd Legislature was not bound by decisions of the 22nd Legislature.
But Donastorg's release said "the public remains very concerned about corruption within the PSC and for the Legislature to so easily dismiss this matter could only indicate that corruption is more widespread than anyone suspected." He did not elaborate.
In his letter to the FCC, Donastorg said he has documents indicating "the people of the Virgin Islands could be entitled to rebates of as much as $50 million from Vitelco." His reference was to a consultant's report urging an investigation into reducing Vitelco's rates.
Near-100 percent Industrial Development Commission tax benefits granted to Vitelco in 1997 are at the heart of Donastorg's concerns.
The Legislature passed a resolution in June 1997 calling for the PSC to initiate a rate reduction of 20 percent in view of the near-total tax exemption that the IDC gave to Vitelco.
At first the PSC ignored the request, but finally agreed to hire a consulting firm to study Vitelco's rates.
When the firm, Georgetown Consultants, concluded last year that Vitelco was overcharging its customers and its rates should be investigated, the PSC rejected that advice. The PSC's legal counsel, Maria Tankenson Hodge, resigned as a result of that decision.
Vitelco is owned by Emerging Communications, which is also the parent company of two cable TV companies, the Virgin Islands Daily News, a wireless communication service and two other newspapers.
Donastorg noted that while Vitelco's rank-and-file employees have not benefited from the tax breaks, Emerging Communications has hired several former Schneider administration officials "at inflated salaries" since Schneider's defeat in November.
"This seems to be a form of payback to political cronies and, frankly, it sickens me," he said.

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