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LEAGUE CALLS FOR SENATE HEARING ON PSC

The League of Women Voters has called on Senate President Vargrave A. Richards to schedule a meeting on the Public Services Commission's handling of V.I. Telephone Corp. rates and other PSC issues.
In a letter Monday to Richards, the League questioned the sincerity of senators whose campaign promises included the commitment to "vigorously pursue questionable practices of government officials, boards and comissions" in light of the unwillingness of 14 senators to support Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's petition for a hearing to investigate the PSC.
The League urged Richards to call the hearing in May to "investigate the duties, practices, modus operandi and related issues" of the PSC.
Richards was unavailable Monday morning for comment.
The resolution, introduced by board member Helen Gjessing at Saturday's annual meeting of the League, was approved unanimously.
Gjessing reminded the gathering that six of the same senators who have ignored Donastorg's petition had voted last October to bring the PSC members, staff and consultants before the Committee of the Whole. (See story below, "Senators ignore petition for PSC hearing.")
PSC practices initially came under scrutiny when the commission ignored a 1997 Senate resolution urging a 20 percent reduction in Vitelco's rates after the Industrial Development Commission gave the company near-total tax breaks.
The controversy heated up last spring when the PSC, having eventually hired a consulting firm to study a rate decrease, rejected the advice of the consultant that a rate investigation was warranted. The consultant, Georgetown Consultants Inc., reported that Vitelco was overcharging its customers. The PSC also ignored the advice of its longtime legal counsel, Maria Tankenson-Hodge, prompting Hodge to resign.
The League's letter to Richards, signed by newly elected president Erva A. Denham, said, "Since this commission (PSC) should be working to protect the interest of the public which it serves, your attention, and that of the Legislature as a whole, to these issues, must be pursued."

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