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HomeNewsArchivesINNOVATIVE SAYS SENATE PROBE INAPPROPRIATE

INNOVATIVE SAYS SENATE PROBE INAPPROPRIATE

Oct. 31, 2002 – Attorneys for Innovative Telephone informed Sen. Adelbert Bryan on Wednesday that the company would not be sending its president or anyone else to testify today and tomorrow at meetings of the Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Committee, which the senator chairs. Both sessions have the same agenda.
The company president, Samuel Ebbesen, and attorney J'Ada Finch Sheen, general counsel to Innovative Communication Corp., were among 18 persons "invited" by Bryan to appear before the committee at the Thursday session on St. Croix and the Friday session on St. Thomas. All the others represent government agencies or the United Steelworkers union.
In the letter, on ICC letterhead dated Oct. 30 and faxed to the Source on Thursday morning, attorneys Julio Brady of St. Croix and Jeffrey J. Fraser of the mainland noted that Bryan had described the purpose of the hearings in a press release as being "to conduct an investigation on issues surrounding the circumstances which led up to the labor dispute and subsequent federal mediation impasse."
However, they wrote, "this is not mentioned in your Notice of Committee Meeting" received by Innovative. Instead, they said, the notice stated the purpose as being "to conduct a complete investigation of the IDC [Industrial Development Commission, now Economic Development Commission] benefits issued to Innovative Telephone (Vitelco) in 1998 and to determine if this company is in full compliance with its IDC certificate."
Releases from the Legislature over the last two weeks have cited both purposes for the hearings.
Fraser has been representing Innovative in talks with the Steelworkers aimed at reaching agreement on a new contract and ending the union's four-week-old strike against the phone company and Innovative Cable TV. He and Brady said it was clear that Bryan's actual agenda "is to attempt to participate in the labor negotiations — or to be involved in them." This, they said, is inappropriate and, indeed, illegal, because "the resolution of labor-management disputes and/or negotiations are subjects dealt with by federal law" through the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Federal mediators were, in fact, called in two weeks ago and tried without success to bring about an agreement.
The ICC letter to Bryan further stated, "The fact that these 'emergency' meetings are taking place shortly before Election Day on Nov. 5 is also disturbing."
It called the hearings "an attempt to politicize" the impasse between Innovative and the union, adding that "various senators and members within the Department of Labor have attempted to use your emergency committee meetings as 'leverage' to resolve the labor dispute impasse."
ICC also suggested that Bryan might better "use your position to try to get people to stop breaking the law so that real progress can be made" in resolving the dispute.
Included with the two-page letter was a third page listing a number of criminal acts said to have been committed against the company since the strike began: the theft of a tool bag, attacks on a contractor and a customer, theft of keys from vehicles, assault of an employee, puncture of a tire, blocking of a warehouse entrance, disturbances in the St. Thomas cable television office, threats to various individuals including one to shoot and three to kill contractors, verbal abuse, striking a vehicle with an umbrella, placing a placard on the windshield and trying to open the driver's door of a moving vehicle, and entering company premises and a dispatch yard.
On Thursday morning, Bryan proceeded with the hearing on St. Croix, calling on those witnesses present to testify. A report of the hearing will be posted later Thursday.

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