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PSC Chair Denies Secret Deal with ICC, Despite Letter Written in Her Name

Oct. 11, 2006 The chairwoman of the Public Services Commission decried media reports Tuesday about secret doings between the commission and the telephone company — despite the fact the Source has obtained a copy of an unsigned letter, bearing Wells' name, which offers the PSC's blessing to Innovative Communication Corp.'s plan to use Vitelco assets to finance a bankruptcy settlement for ICC's other related companies. The letter, written on PSC letterhead, is addressed to Vitelco President David Sharp.
In a letter issued to media and published here, Wells spent 10 paragraphs talking about her commitment to the commission and making vague allusions to recent Source reports that the PSC had given written support to V.I. Telephone Co. (Vitelco) owner Jeffrey Prosser's plan to finance his bankruptcy settlement with three of his creditors by using the assets of the local phone company. (See "Prosser Seeking to Involve Vitelco in Bankruptcy Settlement").
Documents filed in District Court last week reveal a plan to raise $470 million using Vitelco assets. The documents also say, "The Public Utilities Commission of the U.S. Virgin Islands has confirmed in writing its non-objection to and support of the financing and the Debtors assumption of the settlement agreement."
Though Wells' "letter to the editor" did not deny that such a letter existed, Vitelco Vice President Holland Redfield did. In an ICC response to earlier reports, Redfield said, "These stories are totally incorrect and erroneous as no such PSC approval has yet been sought much less has any approval been given …."
However, the aforementioned letter, bearing Wells' name and addressed to Sharp, seems to suggest otherwise. (To see the letter, click here).
The letter states, "We believe that consummating the Settlement Agreement, thereby avoiding the disruption and uncertainties that may accompany a long, contentious and expensive chapter 11 of the Debtors, will improve the balance sheet of Vitelco and its holding company affiliates and is in the best interests of the ratepayers and customers of Vitelco."
The two-page letter goes on: "Accordingly, this will confirm that the Commission fully supports the proposed financing and assumption and performance of the Settlement Agreement."
The letter concludes, "Please feel free to share the views of the Commission expressed in this letter with the bankruptcy court."
Sent along with Wells' letter to the editor was a second transmission from PSC counsel Jeffrey B.C. Moorhead, recently hired to replace former PSC counsel Frederick Watts.
Referring to the recent stories, Moorhead stated, "It is the opinion of the Commission that the allegations are baseless and of questionable motive," adding, "The Commission considers this matter closed and plans no further comment on it."
So far two senators, Louis Hill and gubernatorial candidate Adlah Foncie Donastorg, have weighed in on the matter; with Hill demanding that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull remove any of the commissioners who voted, without public scrutiny, to support use of the public utility as a means of borrowing money for Prosser's bankruptcy settlement. (See "Senator Lashes Out at PSC for Secret Agreement" and "Hill Asks Government Officials to Take Action on PSC").
A third candidate for office weighed in on Wednesday. In a release from his campaign office, gubernatorial candidate John P. deJongh said, "The only fair way to clear up the confusion and rumors surrounding this issue is to hold full public hearings and lay all facts on the table."
He said, "The public not only has a right to know, it has the right to understand the risks and benefits of whatever the proposed actions might be on both customers and employees."
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