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HomeNewsArchivesVitelco's Incoming Owners Ask V.I. Court to End Stay on Transfer

Vitelco's Incoming Owners Ask V.I. Court to End Stay on Transfer

Vitelco’s prospective new owners, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), filed Friday to lift a V.I. Superior Court-ordered emergency stay on the transfer of ownership, arguing the Prossers have no legal standing, among other things.
Vitelco and the Innovative cable television companies used to be the property of bankrupt mogul Jeffrey Prosser through a set of holding companies that can be collectively called "ICC" for convenience.
After extensive hearings, the V.I. Public Services Commission voted in May to let CFC take ownership of Vitelco and Innovative.
Continuing a longstanding pattern of delaying tactics in this case, Prosser did not participate in the hearings but objected afterwards and filed to have the PSC reconsider its decision.
The PSC took no action on Prosser’s objection, and, by V.I. statute, his claim was deemed denied as of July 6.
On July 7, Prosser, along with his wife Dawn Prosser, and St. Croix attorney Jeffrey Moorhead jointly filed an appeal of the PSC decision in V.I. Superior Court.
Because Prosser has been removed from his role at the company and the properties are under the auspices of the court and court-appointed trustees, the three are appealing the decision in their capacities as interested "ratepayers," or telephone customers, not as owners of the company.
Hence, the Prossers’ motion does not argue they need an emergency stay because the Prossers will be harmed by losing the companies, but that they might possibly be harmed sometime in the future with poor phone service or high rates if the new owners do not invest enough in the network, et cetera.
But the "Prossers have misrepresented to this court their status as Vitelco customers," CFC attorneys wrote in their motion, citing sworn court testimony from Vitelco officials that neither of the Prossers was a Vitelco customer during the PSC hearings, at the time of the PSC decision or when the Prossers filed their appeal.
"Because they are not customers of Vitelco, their claim of standing as Vitelco ratepayers must fail," wrote the CFC attorneys.
Also, an emergency stay requires clear and convincing evidence of imminent and substantial harm, they say, and Prosser’s speculation that he and his wife might possibly suffer from poor phone service at some point in the future just does not meet that legal threshold, even if true, (which they dispute).
Beyond the question of the emergency stay, the CFC argues Prosser’s entire appeal should also fail due to lack of standing and because Prosser is wrong on the facts, and that ratepayers will receive a guaranteed rate freeze for the next four years and stand to benefit from CFC’s capital investments in the network.
They also cite the fact the U.S. Bankruptcy Court has already ruled Prosser no longer has standing and typify the case as one more in a long line of frivolous delaying tactics.
Expressing concern about the mounting costs of the bankruptcy process and of the costs of delaying capital improvements, the CFC also asked the court for an immediate hearing on the appeal, rather than the noncommittal "status hearing," V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks scheduled for Sept. 17.
They point to V.I. law mandating that appeals of PSC decisions be heard before any other civil court matters, citing several sections of the V.I. Code, which says those appeals "shall have precedence over any civil cause of a different nature pending in said court, and the District Court shall always be deemed open for the hearings thereof."
Stay tuned to the Source for further developments in the ongoing Prosser saga.

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