Gov. Charles W. Turnbull called for a special Session of the Twenty-sixth Legislature to authorize hiring experts to evaluate the V.I. government’s potential purchase of Jeffrey Prosser’s communication empire in the territory.
Gov. Turnbull asked for the legislative session on Tuesday, November 28, at the Capitol Building “to appropriate monies from the General Fund to obtain the services of experts in the areas of appraisal, valuation, and acquisition of telecommunication systems pursuant to an offer to the Government by Innovative Communi-cation Corporation (“ICC”) telecommunication companies,” Gov. Turnbull said in a call for the session.
Four Items on Agenda
Three other items — the bonding autho-rity for the Government Employees Re-tirement System’s to pay the GERS unfunded liability, Public Finance Autho-rity (PFA) bonding for GERS and other purposes and rum tax revenues — proposed by Gov. Turnbull will also be considered by the Special Session, acccording to his November 24 letter to Senate President Lorraine L. Berry.
On November 20, Senator Adlah “Foncie” Donastorg issued a press release in which he urged “extreme caution” in government negotiations with Innovative Communications Corporation (ICC).
On November 22, Donastorg wrote to Senate President Lorraine Berry — who along with Donastorg is at the end of a long and distinguished Senate career — requesting action similar to that later called for by Turnbull.
Donastorg Asked for Caution
There are many factors to be considered, including ICC’s record of questionable business practices, according to Donastorg, who has researched issues involving ICC for more than a decade.
“There is a long list of things this company’s management has done that crossed or rode the line of what is appropriate,” Donastorg said, according to the press release. “We cannot take their word for any thing, just ask all the people and companies with lawsuits against ICC.”
“This company is not known for ethics or honesty in their dealings and it is very worrisome when our government is considering making a deal of this magnitude,” Donastorg, who is serving out his final term as a V.I. Senator.
Auditors, Experts Needed
Top auditors and utility experts from independent agencies must be brought in to assess the true value of VITELCO and the other holdings subject to possible purchase by the Virgin Islands Government, according to Donastorg.
“We can not forget that little or nothing has been invested in this company in recent years,” Donastorg said. “We are dealing with antiquated technology in some cases and it could cost the Govern-ment millions to upgrade to a descent standard.”
$650 Million Value Questioned
The $650 million purchase price mentioned seems much too high, he added.
“I would like to see VITELCO owned by GERS, the people of the Virgin Islands, or even ICC employees, however we must determine the true value of the company and what the cost of the necessary upgrades may be,” Donastorg said. “We must also immediately find out what will happen to the pension plan and ICC employees in the event of a buyout.”
The Government must operate in 100 percent transparency given the corruption and alleged corruption which has characterized its relationship with VITELCO and ICC in recent years, according to Donastorg.
“The public needs information,” Dona-storg said. “ICC claims the government came to them — who is exactly responsible for bringing this to the table? Who will be a part of the negotiating team? Who came up with the figure of $650 million? Who is really behind this?”
Donastorg said he would be willing to assist if called upon.
“I want to make sure the people are the winners in any deal and I am not certain we can count on the PSC and any other entity that may have a say in this,” Donastorg said. “The government has let the people of the Virgin Islands down again and again when it comes to VITELCO and ICC.”
Stranglehold on Media
Donastorg said he was also interested in the fate of Jeffrey Prosser’s other Virgin Islands holdings. The senator said he hopes Prosser will act immediately to sell The Virgin Islands Daily News and TV2.
The company’s “stranglehold” on local media has been very detrimental to the community, according to Donastorg.
Donastorg has called on V.I. Senate Finance Chairman Louis Patrick Hill to convene a hearing to look into the possible government purchase of VITELCO.