March 21, 2005 Several testifiers invited to a public hearing of the Senate Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee, chaired by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, indicated they would not attend the session scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The hearing was called to take testimony on a recent decision made by the Economic Development Commission to approve a renewal benefit package for Innovative Telephone, whose tax breaks had expired September 2003. Along with the EDC and the telephone company, members of the Public Services Commission and several union representatives were also invited to testify. (See "Senators Looking at EDC Secret Deal With Innovative").
According to a release from Innovative Communication Corp. Monday, ICC Vice President Samuel Ebbesen told Donastorg in a letter that he would not be in attendance because his presence at the meeting "would serve no productive purpose particularly since the Innovative Telephone application has not been processed by the EDC." ICC is the parent company of the telephone company known as Vitelco or Innovative Telephone.
"Notwithstanding all that has been written in the media, Innovative Telephone has not been notified that it will be receiving benefits, or what those benefits would be, should they be given," Ebbesen was quoted as saying in the release. "The operations of the EDA and PSC are not matters that are appropriate to comment on from Innovative Telephone, as those agencies are governmental instrumentalities before which Innovative Telephone must appear from time to time."
Ebbesen said he did not wish to be part of a forum that may be used to "undermine the authority" of any legally created board or commission.
Donastorg, in a release issued from his office Monday, stated that he "heard from reliable sources" that the three EDC members who voted to approve Innovative's renewal package would not attend the hearing.
"To think that these three individuals are responsible for taking away tens of millions from the V.I. Treasury, yet they refuse to answer any questions whatsoever about their decision or the operations of the [Economic Development Authority]," Donastorg said, "I am simply disgusted."
The EDC is an arm of the Economic Development Authority.
Although none of the EDC members returned calls from the Source Monday, a published public hearing notice shows that an EDC beneficiary's hearing is also scheduled for Tuesday, at 10 a.m., at Palms Court Habourview Hotel.
Donastorg said he is aware of the hearing, but "it should be done by 3 p.m." He added, "If they let it go past 3 p.m., I'll have to look at it as a willful act."
Donastorg said if Innovative Telephone officials refuse to show up, there should be no complaint when he introduces legislation to regulate the company without input from them.
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