Home News Local news 'Financial Shenanigans' Over, Vitelco Official Says

'Financial Shenanigans' Over, Vitelco Official Says

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March 11, 2008 — For the first time in many years, the V.I. Telephone Company is using its cash flow to support the business, its employees and customers, a Vitelco official said Tuesday.
The company's "financial shenanigans" are over, said Vitelco head E. Clarke Garnett during a St. Thomas press conference. Money will go toward making much-needed investments in service and to give employees the tools they need to work with, he said. Part of making the company ready for potential buyers is "getting to the bottom" of Vitelco's finances — records, he said, not made fully available since at least 2006.
Innovative Communication Corp. insiders and affiliates were spending "tens of millions of dollars" from Vitelco's coffers on personal expenditures, according to a recent report filed by Stan Springel, the bankruptcy court-appointed trustee managing the companies of former Vitelco owner Jeffrey Prosser. (See "Prosser Trustee Finds 'Liquidity Crisis' at Vitelco.")
On Tuesday, Garnett said the company's negative cash flow has since been turned around, with revenues being used to get the company up to date with its vendor payments. Money is also being used to cover small-to-large-scale projects ranging from updates to the company's email system to upgrades for Innovative's V.I. PowerNet service, he said.
The recent purchase of additional bandwidth capacity will allow the Internet service to accommodate more customers, keeping connection speeds more stable and steady, said PowerNet General Manager Peter Hayden in a recent interview. On Tuesday, Garnett explained that email upgrades would keep correspondence between employees from getting lost or deleted.
Garnett is also streamlining how the company tracks its telephone and cable repairs, or "trouble tickets."
"We've restructured the management of these items, starting with the line employee who takes the initial complaint," he said. "It came down to a question of how we handle our daily workload and distribute it."
Keeping Vitelco properly staffed is also a priority. The company is implementing a training program to keep employees up to date with the most "recent styles and techniques," Garnett said. Good safety and management practices will also be highlighted during training efforts, he added.
While Garnett has noticed an improvement in employee morale thanks to continuous dialogue between Vitelco management and unionized employees, younger workers need training to replace the company's aging staff, he said.
Though some restructuring has occurred at the administrative level, he anticipates no staff cuts.
"We're not dismantling the company here, we're pulling it together," he said. "It's not going to be fixed over night, but we're striving everyday to make it better, one nibble at a time."
Echoing statements made by Springel during a recent Public Services Commission meeting, Garnett also spelled out how ICC's holdings will get auctioned off. (See "Trustee Briefs PSC on Sale of ICC Companies.")
Recent fluctuations in the economy make it unclear what Vitelco is worth, so Prosser's creditors could end up with Vitelco if bids do not come in at a set level. If that happens, Garnett said, creditors could make additional investments in the company that would make it more marketable later on.
The auction is set for June 19.
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