By Ken Bustin
Pendleton County’s complaint to the Public Service Commission against Frontier Communications took an unexpected turn on Monday when, after reaching an agreement through mediation on March 11, the matter was suddenly continued for two weeks, until March 28. A notice of the continuance obtained from the Public Service Commission’s website says simply that the matter is “waiting on parties to return signed copies of the mediation results.”
It is, however, only one party – Frontier – who has not signed the agreement that was mutually developed by the parties and accepted by the mediator, as Pendleton County Emergency Services Coordinator, Rick Gillespie, who has managed the case for Pendleton County, confirmed to the Times on Monday that an agreement between the parties had been reached at the March 11 mediation session, and that Pendleton County had signed and returned the agreement immediately upon its presentation. Citing confidentiality rules which prevent discussion of the substance of the agreement until it is completed, Gillespie declined to offer any further explanation, saying simply that he had not expected the proceedings to be continued for that length of time. He had previously told the Times in an earlier interview that it was his understanding that the mediation would need to be successfully resolved by March 14, or would then go before the full Commission.
A search of the Public Service Commission’s website, however, revealed that four new complaints had been filed with the PSC last week regarding extended failures of 911 service in several other counties in West Virginia. One of the key issues raised in the Pendleton County complaint was the failure of Frontier to provide a secondary route for 911 communications to the Pendleton County 911 Center in Franklin.
The new complaints which were filed last week concern themselves with failures and outages affecting Barbour, Brooke, Grant, Harrison, Taylor, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. Brooke, Marshall and Ohio counties each filed individual complaints, while the fourth was filed by the West Virginia Enhanced 911 Council, addressing issues in all of the counties cited. In each case, Frontier is required to file a response in 10 days, or in the case of these four complaints, by March 17 and 18.
The March 28 continuance extends the date of any order in the Pendleton case past that time, effectively keeping the results of that mediation agreement from being released to the public. If the parties in each of those matters elect to have their cases handled by mediation, those proceedings would also be kept confidential until a resolution was reached in each of them. Mediation results become public upon a successful completion of the proceeding.
Asked if he felt that the lengthy continuance in the Pendleton matter had been sought to prevent public disclosure of any resolutions in the Pendleton matter which would establish precedents which could be applied to the other upcoming complaints, Gillespie declined to comment.
Calls to Frontier for comment on the matter had, at press time, gone without reply.