Faced with Reality maybe or perhaps trying to buy time, Dan Haley back tracked and did a 180 turn at tonight’s Board of Commissioners public hearing. Suddenly, Haley needs more information on the expenses claimed by the Portland Pirates before voting in favor of an almost 70% rate increase for “The Cat;’ a rate increase that Haley supported at the Board’s October 12th meeting. But Haley would not make the full 360 turn. He would not recommend that full disclosure of the gross income of the Portland Pilots, a Portland Harbor monopoly, become public. “I do not want revenue information,” he said this evening.
That is the only way to determine a “fair and reasonable” rate hike, if warranted, according to The Cat officials. Had Haley chosen to take the 360 route, his recommendation would have aligned with the request of The Cat’s attorney as well as his expert witness. (See right photo.)
The purpose of the public hearing was to take public testimony before the Board voted whether or not to adopt the almost 70% rate hike for pilot fees levied against The Cat this spring. Seriously complicating the matter is the fact that the Board never notified the company of the proposal on the Board’s agenda. If given the opportunity, The Cat representatives would have attended the public hearing and presented its case in opposition to the proposed increase. However, Commission Chair Dobbins tabled the vote on the almost 70% rate increase until later this month following presentations by both attorneys and several witnesses.
During the public hearing portion of the two hour session, Harold Pachios, attorney for The Cat, lobbied the Board to compel the Pilots, a monopoly in Portland Harbor, to reveal what their gross income is – a step this kangaroo court failed to adopt. “The Portland Pilots do not want anyone to know what their revenue is. But the Board should know,” said Pachios. When Pachios asked the Pilots attorney, Twain Braden, through the Chair Dobbins, what their gross revenue is – Braden responded: “It’s not relevant.” Braden repeatedly refused to divulge the gross income of the PIlots. City attorney Jenn Thompson, advisor to the Commission, said that it “would not produce that information.” Pachios countered that his job is to get information and that is the job of the Commission’s as well.
Pachios asked Braden, again through Chair Dobbins, if the fees charged for The Cat and Eimskip, the new container shipping company, would be $464,400. next year. If correct that would cover 96% of all the Pilots expenses as outlined. “Not relevant,” was the response from Braden. When Pachios asked what the rate for the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship is Braden told him to go the website and figure it out. “This information is not relevant here,” Braden insisted over and over again. Stonewalling on the part of the Portland Pirates was its best offense.
Dr. Richard Silkman, an economist with extensive testifying experience, testified on behalf of The Cat. Dr. Silkman emphasized that in order to establish a “fair and reasonable” rate the Commission “has to look at income as well as expenses. The amount of profit is relevant.” Pachios asked his witness if the amount that The Cat can afford to pay is relevant. Dr. Silkman answered: “No. Rates have to be regulated where there is a monopoly.” That in response to a charge made by Braden, attorney for the Portland Pirates, during the public hearing segment, that it was incumbent for The Cat officials to disclose their own financial information to the Commission. Dr. Silkman said a “just and reasonable” return before taxes in this instance would be between 15% and 18%.
“Have you heard anything here that would allow any rate setting here that is ‘just and reasonable'”? Pachios asked Dr. Silkman. “No.”
The rate increase of almost 70% was tabled and not revised downward despite press reports of major increases in EIMSKIP shipping trips and an anticipated increase in the number of cruise ships entering the Port of Portland in the coming season. Rate increases are based on future projections, not the past, Pachios told this woefully inept Commission.
“In my 47 years of practicing law before both Commissions in the state of Maine and in Augusta, I have never seen a more shameful and unfair process,” said Pachios, of Preti,Flaherty following the public hearing.
The two-hour workshop and public hearing was recorded by a court stenographer hired by Pachios on behalf of his client.
Another public hearing by the kangaroo court on the subject of the proposed rate hike of almost 70% for The Cat was set for November 16th. The place and time have yet to be determined.
Please visit post herein dated October 31, 2017 for more background information on this controversial subject.