“The Cat” Files 2nd Appeal Against Portland Pilots in Rate Hike Dispute; LePage Weighs In


Chair Dobbins Looks for Advice from Jenn Thompson,  Portland City Attorney, at a Public Hearing Late Last Year in South Portland.

Twain Braden, Attorney for the Portland Pilots

Dan Haley, Eastern Promenade Resident, is a Board Member. He’s a  Retired Insurance Industry Executive Who Advises Governor LePage on Veterans’ Affairs.  Haley Has Supported Rate Increases With a Lack of Transparency Requested by The Cat Attorneys.

Not satisifed with the lack of transparency permitted by the Board of Commissioners to set a pilot fee for “The Cat,”  a second appeal was filed last month by Harold Pachios, Esq., attorney for The Cat.  The Cat is the popular ferry service that runs between Nova Scotia and Portland Harbor during the summer season. It does business as Bay Ferries, Ltd.

Last May 11, 2017, the Harbor Commission voted to approve the Pilots application to increase the pilot fees, in and out of Portland Harbor, by 70%. The decision was arrived at  during a discussion of less than four minutes duration. Additionally,  the Board did not notify Bay Ferries officials that an increase was on the upcoming agenda.  As a courtesy if nothing else, this would have permitted Cat officials to attend and testify in their own behalf.  Other procedural requirements were not followed and sufficient evidence to justify any increase, particularly such an excessive one,  was not provided by the Pilots.

Notably, the Board did not use its subpoena power to require the Pilots, a monopoly in Portland Harbor,  to produce the financial information to meet a standard of a “fair and reasonable” rate increase.  When Pachios asked the Pilots attorney Twain Braden what was the pilots’ revenue in 2016, Braden responded that – “It’s not relevant and we’re not prepared to provide that information….”  A consistent theme throughout the numerous Board of Commissioners public hearings.

Last November, in an attempted “redo” and adhering more than previously to notification requirements, the Board once again raised the pilot fees for The Cat by a rate of 50% this time.  The redo was well-publicized in an effort to erase the mistakes made by the Board previously.  However, once again the Board of Commissioners did not require The Pilots, a Portland Harbor monopoly,  to produce any income information to support this unjustified increase.

At the November 2, 2016 public hearing in South Portland,  Pachios presented expert testimony from a Dr. Richard Silkman, whose qualifications were described prior to his testimony. Dr. Silkman testified that “you cannot make a finding that rates are just and reasonable without looking at the income that those rates will generate.”  However, Board member Dan Haley, in a capricious move, dismissed Dr. Silkman’s expert testimony because he googled him at home and found evidence of legal action against him – a position that did not come to light publicly where it should have been discussed openly – according to attorney Pachios.    Please feel free to google Dr. Richard Silkman, economist, Portland, Maine and form your own opinion on his qualifications.  (See photo of Haley above right.)

On December 14, 2017, a second appeal was filed  to rollback the 50% increase and seeking other relief as the court deems appropriate.   No date has been set yet for legal arguments by attorneys for both parties.  A motion was also filed to combine both appeals, one filed last summer, and the December appeal into one court action for the sake of efficiency.

“Bay Ferries is trying to avoid its financial responsibility to the people of the state of Maine and jeopardizing safety in the process,” said Twain Braden, Esq., in a telephone conversation earlier this week.  “All other states with international coast lines require pilotage for vessels engaged in foreign commerce.  That’s what the issue is here,” Mr. Braden concluded.

“There is not one bit of truth in any part of his statement,” said Harold Pachios, Esq. today.  Mr. Pachios pointed out that the Nova Scotia ferry has been coming into Portland since 1970.  Until 2012, a period of 42 years, the Nova Scotia ferry was not required to use a pilot on every single one of its daily trips into Portland Harbor.  In those 42 years, the Nova Scotia ferry had an outstanding safety record.  “As for his statement that all other states with international coast lines require pilotage for international ferries, he is uninformed,” said Mr. Pachios earlier today.

Could it be that the city wants to force The Cat out of Portland Harbor  to make way for its anticipated increase in the lucrative cruise ships on the Portland waterfront in the future?   Hmmm.

Governor Paul LePage has written a letter to the Board of Commissioners for the Port of Portland stating that of course the revenues of the Portland Pilots should be scrutinized in depth. The Governor also suggested that the entire Board should resign according to sources with knowledge of the letter.  This blogger is trying to obtain a copy of the letter from the Commission, under the Freedom of Information Act,  and so far has not succeeded.

Please see post herein dated November 16, 2017 for more background information on this long-running dispute between the two parties.

(note:  It’s been the past experience of this blogger who has attended previous Board of Commissioners meetings chaired by Mr. Dobbins, that it prefers to toil away unfettered by public scrutiny and certainly by this blogger.  It appears to prefer to function as a private, “men only club.”  In other words, we do it our way and no women are allowed. No legal advisor is seated on the Board either.)