“The Cat” Beats Portland Pilots Huge Fee Hike Effort in Courtroom

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Twain Braden, Attorney for the Portland Pilots at a Hearing Before the Board of Harbor Commissioners Last Year.

One of the Portland Pirates Captains: Mark Klopp.

Board of Commissioners Member Dan Haley, a Retired Insurance Executive. Resident of the Eastern Prom on Munjoy Hill and a Consultant to Governor Paul LePage, at a  City Meeting Earlier This Year.

Late last week Judge Lance Walker of the Maine Superior Court ruled that the effort of the Board of Harbor Commissioners to impose excessive and unjustified fee increases on “The Cat” will not stand.  That’s because the Portland Pilots  failed to provide sufficient evidence that the “steep” pilotage fees it imposed on the ferry were justified. The Pirates were not compelled by the Board to release income data to determine whether this hugh increase was “fair and reasonable.”  The Pilots is a monopoly in Portland Harbor; in other words its has no competition in the Harbor and clients can’t  compare prices to get the best deal available argued Harold Pachios., Esq., attorney for The Cat, d/b/a Bay Ferries LLC.

In meeting after meeting, the Board chaired by Tom Dobbins, refused to ask the Portland Pilots to open up its books and explain why such a “steep” increase was necessary.  Portland Pilots attorney Twain Braden said income information was “irrelevant” and refused to divulge such information. The Judge in his opinion wrote:  “…the judgment of the Board is meant to serve as a stand-in for competition.”

An expert on public utilities rate setting spoke to the Board at one of its public meetings in South Portland.  Following that presentation, Board member Dan Haley (see above right photo)  discounted his expert testimony because he read something that bothered him about Dr. Richard Silkman, on-line.  However, the Judge wrote in his decision that even keeping that discount in mind, it should take only “simple reasoning” by the Board to conclude that without income information, this excessive rate increase should not have been passed by the Board.  Haley boasted to the Board that he’d sat on rate setting boards in the past – insinuating he was better qualified than any one at the hearing to justify the Board’s action.  Presumably Haley was referring to  his career as an executive in the insurance industry.  (Ouch!)

The Judge’s eleven (11) page opinion did an effective job of shredding, page after page,  any creditability that the Portland Pilots’ attorney presented as justification for the 50% rate increase.  It also vindicates this blogger from the private scolding received from the Harbor Master for taking a view that was contrary to the Board’s when this blogger went down to his waterfront office to pick-up documents legally requested.

The Board was to meet this evening in private session to receive legal advice on any options it may have in the matter.

Please visit previous posts herein on the matter – beginning with January 17, 2018 in which Governor Paul LePage asked the Board of Commissioners to resign because of their anti-business attitude in increasing the rate increases for “The Cat.”  Also, please visit post herein dated November 16, 2017 on the matter.

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