Jenn Thompson, a city of Portland attorney with an office in the legal wing on the second floor at city hall, has been representing the Board of Harbor Commissioners in a lawsuit filed by “The Cat” she acknowledged in two telephone conversations this afternoon. A defensive Thompson said to this blogger: “I’m representing the Harbor Commission and the city has nothing to do with it.”
Except she is wrong. Portland tax payers pay her salary. City tax payers DO have something to do with it. A lot to do with the city’s support of excessive (65%) pilotage fee increases for The Cat. The Board also failed to follow the correct process – in a city where process matters.
At issue is that the Portland Pirates are charging The Cat, d/b/a Bay Ferries, Ltd., the excessive pilotage fee rate although the Superior Court declared the rate increase illegal and “vacated” the increase. The reason given by Judge Lance Walker is that the Portland Pilots refused to justify their need for the excessive rate increase before the Board of Commissioners. The lawsuit was filed against the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the Portland Pilots by attorney Harold Pachios, of Preti Flaherty.
The Portland Pirates is a monopoly in Casco Bay. Furthermore, the State also requires that ships in Casco Bay use pilot services in and out of the Bay. In other words, ships can’t search the waterfront for a better price than offered by the Pirates. Is price gouging “fair and reasonable” and in the best public interests, Jenn?
In response, city attorney Jenn Thompson filed an appeal in June on behalf of the Board to try to get the Court to permit the excessive rate increase. Since the unresolved appeal was filed by Thompson, the Portland Pirates have continued to charge The Cat the already Superior Court illegal fee. Furthermore, the Pirates have threatened to interrupt ferry service in Casco Bay if the illegally high fee is not paid by The Cat. (That is something that Bay Ferries officials do not want their passengers to experience).
The appeal filed by city attorney Thompson is a stalling tactic because it is unlikely to be resolved until mid-October or so when The Cat season is over. If she did not support the appeal, she could have withdrawn from the case. It’s clear to this blogger that many Portland taxpayers do not support the city’s pursuit of this lawsuit against the popular Cat. The Portland Pirates do not seem to have the same popular image enjoyed by The Cat. Certainly, the Board/City has not been at all transparent with this blogger on getting information on the case – from the start of the matter. Why haven’t the “local rags” written about the lawsuit at all? Hmmm!
Governor Paul LePage recently urged all of the Board of Harbor Commissioner members to resign their positions because of their “anti-business” attitude. LePage wrote individual letters board members, including chair Dobbins, expressing this – an option they ignored.
Twain Braden, Esq., attorney for the Portland Pirates, did not return a telephone call to this blogger for his comment.
The Bar Harbor Town Manager has confirmed that Bay Ferries Ltd. will make a presentation to the town council tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm. Under consideration is the possibility of re-establishing ferry service to Nova Scotia from Bar Harbor.
** UPDATED: According to an article in the digital issue of Mainebiz today, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the presentation tonight by Mark McDonald CEO of Bay Ferries to the Bar Harbor Town Council includes a proposal of a $1 Million, five year lease of a town-owned marine terminal. Bay Ferries would pay rent of at least $200,000. per year. The company would also make $3 million in improvements to the property including dock ramp pilings, building renovations and parking upgrades. The ferry service would begin in June of 2019 using the current 349- foot catamaran currently used here in Portland and Portland service would be discontinued. The Bar Harbor route is 106 miles long, 80 miles shorter than the Portland voyage. That would make the total cost of the voyage less expensive than the Portland trip.