The CBRM, Its Records and What the CBC Saw

Did you see that 28 October 2016 story by the CBC’s Paul Withers about the CBRM and its consultants?

It was the oddest thing.

moldy_files

CBRM records? (Photo by Asb at the German language Wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The “news” was that the CBRM has no record of the work done for it by the first pair of consultants it hired to promote the greenfield site as a potential container terminal. (That would be Ed Zimny and the improbably named Gordon Forsyth IV of New Jersey-based Paul F. Richardson and Associates.) Wrote Withers:

Consultants were paid nearly $200,000 to promote a proposed container terminal for Sydney, but the Cape Breton Regional Municipality—which paid the bill—has no record of what they did for the money.

Withers said the piece was based on an access to information request to the CBRM (which didn’t, presumably, cost the CBC $42,804.50).

Given that Zimny and Forsyth were paid that $188,000 over two years (2012-2013), that represents some pretty poor record-keeping on the part of the CBRM. I was interested to hear how Mayor Cecil Clarke would explain it. Here’s what he said:

That was part of my dissatisfaction. We didn’t have concrete file information. We didn’t have market data that was available in the files. It was all broad-based information. More like a PowerPoint.

We weren’t satisfied so we moved in a different direction.

Right, but, if you were dissatisfied for two years, why didn’t you demand more “concrete file information” (whatever that is)? Why didn’t you ask for market data? Why would you continue to pay consultants who didn’t provide what you considered to be proper documentation of their work?

 

And Heeeeeere’s Barry

We don’t get an answer to that, because Withers left the Mayor and turned to CBRM’s new “port consultant,” Barry Sheehy of Harbor Port Development Partners (HPDP), a company he and his longtime business partner Albert Barbusci founded a month before being granted exclusive rights to market the Port of Sydney. Sheehy took the opportunity to praise himself:

Over the last two years we have funded all our own efforts. We have funded these trips. We have funded these studies. So we have a significant stake in seeing this be successful.

Except, of course, that HPDP didn’t fund the Bechtel “pre-feasibility” study of the greenfield site, the Port of Sydney Development Corporation did, to the tune of $188,361.

Greenfield site or Novaporte, if you prefer.

The famous Port of Sydney greenfield site.

And HPDP didn’t fund work done by the Danish-based port consulting firm Industream. The Port of Sydney paid them $134,928.

And HPDP may have paid for its own trips (we don’t know, we’ve never seen any accounting of their generous spending on our behalf) but the CBRM and the Port of Sydney paid for the Mayor’s and the Port of Sydney paid for CEO Marlene Usher’s.

And the Port coughed up $60,000 to entertain “incoming Chinese delegations.”

All of which it paid for with money left over from the harbor dredge—money earmarked for new navigational aids for the harbor that we apparently no longer need.

As for what HPDP has accomplished, Sheehy said:

We haven’t delivered the shipper yet. It’s not an easy environment to deliver a shipper. But we’re confident it will happen … it has to happen. It’s so important for Cape Breton that this container port is successful.

To be clear: they haven’t delivered a shipper or a terminal operator, both of which are key to a container port.

And it doesn’t “have to happen.” I would like to think that because Cape Breton needs jobs and we are good and deserving people a shipping line and a terminal operator will take pity on us and set up operations here, but that is not how the business world works, and I assume Barry Sheehy knows that.

 

The Secret Port

Withers then spoke to NS Transport Minister Geoff MacLellan who stated that Paul F. Richardson and Associates are still working on bringing a container terminal to Sydney, in cooperation with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).

This is apparently true, and it’s pretty weird (think about it, Barbusci and Sheehy worked promoting our port in secret for 16 months before being officially contracted by the CBRM; now the former consultants are promoting our port in secret after having their contract terminated—no wonder it’s so difficult to bring transparency to the port file).

The Post has written about this several times—take this 17 June 2015 Nancy King story about the ILA writing CBRM Council to caution against giving HPDP exclusivity in promoting the port. King quotes James Paylor, who is one letter away from being a beloved American singer/songwriter but who is actually the Philadelphia-based ILA vice-president and who claimed the union and Paul F. Richardson Associates were currently in discussions “with an ocean carrier, an investment fund and a terminal operator ‘regarding a mutually beneficial Sydney-Delaware Bay opportunity.’”

Are Paul F. Richardson Associates being paid for their work? If so, who is paying them? If not, why are so many philanthropist port developers drawn to the CBRM?

 

Hop on FOIPOP

I thought things might become clear were I to see the information Withers received from his FOIPOP request to the CBRM.

I also thought municipal FOIPOPs worked like federal access to information requests, that is, once one has been answered, anyone may access the same information. But it turns out, that’s not the case.

Nova Scotia’s Privacy Commissioner says the CBRM has no obligation to share that information with me (information that has already been made public) unless I do my own FOIPOP. I have to pay $5 and could wait 30 days to see what the CBC has already accessed. It’s possible, if I word the request differently from Withers’ request, that I won’t see the same information.

But I will give it a try and let you know how it turns out.

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