Friday, February 19, 2010

Afterthoughts on “Bailey Bails”

…..and Oxford takes off

I’ve got more to say.  I know, “there’s a surprise,” right?  I hope you won’t hold me to a five minute limit.

First, let’s set the stage with this hazily remembered dollop of advice for attorneys, source unrecalled: 

“If you have the facts on your side, make your argument to the jury; if you have the law on your side, make your argument to the judge; if you have neither, make your argument to the press.”

What follows will probably come across as a bit higher in pitch than the usual droll Other Side columns, and that’s because the more I reflected on Wednesday’s report, the tighter the knot in my knickers became.  So I’m gonna do what I can to unknot them.

When you visit here, you have to expect that my lack of elite journalism credentials can result in a loss of personal discipline from time to time.  And that my petty personal views might mix in with my otherwise superbly objective reporting.

This, dear readers, and those of you not covered by that appellation, is one of those times.  As I said in the early days:

  • While you may visit here and come across the goring of an ox, the skewering of a sacred cow, the beating of a dead horse, someone barking at the moon, the temptation of the lemmings, the plucking of a peacock, or the trampling of a slithering snake in the grass, rest assured that only dummy animals have been used.
  • Should you encounter someone squealing like a stuck pig or running around like a chicken with their head cut off after reading something here, their injuries are self-inflicted.

In other words, don’t expect to find pinky up, cocktail party, make nice chit chat here.  It’s not who I am, and besides, you’ve got plenty of options if that’s all you want.  There are plenty of others  vulnerable to the “do you know who I am” ploy, and we see it all the time.  You may even know who and what they are.

So, let’s get on with it.  Rereading the article made some larger messages come through, and exposed a squealing pig or two.  So it’s only right we report on them.

Lazy pajama clad amateur that I am, I’m going to cop out and resort to a bulleted list of semi-unorganized points, rather than waste time trying to make my editor and publisher happy.

  • One wonders why the local daily paper, oblivious as it was to the Oxford/Bailey story for months and months, suddenly had the scoop on the stage left appearance of Bailey as the makeover man for Oxford, followed by his sudden exit stage right, as reported Wednesday.  Some might speculate that the MRRA has been toying with the local media outlets in a tissy fit of news management, but there’s nothing to confirm that.
  • The local paper’s indifference toward this story over the months (until now, that is) is understandable; there were fender-benders to report on; and scenic photos to take.  Snooping around in the public business domain is icky, and it threatens your connections and access with the anointed.
  • Bailey talked of persuading investors to put up “immense start up costs” to get under way with his plan.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen or heard the word “immense” in all the time this story has been on the radar screen.  No mention of it from MRRA; no mention of Oxford having access to such resources; no word from the Governor’s office of providing “immense” stimulus funds for the project.  So where were the “immense start up costs” going to come from before Bailey decided to find investors?  I’ll give you three guesses – go ahead.  Nope, wrong.  Nope, wrong again. Bingo! – the person in your mirror.
  • On the same note, could it be that the alleged investors Bailey had lined up came to the same conclusion as OSO LLC, the investment firm that once considered backing Oxford and their ill-fated Sanford undertaking?  Do you notice a pattern here?
  • Bailey wrote in a letter to the MRRA that Town Councilors Ben Tucker and Margo Knight “did not know what they were talking about and didn’t care enough to make an even-handed inquiry of Jim Horowitz, or me, or both of us.”  This seems like quite a departure for Bailey, who built a career in which he and his client worked together with expert witnesses to make their case to a jury; a jury that could not ask questions of them.  Now he’s complaining that the jury should have asked questions?  And that they aren’t experts?  Excuuuuse me??
  • Bailey further refers to “public and truculent offensive statements of certain quoted Brunswick officials.”  Wow!  He hasn’t lost his touch for hyperbole, even if he has no touch for written expression.  Once again, why didn’t Bailey and friends take advantage of bargain rates on full page ads in the local press to set the record straight?  If the public and local officials were so misinformed, why didn’t he do anything about it?  Why didn’t he walk in to the court of public opinion and ply his trade?
  • Add to the mix Jim Horowitz’s comments that he felt compelled to focus on his current resources because of the suspicions and negative reporting in publications and at town meetings.  Oh please.  Why not correct the record instead, and stand up for yourself and your employees?
  • And why didn’t the MRRA, Bailey/Oxford’s sponsors and advocates, step in to correct the record either?
  • Bailey and the MRRA clearly had access to every media outlet in the region, including the local network outlets, one of whom ran a lengthy and largely flattering interview of Bailey.  If he believed the facts of the Oxford proposal and their prior performance were in error, he had every chance to publicly correct them.  Perhaps he didn’t keep good records of his efforts documenting Oxford’s qualifications for world-class investment; that’s a common problem these days.
  • In the Wednesday report, reference is made to the difficulty of countermanding information on the internet, specifically referring to an “anti-business” climate in Brunswick.  Let this reporter note that the very same phenomenon is what put Oxford and Bailey in an untenable position.  The public record is a wondrous thing in such matters.  If that record was wrong, Bailey and friends surely had the resources and expertise to change perceptions.  Bailey has worked some “magic” in the past; was Oxford a challenge bigger than O. Juice?
  • All things considered, it would not surprise us if readers suggested that the really burning questions should be directed towards the MRRA.  Do they have the core competencies required to deal in competitive business reality, and to protect the public interests?  Are they capable of avoiding the vulnerabilities that obtain when working with other peoples’ money in a caving local economy?  Do they grasp the concept of due diligence?

Here’s the record from this reporter’s view as they advocated for public support of Oxford, and then the remade Bailey/Oxford:

  • From the beginning, they refused to reveal any of the specifics of the Oxford “negotiations,” hiding behind lawyers when asked about the “memorandum of understanding.”
  • They slow rolled the ongoing “due diligence” distraction beyond the point of credibility, and never once gave any inkling of the results, other than as one might infer from the sudden appearance of Bailey as the new head of the proposal.  If they had done half the “due diligence” the Forecaster and others did, the whole charade never would have gotten this far.
  • They were AWOL with respect to correcting the public perceptions and public record of Oxford Aviation, if that was in fact what was called for.  They seemed oblivious to the most obvious reports and concerns.
  • They stood by unphased as Oxford blatantly misrepresented the state of the deal with MRRA on their web site, and even worse, showed themselves occupying the entire Hangar 6, when the MOU, according to the MRRA, covered only half of the hangar.
  • They turned the other cheek when Oxford callously and deceitfully held a job fair a year ago that touted 200 job openings beginning in June of last year at the new facility. The MRRA knew beyond a shadow of any doubt that Oxford could not possibly be in place with any sort of operation anywhere close to June of last year, yet allowed the deception to take place, cruelly building false hopes in job seekers.  Was this simply incompetence, or did the MRRA like the whole idea as a PR ploy in the community, no matter how many it harmed?
  • They artfully took the monkey off their back and placed it on the town council’s in recent weeks by announcing they would need quick action on a CDBG for Bailey’s hastily reconstructed plan.  Having successfully avoided any vote of their own, and any news on the due diligence front, the MRRA kicked the first public decision from their court into that of town officials, who had previously been told they were not relevant to the plans for the base.  Nice trick, that.
  • Now the MRRA is acting like innocent benefactors wronged by unthinking and unknowing local officials.  Geez; imagine how bad this might have been if we’d have allowed politicians to be involved in the process.

As to “due diligence,” there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t be completed in a matter of weeks.  You use services like Dunn & Bradstreet and other modern resources; you ask for documents; you assess prior business commitments.  And then you do a similar look into the business sector, to find out whether the market is underserved, and what the competitive landscape looks like.  The internet makes this so easy even a caveman could do it.  And you back that up with research data from sources that do it for a living. 

Most of all, you demand a business case, with financing details and revenue projections.  At least you do if you’re concerned about making a wise investment with public funds.

Now there won’t be a need for a council vote; my hope is that the council would have demanded the basics of the above due diligence info before agreeing to do so.  They could buy a Dunn & Bradstreet reort on the web, for gosh sakes.  Instead, Bailey and Oxford and the MRRA, concerned about the vote, which would have focused the attention on them, have decided to avoid that exposure and cast blame on the councilors who expressed concern.  I mean, how dare they doubt Bailey and friends?

In so many words, the MRRA never effectively led or managed this situation, and they let the trap be set.  And then they walked into it.  They have no one to blame but themselves.  If they were looking for a quick score, they found out what can happen.  Whether they will learn anything from it remains to be seen.

Under the circumstances, casting invective at an appropriately, and thankfully, skeptical and cautious town council is Bravo Sierra.

Ironically, the town council deserves a “Bravo Zulu” instead.

So there you have the “polite” view.  The decorum and other obvious constraints of this medium have forced me to mince my punches and pull my words.

If you want to know what I really think, let me know, and I’ll change out of my pajamas and meet you downtown for a beverage of your choice at my expense, and I’ll give you the “rest of the story.”

And for any town councilor unafraid of being seen in my company, that offer extends to you as well.

Hmmm; maybe I should worry what will happen to Other Side if we’re seen in their company!

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