Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sleeping Side: Snookered by the BDC

We’re sorry to tell you that your trusty correspondent has been snookered, by the BDC, of all things.  Not that it takes much snookering to catch us trying to avoid seeing things.

A friend contacted us last week to tell us of the BDC meeting scheduled for last Wednesday (October 16) at noon in the McClellan building, which is how the organization does their best to maximize public attendance.  He said he wouldn’t be able to make it, and would Side consider filling in.

We decided we’d look at the meeting agenda before committing to make the trip and attend.  Here’s what the agenda showed:


1. Call to Order; L. Darcy; 12:00 PM

2. Approval of Minutes of September 18, 2013;  B. Morrell

3. Officer’s Reports; J. Favreau
      a. Treasurer’s Report

4. Executive Session pursuant to 1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(C); 12:10 PM

5. Old Business
      a. BDC By‐laws Amendments Discussion,
      Conflict of Interest Policy, Code of Ethics
      (to be taken up after New Business at 1:45 PM)

6. New Business
      a. Brunswick Downtown Association Proposal; 1:20 PM

7. Agenda Items for Next Meeting

8. Adjourn 2:00 PM

Silly us, more or less asleep on the bricks, we read this to mean the “Executive Session,” scheduled to last for an hour and ten minutes, would be to deal with revising the By-laws, as Johnny Protocols, one of the directors, has recommended and promised.  Sitting around while that went on behind closed doors didn’t sound like our idea of a good time.

Not only that, but we didn’t bother to look up the statutory reference, assuming it would be inconsequential.  To make matters worse, we failed to notice this last attachment item at the bottom of the agenda:

Confidential Business Proposals (to be distributed)

Obviously, we would have had access to them; we are not among those ‘to whom it has been revealed.’

So imagine our surprise when we read that the whole By-laws thing had been blown off because of ‘time restrictions,’ and that to make up for that disappointment, nearly $600 thousand in loans and grants had been approved and dispensed.

Apparently THAT’S what the Executive Session was about.  Which means if we HAD attended, we wouldn’t have heard any of that discussion, nor would we have had access to the “confidential business proposals.”

Thoroughly embarrassed by this gaffe, we went back to the agenda to see just how badly we had muffed it.  And this time, we looked up the statutory citation (1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(C)); this is what we found:

Discussion or consideration of the condition, acquisition or the use of real or personal property permanently attached to real property or interests therein or disposition of publicly held property, or economic development only if premature disclosures of the information would prejudice the competitive or bargaining position of the body or agency; [1987, c. 477, §3 (AMD).]  (emphasis ours)

Clearly, the first part of that passage is completely unrelated to the Executive Session that was called.  And the second part, which we have highlighted for your edification, is a stretch beyond imagining in any sense of prejudicing ‘competitive or bargaining position’ of the BDC.


Unless, that is, you have the chutzpah of an attorney with years of legislative experience, including say, Speaker of the House, like one Johnny Protocols, who is on the BDC board.  Couple that with the knowledge that no-one will be taken to task or held accountable, and  you have another classic case of Brunswick Sausage in the making.

Now let’s take a look at the monies that were dispensed in the name of servicing the public trust:

  • The Brunswick Downtown Association was given a grant of $250,000, which they are free to dispense in small amounts to businesses and commercial property owners for cosmetic or aesthetic improvements, seemingly without further oversight by the BDC.
  • At Last, a Park Row beauty salon, was given a loan of $34,500, half of which is forgivable.  Our days of visiting such establishmenst are long over, and we have no knowledge of their business model and viability.
  • Gelato Fiasco, a well known success on Maine Street, and recipient of prior monies from the BDC, was given a loan for $156,000, half of which is forgivable.
  • Frosty’s Donuts, one of our very own favorite in town originals, was given a loan of $137,500, half of which is forgivable, for renovations and two new vehicles.

So there you have it; $578,000 dispensed in a mere hour or so, with no public involvement, of which $414,000 is either unconditionally granted, or forgivable.

The real issues that should raise eyebrows are these; they certainly make ours go all aflutter.

  • Does anyone really think that Gelato Fiasco, which has been booming almost right from the start, and has, we believe, 300 plus outlets through which they are selling their wares, including outside of Maine, doesn’t have the cash flow and business model more than sufficient to get a commercial business loan?  Do they really need and deserve another outright gift of $78,000, on top of the prior granted amounts?
  • Does Frosty’s, by the same token, which now has four locations, not have the cash flow and fundamentals to secure a commercial business loan?  Should they receive an outright gift of $68,750 in public funds?

While we’re at it, we have one more question.  Does anyone really believe that the idea of a fully forgivable $247,000 loan to Brunswick Taxi, ‘owned’ by the husband of outgoing council chair Joanne King, just popped up out of thin air, well after she had left office, and the board of BDC?  Or doubt that Johnny Protocols played a key role in this ‘thin air’ opportunity?

For those more curious than we, you could always contact current council chair Suzan Wilson and ask about such things.  No doubt she’d flash her three donkey Back Side award, and tell you that:

“I don't think you need to be upset.  Bigger fish to fry.  Tempest in a teapot, in my humble opinion.  Regardless, it is/was not a Town "loan" ; or taxpayer money.”

Even though the town of Brunswick is the sole member of the BDC, and that were it to be disestablished, all monies remaining in their accounts would become property of the town.

Nothing to see hear folks; just keep moving along.

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