28june2010: SWSDA's Anderson booted from Industrial Commission and World Trade Centre...the once-powerful South West Nova economic czar Frank Anderson seems to have met his Waterloo in the form of the current NDP government and has become somewhat of a pariah in government circles. Anderson has been embroiled in a series of lawsuits over recent years, was the subject of a complaint to and investigation by the Ombudsmans Office and a government-provoked audit has been publicly rebuked by Premier Darrell Dexter and privately by senior government staffers.
Recently, the government stripped Anderson of his prestigious board membership in World Trade Centre in Halifax and the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission (YAIC) announced last week he had been let go as CEO, where, according to the Ombudsman, he oversaw the agency's predeliction for back-room deals, questionable financial transactions and other dealings. YAIC general manager, port manager and former senior SWSDA staffer Dave Whiting will do double duty as GM/CEO.
AllNovaScotia reported that Anderson made a proposal to the YAIC to keep his job, but was rebuffed by the agency board.
"He's finished doing business around here," said one economic development official of the beleagured Anderson. Word in local government circles is that any meeting involving government funding will not take place if Anderson is present. The full extent of repercussions from Anderson's peculiar style of doing business is yet to be felt, if recent reports are at all accurate.
A construction company is owed $370,000 Anderson allegedly spent on other projects, the local tourism committee committee is complaining to SWSDA of monies gone awry and consultant bills not paid and the current tenants of the Sandy Point sound stage appear to have cleared out for good after racking up $66,000 in unpaid mortgage fees and $150,000+ in unpaid taxes. Apparently, the pair of American land speculators have allowed the once multi-million dollar property to degrade under their watch so that it would bring "less than half a million", according to a source familiar with the property
There is also speculation that a recent forensic audit of SWSDA's books from the Anderson years might also result in further investigation by the RCMP, with the potential for criminal charges being laid. Economical Development Minister Percy Paris was reported on Friday to say that the nine municipal units which comprised SWSDA have to bear the full weight and responsibility for the economic consequences of Anderson's actions.
june2010: Deep Horizons oil gusher editorial elicits responses from NoRigs, others..."We believe that a large spill in a much smaller ecosystem like Georges Bank with its gyre currents would demonstrate Georges Bank has less resiliency than the Gulf of Mexico."... >>> see all letters
9june2010: July drunk driving court date for movie mogul.... not satisfied with producing the world's worst-ever YouTube videos and a near-nude fisherman's calendar of the same calibre, Yankee trader Jim Kendrick is reported by Frank Magazine to have a date with the judge in Yarmouth on July 8 to face the music on at least two drunk driving arrests. If Kendrick decides to show his face again in these parts, I guess that means walking to town or staying out at the Sea Side Inn and playing mini-golf. The pair is also reputed to be two years in arrears on taxes and $44,000 behind on mortgage payments to SWSDA.
With SWSDA's new slogan of "We spend your money like it's our money, hard to tell how many hundreds of thousands of dollars CEO Frank Anderson will let Kendrick and his muse rack up before Anderson comes to folks in Shelburne County, claiming it is really we that owe him the money?
9june2010: Shelburne amalgamation meeting delivers some surprises... The Shelburne Town Council hosted a meeting Tuesday night as a run-up to the inevitable amalgamation which will take place locally in the nest few years. The meeting was run by a consulting firm hired by the Council and was attended by more than one hundred citizens, many of them with questions which remained unanswered after all was said and done.
After admitting that they were surprised that the overwhelming majority of attendees saw the recent newsletter as a pro-amalgamation piece, and after fielding several questions challenging their methodology, the consultants seemed to get a bit thin-skinned and refused to answer some questions.
Several Municipal councilors and warden Sherm Embree were there, as was Mayor Darian Huskilson of Lockeport, who accused the Town and consultants of putting the cart before the horse in the amalgamation discussion. Huskilson was recently taken to task publicly for a churlish "pound sand" response to an invitation to Lockeport to engage in a discussion about amalgamation.
Following a series of small-table discussions, the audience was asked to prioritize their concerns in possible amalgamation. The delivery of services ranked highest, with cost concerns a close second. Issues about representation polled a distant third. Huskilson's group suggested that the towns of Lockeport and Shelburne amalgamate and the Municipality be made to disappear.
21may2010: Belliveau pitching cabinet for $500,000 SWSDA bailout... All Nova Scotia is reporting Friday that Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau is trying to convince his cabinet colleagues to bail out the beleagured South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and CEO Frank Anderson. Anderson has asked for the additional half-million to pay pressing bills, including $370,000 from a Tusket project whose funds Anderson spent elsewhere. Some sources say that Garian Construction may have threatened to sue SWSDA and the province if their long-overdue payment is not forthcoming.
As a Barrington municipal warden, Belliveau was a strong supporter of Anderson and SWSDA. Since donning the ndipper orange, the MLA has taken a less friendly stance.
18may2010: Hurlburt likely to face criminal investigation... Auditor General Jacques Lapointe announced Tuesday that he was referring the files of four former and one sitting MLA whom he found "may have committed illegal acts related to their constituency expense claims." Lapointe added, " Due to the serious nature of my findings, I determined it would not be appropriate for my Office to continue to do additional work in regard to these specific individuals. Accordingly, we referred our investigation files for these five individuals to the RCMP for criminal investigation.
Former Yarmouth Tory MLA Richard Hurlburt quit his post suddenly several weeks ago in the wake of an initial audit and report on expenses by Lapointe. The criminal probe would be based upon additional information acquired by Lapointe and is likely to also include MLAs Dave Wilson (Liberal) and Trevor Zinck (NDP).
Any investigation surrounding Hurlburt is likely to include allegations that he acquired generators, TV sets, security systems, etc. in an illegal fashion using his MLA expense capacity. There is no indication whether the AG or RCMP will investigate Hurlburt's personal relationships with executives of the Quebec-based airline which received $2 million from the former Tory government based upon Hurlburt's prodding. The funds were used 400% more quickly than planned and the NDP goverment said that there would be an audit.
Hurlburt told CBC News Tuesday that he has heard nothing from either the auditor general or the RCMP. He reportedly declined to answer any questions about his spending.
14may2010: NS pols not impressed with moratorium decision... amid all of the hoopla about the NDP governments "no decision" decsion about the Georges Bank moratorium, Nova Scotia MLAs - and would be MLAs - weighed in on their take on the announcement by Premier Dexter that drilling would be banned until 2015.
A campaign worker Belle Hatfield, independent hopeful in the Yarmouth riding vacated by disgraced MLA and former minister Richard Hurlburt, responded to a query from SCT saying she had a comment posted on her Facebook page. "No surprise, the government is extending the Georges Bank moratorium," says Hatfield, " What took [Fisheries and Environment Minister Sterling Bellivea] so long to stand with his constituents in support for the extension?" Hatfield says that the decision smacks of. "More evidence that party discipline will always trump representation," Hatfield adds.
"Of course we support having an extension of the moratorium," said Liberal leader Stephen McNeil, in an exclusive interview with SCT, "but there are a lot of unanswered questions. "Since it is obvious that no new science or other data has been gained by the government on the issue since they took office, why have they put the fishing communities in Nova Scotia through all of these months of anxiety?"
McNeil also questioned why the government did not match the U.S. ban on Georges Bank through 2017. "The people of Nova Scotia deserve to know all of the answers here, not just those which support what appears to be a political decision."
Some fishing industry officials also expressed their disappointment in the decision on Thursday.
14may2010: Google tool shows oil spill footprint... Goggle engineer Paul Rademacher has created a Google widget which shows how much of your town would be covered by the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some samples...
13may2010: Georges ban oil and gas ban extended through 2015.... A moratorium on oil and gas exploration on Georges Bank has been extended for three years by the federal and Nova Scotia governments. Premier Darrell Dexter announced today that the moratorium is being extended until Dec. 31, 2015.
Dexter has said the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought the matter of offshore drilling activity to the forefront of public discussion. Nova Scotia fishermen who fear potential damage to fish stocks support the moratorium, in place since 1988.
“We are disappointed that the NDP government has chosen not to align its moratorium with the one until 2017 recently announced by President Obama in the United States,” says Denny Morrow with NoRigs3 Coalition. “We thought that five years would be the minimal extension period and we wonder why the government chose such a short extension. NoRigs intends to be vigilant in working with governments to continue to protect Georges Bank indefinitely and to protect the cooperative relationship with the U.S.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has extended until 2017 the moratorium on the much larger American side of the fishing grounds between Nova Scotia and Maine.
12may2010: Georges Bank announcement expected Thursday.. several media sources in Halifax are informally reporting that word has circulated that Premier Darrell Dexter will announce the government's decision Thursday morning regarding the extension of the current oil and gas development prohibition on Georges Bank (expires in 2012).
Given the on-going disaster from a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the lack of any credible scientific evidence which says seismic testing and oil and gas exploration is safe for fish and other marine life, it is expected that the government will announce an extension of the ban at least through 2017, which coincides with the current U.S. ban.
A long-time political observer noted that lifting the moratorium would be "political suicide" for the NDP government and, given the lack of any scientific or technological justification, even creating a review panel could create a firestorm of criticism.
A news release issues today by the NoRigs3 Coalition pleaded for an indefinite extension of the moratorium.
12may2010: Barrington muni says no to Georges Bank drilling... in a unanimous vote on a motion by Councilor Shaun Hatfield, the Barrington Municipal Council this week voted to inform Environment and Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau that the currently oil and gas exploration and development moratorium on Georges Bank should not be lifted.
12may2010: Bail out SWSDA mess again, says d'Entremont... in what many political observers in South West Nova Scotia are seeing as a "no-win game" for former Tory minister and Argyle MLA Chris D'Entremont, the opposition member is now telling the NDP government to bail out political friend Frank Anderson and his embattled SWSDA organization to the tune of $500,000, according to a allNovaScotia.com report today
Calling the governments refusal to pay for missing monies in the reportedly "messy" SWSDA accounting system a "personality conflict", d'Entremont's comments were not well received by government officials. Chris D'entrement says if there is any money missing, Anderson probably spent it on other positive projects demanded by the previous government.
Economic Development Minister Percy Paris reportedly said "'we're not paying twice for it." (the Tusket community centre project). Premier Darrell Dexter says there are difficult questions about how money was managed and where monies went. "We don't know what exactly is going on with SWSDA".
Saying that the region has been done a disservice, Dexter also said that it was SWSDA's mess" and was for SWSDA to clean up. SWSDA and Anderson have been the subject of several audits and investigations over the past year, including one from the Ombudsman referred to the RCMP.
12may2010: Yarmouth to have independent candidate for MLA spot... former Vanguard deputy editor Belle Hatfield has tossed her eater bonnet into the ring for the upcoming by-election in Yarmouth to fill the seat of Richard Hurlburt, who resigned after becoming the poster boy for the MLA expense scandal.
Telling CBC Radio that Yarmouth's status has steadily degraded under the eight years of Hurlburt's care in the assembly, Hatfield said there was a strong aura of mistrust and disgust in the Yarmouth area from the attitude of entitlement displayed by MLAs regarding expenses and expense claims.
Hurlburt is part of a now-completed and exhaustive investigation by Auditor General Jaques Lapointe, who some say is likely to recommend criminal proceedings in the most egregious of the MLA expense violations. Because of the outrageous nature of some of his expenses, Hurlburt was named by CBC as a leading contender for further action.
Hatfield is part of a long-time Tory family and is the sister to famed Yarmouth lawyer Cliff Hood, who was one of the architects with Hurlburt and embattled SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson in the "Oceans First Task Force." As a result of investigative reporting by SCT, the project was discovered to be a sham designed to provide backing and support for the Department of Energy headed by Hurlburt in their quest to drill for oil and gas on Georges Bank.
After a bogus and luxurious fact-finding trip to Norway by Hurlburt and staff, Hood, Anderson and others, and without the agreement or knowledge of Oceans First members, Hood issued a news release saying that the group had determined that oil and gas development would not impact the fisheries or ecosystem on Georges Bank. One of the first actions of the new NDP government was to axe the project.
Hatfield will compete with Liberal candidate Zack Churchill. Former Mayor Charles Crosby has indicated he will run for the Tories and the NDP has not announced a candidate. It is thought by some observers that the announcement of the bye-election will coincide with a decision on the Georges Bank Moratorium.
8may2010: Another $367,000 missing from SWSDA's books?... Frank Anderson at centre of yet another financial scandal... emergency meeting called... audit being withheld... $1.75 million SeaCoast mortgage likely to default... pitch to government to forgive $450,000 loan.... Word is out now after being hushed for two months or more by the NDP government that, under embattled CEO Frank Anderson's direction, the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) is overdue more than $367,000 on a final payment to Garian Construction Ltd. for the development of Ecole Secondaire de Par-en-Bas project.
A senior Department of Economic Development official confirmed to SCT Friday that they have known for two months or more that federal, provincial and federal monies which are required to be segregated from SWSDA's operating funds have gone missing and are unavailable to pay the final payment on the $3 million-plus project in Tusket, which includes a community centre and 300-seat auditorium/theatre.
The official confirmed that the department has also recently received the financial audit of SWSDA's books, but refused to say if or when the audit would be shared with SWSDA board members or public and press. "I wouldn't be surprised if there were criminal charges coming out of this," said a source familiar with SWSDA's operation. The audit was demanded by the Ombudsman's Office after a year-long investigation of SWSDA and Anderson. The investigated was sparked by citizen complaint after a previous 500-person petition to the Rodney MacDonald government was ignored.
Unbeknownst to his board of directors, Anderson has apparently also appealed to the government for a bailout on the missing funds and has suggested that the loan could be repaid from the $22,000 per month now due on the questionable sale of the former Canadian Forces property at Sandy Point to a pair of American land speculators. Only one of the pair is allowed entry into Canada now, as the other partner was arrested in Shelburne for drunk driving last year and has apparently told local officials that he cannot enter the country legally.
Mary Barstow visited Nova Scotia some weeks ago with some funding partners in tow and reportedly met with Anderson and also with lawyers in order to delay or avoid payments on the property Anderson gave the couple a "sweetheart deal" on the property, which included two years of no payments. The sale was invetigated by the Ombudsman, who referred his concerns to the RCMP. "Hell, they haven;t even paid taxes on the property for two years," says a source familiar with the situation, "and the property looks like it is abandoned, so how are they going to make payments of a quarter a million a year?"
News reports state that Anderson has also approached the government to forgive (or convert to a grant) the $450,000 loan he negotiated just after SWSDA acquired the property more than decade ago. There has never been an accounting of the monies nor any attempt to repay any portion of the loan. Such a move would require approval of cabinet, which would seem unlikely under the current regime.
Premier Darrel Dexter told the assembly and a media scrum following recently that Anderson was largely the cause of much of the economic havoc in this region and that he had no intention of further funding organizations headed up by Anderson. Since Anderson was driven out of Shelburne County economic development recently, the recent creation of Team Southwest is seen by many in the region as a concoction by Anderson and MP Greg Kerr to further establish Yarmouth's domination of the regional development apparatus. "It's just a way to suck money, time and attention out of Shelburne County and other places, while most of the development funds flow to Yarmouth," said one disillusioned economic development expert.
8may2010: Drilling for oil and Belliveau's broken word... Nova Scotia Fisheries and Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau, picking up on several years of low-key oil company pressure on the issue, mused a couple of weeks ago about fish and oil being able to co-exist as the deadline to review the Georges Bank moratorium on drilling loomed. That went around the coast here like political oil slick. Belliveau, MLA for Shelburne, had championed the no-drilling-on-Georges campaign. Now, he had "become a politician," and broken his word. >>> read Ralph Surette's column
6may2010: Not worth the risk to drill on Georges, says Herald editorial... with the black eye for the oil industry growing each day visible from space, the full force of the man-made disaster in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, fire and spill still not evident, the PR disaster is in full swing and politicians are in full retreat... >>> read editorial.
6may2010: Renew moratorium now, say Stoffer, Regan and others.... win exclusive interviews with SCT, federal fisheries critic and MP (NDP) from Sackville-Eastern Shore Peter Stoffer and Halifax-West (liberal) MP Geoff Regan encouraged the Dexter government to extend the Georges Bank oil and gas development moratorium. Stoffer repeated his plea to the Nova Scotia government to renew the Georges Bank moratorium "sooner than later". Stoffer told SCT that he has sent letters to Nova Scotia Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks and federal Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis imploring them to immediately extend the moratorium, which is due to expire in 2012.
In 2008, Stoffer joined Darrell Dexter and MLA (now Fisheries and Environment Minister) Sterling Belliveau at a news conference in Barrington Passage, where they all pledged to fight to renew the moratorium. Both Belliveau and Dexter subsequently backed away from those campaign promises recently as the government appeared to position itself to OK drilling on Georges Bank.
After days of badgering in the assembly during question period, Belliveau relented on Tuesday and now says he is lobbying cabinet colleagues to extend the drilling ban. Belliveau told media on Wednesay that his constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to drilling on Georges Bank.
In a telephone interview from Ottawa, Regan also told SCT that he believes the moratorium should be extended immediately. "Although we all agree that petroleum extraction and production needs to be an important part of the economic future of Nova Scotia," said Regan, "there are simply too much risks in damaging such a valuable and productive fishing ground as Georges Bank."
6may2010: Dept of Energy says government not committed to public review of drilling decision... in a Gloucester Times story by noted fisheries reporter Richard Gaines, senior Department of Energy official Matt Lumley says that, "The decision whether or not to hold a public review is independent of whether to extend the moratorium." This appears to be an abrupt change of policy for the NDP government, whose Energy, Fisheries and Environment ministers have been insisting any decision to drill will be based on the scientific evidence at hand.
In 1999, the public review panel reviewing the moratorium issue said in part that the science presented at the time did not justify the risk from oil and gas exploration on the pristine habitat.
22apr2010: Ecological risk grows as Deepwater Horizon oil rig sinks in Gulf... with the rig now sunk and the fire out, concerns are now growing that the situation could mirror a deep-water spill caused by a fire on the West Atlas rig off Australia last year, which environmentalists likened to a "disaster movie."
22apr2010: Big oil spill possible from sunken rig... The oil rig in Louisiana that exploded, caught fire and then sank 36 hours later could lead to a major oil spill, officials said Thursday.
22apr2010: Offshore oil rig sinks, 11 missing workers now presumed dead... 330,000 gallons of crude oil a day possibly leaking... 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel on sunken rig... >>> see Houston Chronicle story >>> see Wall Street Journal story
22apr2010: Horrific drilling blowout, critical injuries and 11 workers missing at sea should be warning to Nova Scotia on Georges Bank drilling plans.... A massive explosion and fire on an offshore oil rig should be a dire warning to the Nova Scotia government as they prepare to recommend oil and gas exploration on Georges Bank, say fishing industry and environmental sources... Eleven oil and gas drilling workers are lost at sea and seventeen of their colleagues are injured - three critically - after a massive explosion and fire on a state-of-the-art offshore drilling off the Louisiana coast. The smoke plume from the fire extends 10,000 feet in the air and there are 13,000 gallons of crude oil burning every hour, according to news reports.
20apr2010: Tories want Georges Bank review... NDP govt refuses to disclose drilling plans... Citing the impending end to the 10-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration on the pristine fisheries and ecosystem on Georges Bank, Conservative Cape Breton MLA Cecil Clarke offered a resolution on April 13 in the House of Assembly calling for the Energy Minister to immediately convene a scientific panel to review the issues surrounding the moratorium. Several NDP MLAs opposed the resolution and it was tabled.
Open for business... Two days later in the House, Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks defended the government position of being "open for business" regarding offshore oil and gas development and said that "sensitive" talks were ongoing behind the scenes, but refused to disclose details to his colleagues. He told fellow MLAs that the government would reach a decision about Georges Bank oil and gas development by June 1. Terms of the he current moratorium require that the Provincial and Federal governments to make a decision about convening another panel by June 30. [see Hansard here]
Over my dead body... Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister and Shelburne County NDP MLA Sterling Belliveau appears to have a dramatic change of heart about protecting Georges Bank from oil and gas development. During both of his election campaigns Belliveau stated that he and his government would allow oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank "over my dead body". In a recent House session Belliveau refused to disclose the government's policy on drilling for oil and gas on Georges Bank when queried by Digby MLA Junior Theriault. [see Hansard here] Belliveau now says privately that he is personally opposed to drilling, but will support a government decision to develop oil and gas on Georges Bank.
14apr2010: Ch-ch-ch-changes... Barrington warden quits... Shelburne hires new clerk... In a move that surprised some council members, Barrington warden Louise Halliday resigned suddenly from her post Monday evening at a council meeting. With only a cryptic item of "resignation letter" on the agenda, some of her fellow council members and most of the dozen or more spectators had no idea that the warden would resign and be replaced with Councilor George El-Jakl in a 4-3 vote opposing Councilor Shaun Hatfield.
Warden Halliday had made no secret in past months about her growing displeasure at the helm of the municipality and her letter stated that she was unable to devote the time required for the job. Several observers say that a more likely reason is the criticism the warden has faced over past year from media and citizens.
During some very fractious council meetings regarding questionable land deals involving the Yarmouth Industrial Commission, the Regional Development Authority and development czar Frank Anderson, Halliday appeared quite defensive and unprepared for the public criticism she faced. Two separate requests have been filed recently with the Ombudsman's Office to further investigate the council's role on the mink farm land deals. The telephone at Halliday's home remained unanswered during several attempts to interview her.
The Town of Shelburne's search for a new clerk is over with the appointment of Rhonda Henneberry to replace the retiring Wilmot Hardy. Henneberry has been serving as the deputy clerk for more than a year.
22apr2010: Horrific drilling blowout, critical injuries and 11 workers missing at sea should be warning to Nova Scotia on Georges Bank drilling plans.... A massive explosion and fire on an offshore oil rig should be a dire warning to the Nova Scotia government as they prepare to recommend oil and gas exploration on Georges Bank, say fishing industry and environmental sources... Eleven oil and gas drilling workers are lost at sea and seventeen of their colleagues are injured - three critically - after a massive explosion and fire on a state-of-the-art offshore drilling off the Louisiana coast. The smoke plume from the fire extends 10,000 feet in the air and there are 13,000 gallons of crude oil burning every hour, according to news reports. The U.S. Coast Guard has described the explosion and fire as a "catastrophic event" >>> see AP video >>> see CNN report >>> see AP TV news story
Risky business could also destroy billion-dollar fishery..."This is another example of what could be happening right off the coast of Nova Scotia and New England", says Denny Morrow, spokesman for the NoRigs3 Coalition, who are opposing the recent moves by the Nova Scotia and Canadian governments to end the decades-old moratorium on oil and gas development on the pristine Georges Bank fishing and spawning grounds. U.S. and Canadian fishermen. In addition to being a unique habitat for whales, sea birds, sharks and turtles, Georges Bank is also one of the most productive fishing areas in the Atlantic, resulting in close to a billion dollars per year in landed catches of herring, lobster, yellowtail flounder, haddock and other species. Georges Bank was recently named as off-limits in the offshore oil and gas announcement by U.S. President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar.
Public inquiry of blowout, fire and major spill ongoing in Australia. The explosion and fire are similar to that on the West Atlas rig off the coast of Australia last fall, which resulted in a 71-day, 2 million litre spill causing a 9,000 square mile oil slick and a catastrophic fire which destroyed the rig. An inquiry in Australia heard that improper capping of the drill hole was to blame and that there may be as many as three other wells in danger of a similar incident. >>> see photos here >>> read inquiry transcripts here >>> see Montara wikipedia site here
Not to worry says Nova Scotia minister... Responding to questions from colleagues in a House Committee just hours before the explosion, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment Minister and Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau said that the modern oil and gas rigs were "virtually accident free." Belliveau and Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks said this week that the government will announce a decision by June 1 about breaking or continuing the current moratorium on oil and gas development on Georges Bank. “Despite the enormous pressure he has received from oil and gas interests, President Obama and his government saw the need to protect Georges Bank," said Mark Butler, policy director for the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Ecology Action Centre. “Especially considering this recent tragic occurence, it is inconceivable now that the Canadian or Nova Scotian governments would even think about ending the moratorium.” >>> see Halifax Herald story here
Blowout likely cause, says rig owners... Transocean Ltd. said a pressure surge violent enough to rupture pipes, known in the oil and natural-gas industry as a blowout, may have triggered the explosion and fire yesterday on a deepwater rig that injured 17 people and left 11 missing. The assumption is based on the nature of the fire, which is burning from the top of the well, fed by escaping oil or gas. The West Atlas explosion and fire was triggered by a similar blowout. >>> see Business Week story
500 rig fires, nine major blazes, two dead 12 seriously injured since 2006... The Houston Chronicle is reporting that nine major oil rig fires have killed at least two people and seriously injured 12 since 2006 in the Gulf of Mexico, a lonely, high-risk drilling area where workers stay for weeks at a time, working 12-hour-a-day shifts. Those fires are among 509 recorded on oil platforms in the Gulf since 2006, according to the U.S. Mineral Management Services, which monitors and collects platform data. >>> full story9apr2010: Season opens at Sea Dog with great weather, 99 cent beer, Canadian folk music... Dining on Shelburne's waterfront becomes easier starting Wednesday, April 14th, when the weather is slated to turn grand and the kitchen for the Sea Dog Saloon opens for business. In addition to the standard menu, the Sea Dog will feature 99 cent beer.
On Friday, April 23, the Sea Dog will also host Canadian singer-songwriter Jay Aymar. Aymar will be fronting his latest CD, Halfway Home, which features "My Cherry Coloured Rose", recently covered by the famed Ian Tyson. Sea Dog owner Allan Reid says that seating for the $10, 8pm show is limited and early reservations are suggested. Reservations at 875-1131 and at the Sea Dog on Dock Street.
7apr2010: "Too little too late," says d'Entremont, as he backs heckling protesters who shout "Darrel Dexter needs to go!"... Tory MLA Chris d'Entremont issued a news release Wednesday complaining that the NDP government's commitment of $200,000 for marketing to the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism region was a cse of "too little, too late.". CJLS Radio reported earlier that the MLA was backing a protest which resulted in what CBC TV called a "rude reception" for Premier Darrell Dexter as he walked the streets of Yarmouth.
d'Entremont, reported CJLS, "hopes as many people as possible will show up at Yarmouth town hall to show their displeasure" at the Premier. More than a dozen angry protesters plagued Dexter during his stay in Yarmouth, some with "Save Our Ferry" signs aloft. >>>see Vanguard story here
2apr2010: SWSDA goose finally cooked?... Province cuts off funding, sends investigators to Yarmouth and orders audits for for CEO Anderson and his gang... The province has cut loose the South West Shore Development Authority from receiving more government money after the troubled organization missed a March 31 deadline to reapply, Economic and Rural Development Minister Percy Paris said Thursday. >>> full story here
2apr2010: Province buys out Bay Ferries contract... The provincial government says it has saved $600,000 by buying out its contract with Bay Ferries and will forward the money to be used in SouWest Nova economic development... >>> full story
31mar2010: Possible shut down of RDAs and Industrial Expansion Fund, says AIMS... The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) released a paper Wednesday that provides tips for the Nova Scotia government in its quest to balance the books. The 14-page critique says in part, "It is to be hoped that one of the most immediate consequences of a program review will be the abolition of the Industrial Expansion Fund and a dramatic reorganization, if not outright closure of the multiple regional development agencies scattered across the province.
31mar2010: Dead end street for NDP in politicizing Industrial Expansion Fund loans, says McNeil... Liberal leader Stephen McNeil says Nova Scotia Business Inc. should be in control of the Industrial Expansion Fund and not the NDP cabinet. McNeil introduced legislation earlier this week to transfer control of the IEF to NSBI and out of the hands of politically-motivated cabinet ministers.
“Politics has no place in the loan business,” said McNeil in a news release. “I
believe this province’s greatest opportunities for prosperity are created when business decisions are made by business people and not by politicians.” The NDP, added the leader, are headed down the same "dead end path” of patronage trod by the previous Tory government.
30mar2010: Province better come with $1 million or more for Yarmouth economic development, says d'Entremont... Citing the NDP government's refusal to "admit they made a mistake in Yarmouth” regarding the CAT ferry subsidy, Argyle MLA Chris d'Entremont told the legislature Monday that the province would not elaborate on how the decision was reached nor would they give information about their economic assessment of the service.
While admitting that the service was not sustainable, d'Entremont decried the negative effect the decision to end the $20 million-plus subsidy would have on the Yarmouth area. >>> full story
30mar2010: Hurlburt regrets resigning, is likely target for forensic investigation by AG.... Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe announced Monday that he was increasing the scope of his investigation into the MLA expense scandal to include a forensic (criminal) audit of expenses of certain MLAs. Those certain to invite further scrutiny include Dave Wilson (Glace Bay), Trevor Zinc (Dartmouth North) and Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth).
If Lapointe finds evidence of fraudulent or other criminal activity, he says he will turn the matter over to the police. Hurlburt has already been found to charge an $8,000 generator for his home and a big screen TV to his MLA expenses. The AG will also likely be investigating where the monies came from for a security system and driveway paving at Hurlburt's Carleton manse. Payments made to long-time assistant and neighbor Bob Manuel are also being reviewed.
The defrocked former Tory minister has been telling friends and colleagues that he regrets resigning as an MLA in the wake of the discovery of his expense transgressions. Hurlburt apparently now thinks he could have weathered the storm of media scrutiny and constituent rage which followed the scandal.
25mar2010: Shel muni first to support new "Team Southwest" concept... The Municipality of the District of Shelburne announced Thursday that it will support the efforts underway to establish Team Southwest. Team Southwest has a clear mandate from ACOA Minister Keith Ashfield to address the severe economic challenges in southwestern Nova Scotia, according to a news release from ACOA. MP Greg Kerr has been a proponent of the project.
"We intend to be a full participant in the Team Southwest process and to work cooperatively to meet common objectives relative to economic development," says Chief Adminstrative Officer (CAO) Kirk Cox. "Service Canada has announced that our region has the highest unemployment rate in the province and we are glad that ACOA will take a leadership role in trying to create jobs and economic opportunity."
The Municipality developed its own strategic plan recently, according to Cox, and he hopes to work with the other levels of government to partner on many of the strategic initiatives, including; the Eastern Shelburne County energy strategy, a Municipal investment strategy, Shelburne industrial park development, Municipal sewage treatment facility, physician recruitment and the Development of a state-of-the-art medical clinic.
ACOA spokesman David Harrigan said that the "Team" model has been successful in the past in locations such as Guysborough.
25mar2010: Fishing industry worried about threats of seismic testing on lucrative Georges Bank fishing grounds ... The Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council says that recent scientific studies from the governments of Canada and Norway , plus anecdotal experiences from groundfish fishermen and boat captains are generating growing concerns that the $200 million commercial fishery on the Canadian portion of Georges Bank will be under threat. >>> read news release
23mar2010: The premier on expenses: Dexter’s other superproblem... two months ago, it would have been hard to believe this spring’s session of the legislature would be focused on anything except the Dexter government’s 2010 austerity budget. What could compare with avoiding the fiscal train wreck of a potential $1.4-billion deficit? >>> Herald editorial
23mar2010: Downtown site too small says Th’YARC... plans for a $9 million new facility on Parade Street includes a large theatre, rehearsal hall, kitchen, costume studio, administrative building, and more, all connected by a glass-fronted gallery, says executives with Th'YARC, explaining why the downtown space suggested in the new "Yarmouth Revitalization Plan" is inadequate. >>> full story
19mar2010: Film studio back on market for $5 million... in an ad posted on The Business Place web site, American real estate speculators Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow are asking $5 million for the former Canadian Forces Station at Sandy Point, which they describe as North America's "most unique location"
The ad claims $1.2 million in sales from the "motion picture production campus", which would come as a surprise to the folks who have been waiting for two years of overdue taxes. The listing also points out 22-acre film studio complex and 150 acres of oceanfront vistas (no mention that the ten prime lots are sold). Included in the sale is a fully-licensed restaurant, a hotel and a jet plane. The department of alcohol and gaming does not show an active liquor license for the property.
The property was purchased by the pair from South West Shore Development Authority for $2.75 million, which included a $1.75 million, mortgage, with payments of $22,000 due starting in May. The ad also states that there are ten full-time and six part time employees at the facility. The only filming done at the studios has included portions of a low-budget vampire movie in 2008 and a series of low-brow, amateur YouTube videos by Kendrick and Barstow.
Recent visits to the site show it to be largely abandoned, with snow drifting into some of the work bays which are open to the elements. The ad states that the reason for selling is "medical" and that there is financing available. The values is stated at $21 CDN, but previous ads have stated a value of $21 million.
17mar2010: Premature to develop oil and gas on Georges Bank, says Liberal Leader McNeil... in an exclusive news interview in Shelburne with SCT, Liberal Party Leader Stephen McNeil addresses the shifting attitudes of the NDP government about drilling for oil and gas on the protected Georges Bank fishery and ecosystem. When asked how he could explain why Premier Darrell Dexter and Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau would campaign to South West Nova Scotia fishermen on a platform of no drilling on Georges Bank but now appear to be backing away from that commitment. "It's an issue of trust, said McNeil, "You have to be able to trust what leaders are telling you." The fishery is the bread and butter of South West Nova Scotia. Why would we risk our lucrative fishery when we don't know what, if anything, is on Georges Bank." >>> view news interview here...
17mar2010: Yarmouth Farmer's Market nixes downtown move.... Saying that no one contacted them prior to the recommendation in Yarmouth's new "Revitalization" plan that they move downtown, Farmer's Market organizers say they want to remain at their present location, which has been very successful for them. >>> full story
17mar2010: Hurlburt's pension parachute to be $54,000 per year... Kevin Gaudet, a spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the public has a right to be irked that politicians such as Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt, who acknowledged an "error in judgment," still get a hefty pension when they quit >>> full story
16mar2010: RCMP investigation suggestion provokes angry outburst regarding Yarmouth Port Plan tender... a Yarmouth citizen felt the wrath of Yarmouth Port director Dave Whiting on Monday when it was suggested that the RCMP be invited to investigate the circumstances of the recent contact awarded to a company headed by Ralston MacDonnell. MacDonnell was in the centre of the scandal surrounding the $3 million divestiture of the Digby Wharf several years ago. Whiting recently received certification from a MacDonnell-operated port training program. MacDonnell is a frequent recipient of untendered and competitive contracts from YAIC and South West Shore Development Authority, both of whom have Frank Anderson as their CEO and who are named in the recent report from the Nova Scotia Ombudsman.
12mar2010: Team Shelburne secrecy destructive and damaging, says Liberal leader... in an exclusive interview Thursday with SCT, Liberal Party leader Stephen McNeil spoke about the aura of mistrust and cynicism developing in Nova Scotia surrounding the lack of disclosure and transparency involving public funds. The leader said that the "closed shop" style of secrecy and non-disclosure by Team Shelburne (mayors and wardens in Shelburne County) surrounding $700,000 or more recently received from SWSDA would likely have a negative affect on citizens. The use of public monies needs to done in the open, McNeil insisted. "This secrecy can only lead to damaging the institution of public government," the leader said. "Why would we not be willing to say how much is there?"
In addition to refusing to disclose the amount of funds in the Team Shelburne account, chairman and Clarks Harbour mayor Leigh Stoddart has refused to disclose the amount of the loan made by Team Shelburne to SWSDA, reportedly in order for the embattled development agency to meet the terms of the recent court settlement with OPI International.
The "cone of secrecy" regarding the Team Shelburne cash seems to include the various members of the five councils in the county. None of the councilors contacted by SCT has been told by their respective warden or mayor how much money is in the Team Shelburne fund or how much money was loaned to SWSDA. More than seven calls to mayor Stoddart have gone unreturned.
12mar2010: Yarmouth ferry cash from feds news to Dexter... No one told Premier Darrell Dexter about Ottawa’s apparent financial backing for the Cat ferry, the premier said Thursday. The Yarmouth-area municipalities made a pitch to Dexter last month for Provincial cash but didn’t mention the federal involvement. Dexter said he would have expected the federal government to be up front about such a position, which was outline earlier in the week by Tory MP Greg Kerr.
In an interview with SCT last week, Kerr said that he couldn't understand why the Dexter and the NDP government would turn their backs on such a substantial offer of help. Kerr did not say then whether the offer for assistance from Ottawa had been clearly spelled out to the Province. >>> full story here
12mar2010: Tory MLAs withheld crucial ferry funding information from new government and local pols... One of the exacerbating issues in the very public CAT-fight over cancelled subsidies for the Yarmouth-USA ferry was the discovery that part of the deal made with Bay Ferries Ltd. included a $ 3million "cut fee", which now has to be paid to Bay Ferries, even though there will be no ferry.
As cabinet members at the time and as strong proponents of the Both Chris D'Entremont and Richard Hurlburt knew about the $3 million deal, according to informed sources but remained silent. In an exclusive interview with SCT, Liberal leader Stephen McNeil said, "I can't imagine why both MLAs would withhold such information." McNeil admitted that for the Yarmouth municipal officials to be without that important knowledge put them "at a great disadvantage" in negotiating with the government for continuation of the multi-million subsidy to Bay Ferries.
A Yarmouth-area politician who asked not to be named told SCT, "These people are supposed to be on our side. Why would they be playing political games when the stakes are so high?"
11ar2010: Lives of the rich and famous... Movie mogulette back in NS with bodyguards... Erstwhile movie producer and twitterite Mary Barstow has arrived back in Nova Scotia with a duo of bodyguards to protect her from who knows what?... the more hysterical partner in the pair of U.S. land speculators trying to dump their white elephant "state-of-the-art" film production centre on unsuspecting internet buyers was seen entering the SWSDA headquarters in Yarmouth early Thursday with two brawny types named Guido and Louie.
SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson had recently requested permission from his board of directors to seek legal action toward Barstow and bunkmate Jim Kendrick and likely invited the trio to his bunker to discuss whether Barstow and Kendrick had any intention of making good on their commitment to start paying $22,000 per month on the $1.75 million "sweetheart" mortgage Anderson wrote for them when they breezed into town two years ago from their lakeside retreat in New Hampshire.
Later in the day, Bartow was seen doing some upscale sartorial scanning at Chez Francios in Shelburne, while Ralph and Alf bided their time outside doing the Blackberry hustle. Where Barstow did not stop while in Shelburne, according to sources, is at the municipal tax office, who has apparently not heard from the pair in two years.
10mar2010: Argyle MLA Chris D'Entremont fingers colleague Richard Hurlburt as double-dipping, kick-backing, loop-holing MLA in radio promo... despite the assertions by Q104 Radio executives that the "Frugal Richard" ML in their latest online promotion was completely fictional, Chris D'Entremont insists that the high-living and tax dollar-grabbing culprit is really a stab at his friend Richard Hurlburt, who resigned after admitting to installing more than $15,000 of goods destined for office expenses in his home.
Hurlburt retreated to Florida the day following his resignation. If Hurlburt does return to Nova Scotia, he is also likely to have to answer questions about the real costs of the $11000 generator and $3000 big-screen TV, the installation in his home of a security system, his relationship with the marketing director of an airline given $2 million in cash by the cabinet on which Hurlburt sat, the paving of his driveway and the sale of building lots with business partner and RDA CEO Frank Anderson, also recently the subject of a year-long investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman involving, in part, questionable land transactions. >>> read Vanguard story
10mar2010: Economic development department poised to sweep SWSDA audit under the carpet??... in surprising turn of events, the senior government official in charge of oversight for the regional development authorities suggested that the $70,000 audit of South West Shore Development Authority would find no problems regarding provincial funding for the troubled agency.
Neal Conrad told the economic development committee Tuesday that there’s no indication the $150,000 in core funding the province annually gives the authority was misused, according to a Herald reporter David Jackson. "The activities . . . that the ombudsman specifically identified as possibly problematic and require further investigation are activities that normally fall outside the core funding of (the) regional development authority," the Herald reports that Conrad told the committee. "We would have no knowledge of what some of that activity would be."
10mar2010 Kerr: Feds to address ferry-related job losses...Providing help to hundreds of people who may lose their jobs because a ferry won’t be docking in Yarmouth this summer must be addressed, says the MP for West Nova. >>> full story
8mar2010: $20,000 for guessing "MLA Richard's" purloined cash promo... a catchy promotion on Halifax rock radio station Q104 has caught the fancy of the station's listeners, according to general manager Ted Hyland. The promo idea surfaced after the promotional team at the station reviewed the results of a recent "Citizen Q" segment which focused on the growing MLA expense scandal. The listener who logs in with the exact amount of taxpayers money taken by frugal MLA "Richard" will be flown to Cuba where he or she will unearth the hidden booty. Station management says that any relationship between the promo and real-life circumstances of former Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt is purely coincidental.
8mar2010: Yarmouth Councillor Pink cited for possible conflict of interest... Attorney and Yarmouth Town Councilor Martin Pink has failed to disclose his business interests in votes he engaged in as a Councilor for the Town of Yarmouth, according to a complaint filed on March 7 with Mayor Phil Mooney and Council for the Town of Yarmouth.
Pink is the official agent for Yarco Holdings, a firm owned by disgraced MLA Richard Hurlburt and SWSDA/Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission CEO Frank Anderson.
Yarco, according to the letter, was a "beneficial recipient" of more than $100,000 in taxpayer dollars relating to a sewer project benefiting Yarco properties. The letter also raises an issue surrounding Yarmouth Town Attorney Greg Barro, law partner of Pink.
Pink is also said to represent Hurlburt in the possible civil or criminal investigations surrounding the MLAs use of his government expense accounts, if and when the former minister returns from the USA. Pink recently traveled to the USA to confer with Hurlburt.
Anderson has recently been the subject of a one-year investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, who cited serious problems with conflicts of interest >>> see letter to Town of Yarmouth here
4mar2010: Yarmouth Liberal nomination set for May 8... According to emails sent to supporters by candidate Adam Vickery, the Yarmouth Liberal riding nomination meeting for upcoming by-election for MLA has been set for May 8th, at 1:00pm at the Yarmouth Lions Club. Registration begins at noon and only party members registered by April 8 are eligible to vote.
4mar2010: Team Shelburne continues illegal secret meetings about SWSDA cash.... Despite a recent Ombudsman's Report expressing concern about financial transactions involving the trouble South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and its CEO Frank Anderson and despite a complaint filed last week Ramona Jennex, Minister of Municipal Affairs, Team Shelburne members continue to meet in secret discussions surrounding a controversial loan or gift by the body to SWSDA from the $700,000 derived from the sale of the former Shelburne Youth Centre.
The Municipal Act is explicit in its prohibitions that "no decisions shall be made..." at private meetings, which are designed discuss sensitive matters like real estate sales and personnel issues. In addition to the improper meetings about public funds, none of the five mayors and wardens comprising Team Shelburne have advised their council members about the financial decisions made behind closed doors.
Minister Jennex is slated to meet with all of the County councils on Friday and the improper meetings are likely to be among those topics discussed. Six calls to team Shelburne have gone unanswered.
26feb2010: SWSDA Response to ombudsman’s report in works... The South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) is getting ready to respond to a provincial ombudsman’s report, reports The Herald. In marked contrast to the generally bombastic style of SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson, the board of directors has apparently committed themselves to "professional discretion" in their response. Despite being excoriated by the recent report of Ombudsman Dwight Bishop for conflict of interest and other misdeeds, Anderson is reported to have been telling friends and associates that the Ombudsman was "really more upset at the Department of Economic Development than SWSDA." Anderson did not respond to queries on the matter from the Herald.
26feb2010: Family affair in Yarmouth politics... Fraser Mooney, brother of Yarmouth mayor Phil Mooney and son of long-time Yarmouth politician Fraser Mooney Sr., has confirmed with SCT that he will be seeking the liberal nomination at the by-election to be called by Premier Darrell Dexter to fill the for the MLA spot in Yarmouth recently vacated by Richard Hurlburt. Tory riding president and Yarmouth Muni councilor Trevor Cunningham, who was named by several sources as a likely candidate, told SCT that he would not run, saying it would be unfair to his three small children. Former Yarmouth mayor Charles Crosby has been named as a likely candidate, but Cunningham could not confirm that, saying the the nomination process is on-going.
Hurlburt resigned earlier this month under a cloud of controversy after admitting to having charged $8,000 for a generator installed at home and a big-screen TV on his MLA expense budget. The generator is estimated by some to have really cost less than $5,000 and the Auditor General has said he would investigate further. Hurlburt could face criminal fraud charges if he bought the generator for personal use or if he charged the province more than he spent for the generator or the $3000 claimed for installation.
The disgraced politician and former building contractor is also a business partner of Frank Anderson of SWSDA, who is now being further scrutinized by the Ombudsman's Office. There are reports that additional complaints may have been filed with the Ombudsmans Office involving Anderson, SWSDA and the Yarmouth Industrial Commission. Hurlburt was also a key figure in the establishment of Starlink Aviation, whose books are being pored over by the provincial government after having burned through $ 2 million in government cash in nine short months.
25feb2010: No cabinet decision on ferry.... Nova News Now reports that the ferry funding partnership proposal delivered by Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney Tuesday to Premier Darrell Dexter was not discussed at cabinet and there are no plans to do so, according to the premier's press secretary. In expressing his disappointment at a Town Council meeting Thursday, mayor Mooney apparently said, "No boat --- no vote", referring perhaps to the upcoming by-election for the now vacant seat of Richard Hurlburt. Mooney is the liberal riding president for the area and is apparently pushing for his brother Fraser Mooney as a Liberal candidate. No date for an election has been named by the Premier.
25feb2010: Ferry cash deadline given to Premier... In what many consider a bold but risky political move, Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney has given Premier Darrell Dexter until Friday to pony up $3 million in "matching" funds for the 2010 season of the Yarmouth-U.S.A. ferry which was shut down in late December.
The offer from Mooney includes an equal amount committed by the towns and municipalities in the Yarmouth area. Argyle MLA Chris d'Entremont and Liberal leader Stephen McNeil have publicly weighed in on the issue, urging Dexter and Economic Development Minister Percy Paris to move on the offer. d'Entremont accused the government of "turning their backs" on the ferry issue.
McNeil said in a news release that the shutdown was done with no consultation and no warning and that committing to the funding could "right a wrong." A Nova News story cited ridership on the CAT ferry of up to 175,000 per year, while the preliminary report from the ACOA-funded South West Nova Scotia Transportation Study cites the actual CAT passenger load at 80,000, a precipitous drop from the 2003 figures of 280,000 passengers. The per-passenger government subsidy to Bay Ferries Ltd. in 2009 exceeded $110 dollars.
Statistics from the Department of Tourism show a drop in visitors to Nova Scotia over recent years and the Study show that, since 2001, the ratio of visitors arriving in South West Nova Scotia via ferry has dramatically shifted to the Digby-St.John ferry. The government has stated recently that they intend to make a decision about subsidies to future ferry service out of Yarmouth after the final results of the Study.
Dept of Economic Development has refused repeated requests for comment.
24feb2010: MEDIA SLAMS SWSDA... improper spending... conflict of interest... RCMP probe... All of the major regional media have run front-line stories about the on-going problems of accountability and management with the embattled South West Shore Development Authority and its CEO Frank Anderson... the stories by CBC TV, CBC Radio, CBC Online, Halifax Herald, CJLS, NS Business Buzz and allNovaScotia have focused on the litany of abuses by Anderson and his staff and directors in the improper spending of public money, untendered contracts, questionable land deals and other breeches of the public trust See and hear the stories here: Halifax Herald, CBC Online, CBC Radio, CBC TV(voice only), Coast Guard
24feb2010: Digby-St, John ferry vital to SW Nova... Marine transportation and ferry services in southwest Nova Scotia have been very much in the news lately. This interest is both useful and timely in anticipation of an interim report on transportation infrastructure analysis and recommendations expected to be released shortly >>> read editorial
23feb2010: Aboriginal fishermen on Georges Bank are worried.... For hundreds - if not thousands - of years Aboriginal peoples have fished the rugged, rocky coastlines and the more subdued shorelines and sandy beaches on and surrounding the Gulf of Maine, including Georges Bank, and they are worried that the recent productive fishery could come to an abrupt end by the dangers posed by recent moves to approve oil and gas production on Georges Bank >>> full story
23feb2010: SPECIAL REPORT: Ombudsman takes SWSDA and Anderson to task... In a report issued Monday, based on a complaint in 2008 by two Shelburne County residents (SCT publisher being one), Nova Scotia Ombudsman Dwight Bishop concluded that the complainants' concerns were warranted.
Recommendations: he made a number of recommendations with respect to: SWSDA's incorporation - that will stop any RDA from operating under the Societies Act; accounting for Boys school money that was problematic; SWSDA's relationship with Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission and CEO Frank Anderson's role re: a number of concerns related to conflict of interest; Board of Director failings in exercising its fiduciary duties.
Audits: The Report made a number of recommendations to the Department of Economic Development and SWSDA related to each of these including a recommendation that the Province undertake three audits back at least two years related to: a.) Governance Compliance - this would appear to be an over-arching audit of SWSDA policies and management of its programs and funds; b.) Value for Money Audit - Somewhat similar to the work conducted by the Comptroller General of Canada where a review is undertaken of the efficiency, effectiveness and economy issues at SWSDA; c.) full audit of the Boys School monies including the expenditures attributed to maintenance, the proceeds collected and the interest collected. The Ombudsman recommended that all monies spent without prior approval be returned to Team Shelburne.
Further investigation: In addition, the Ombudsman has set aside for future investigation three issues raised by the complainants: a.) Loan guarantees made by the municipalities to SWSDA; b.) SWSDA's sole source and tendering practices; c.) The recent Mink Farm land deal between SWSDA/YAIC and the Municipality of the District of Barrington.
In addition to these recommendations the Ombudsman has recommended changes to the Regional Communities Development Act that would ensure more transparency and accountability and the Department has accepted a recommendation to review the model now used by the Department to assess the performance of RDAs.
Pound Sand on Team Shelburne monies: The report notes that both SWSDA and the government have agreed on all recommendations except SWSDA has not agreed to return monies spent inappropriately from Team Shelburne Funds.
all Nova Scotia reports Tuesday that their sources say an audit is underway, but could not say by whom. Shelburne County MLA Sterling Belliveau and Liberal leader Stephen McNeil have both called for a full audit of SWSDA finances
>>> download a copy of The Report from the Ombudsman's Office here
18feb2010: Possible Georges bank oil spill concerns many.... Some members of the NoRigs3 Coalition are terrified that a dramatic oil spill, similar to that off the coast of Australia late last year, could damage or devastate the unique Georges Bank ecosystem if a moratorium on oil and gas drilling is lifted.
Georges Bank is home to many species of sea life and one of the most productive commercial fisheries in the world. Hubert Nicholas, Mark Butler, Bee d’Entremont and others are members of the NoRigs3 Coalition, a group of fishermen, food processors, environmentalists and others who are opposing any lifting of the moratorium. They believe that the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen who depend on Georges Bank catches could be ruined. >>> see story
18feb2010: Hurlburt reported close to collapse in Florida... Former MLA Richard Hurlburt is reported by reliable sources as being distraught about being forced to resign in shame after disclosure by the Auditor General that he made several inappropriate personal purchases though his government expense accounts. The anonymous, but usually reliable source said that Hurlburt had sought the sanctuary in Florida, citing "severe depression" and that he had been visited by his son and by Yarmouth attorney Martin Pink.
Hurlburt did not respond to email inquiries but Pink, when reached by SCT in Florida by telephone, said he could not disclose whether he was representing Hurlburt in any possible criminal charges surrounding a current investigation by the AG regarding possible misuse of taxpayer-supported expense account funds. Pink said he was not aware of any potential charges.
One area of investigation by the AG surrounds possible misuse of the housing allowance by MLAs. Apparently, based upon the practice of Hurlburt and other MLAs residing in family properties in Halifax while attending Legislative business but charging up to $20,000 per year for housing allowances, the rules were changed to allow the practice of MLAs claiming the allowance without proof of expenditure. Note: SCT was contacted via telephone Friday by MLA Michel Samson, who took exception to a previous post naming him in connection with this item. Mr. Sampson stressed that he has never been involved in the practice of claiming as an expense rent for an accommodation owned by anyone in his family. We appreciate Mr. Sampson's clarification and apologize for any embarrassment to him or his family.
Hurlburt has been the target of public outrage in the mounting expense account scandal engulfing the Nova Scotia legislature. On his own Facebook website, constituents posted messages branding Hurlburt as a "crook" and "thief" for his apparent abuse of the arguably lax expense regime for MLAs. On other web sites, visitors have opined that Hurlburt and other big spenders should not be afforded their generous pensions and should be sent to jail for their misdeeds.
When asked when Hurlburt is expected to return to Nova Scotia, Pink would only tell SCT, "I don't think even he knows."
17feb2010: Georges Bank drilling could destroy Aboriginal fishery, says coalition: Recent drumbeats in the media about “clarification” being needed surrounding the current exploration and drilling moratorium on Georges Bank are a cause of great concern to the growing Aboriginal commercial fishery, according to the NoRigs3 Coalition. Recent drumbeats in the media about "clarification" being needed surrounding the current exploration and drilling moratorium on Georges Bank are a cause of great concern to the growing Aboriginal commercial fishery.
The waters surrounding the Georges Bank are some of the most productive in the world and Aboriginal communities have entered the commercial fishery in record numbers, with Aboriginal-held licenses increasing from 1999 to 2009 by more than 400%, from 316 to 1238.
In 2007 there were approximately 315 First Nations people and 63 off reserve Aboriginal people working directly as fishers or crew in commercial fisheries. Additionally, there are salaries for support, administration and other workers.
In 2009, 54 off-reserve Aboriginal commercial fishermen were employed by the Native Council of Nova Scotia generating some $750,000.00 in employment earnings and in the Bay of Fundy and First Nation fisheries include some 70 commercial fishing licenses that generate $13.3 million annually.
“The loss of fishery access to the Georges Bank would be economically devastating to many Aboriginal communities in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes,” says Hubert Nicholas, a Mi'kmaq commercial fisherman for 20+ years and now Commercial Fisheries Liaison Coordinator for the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR). “It is important the moratorium be preserved.>>> see pdf version
18feb2010: NDP comes clean on staff payments... South Shore MLAs in upper echelons... MLAs Sterling Belliveau (Shelburne) and Vicki Conrad (Queens) were two of the biggest spenders in payments to non-assistant employees. Conrad spent $17,822 and Belliveau $16, 691, according to files released by the NDP Caucus Thursday. The average for NDP MLAs (exclusive of Premier Darrell Dexter) was about $7,800. Dexter clocked in at $54,300 and John Macdonnell was lowest with $750.00.
17feb2010: SWSDA cash due in Shelburne County Thursday... a long-awaited infusion of economic development monies is due to arrive at in the bank account of the Town of Clark's Harbour on Thursday, when $620,000 is deposited from the South West Shore Development Authority, according to Team Shelburne chair and Clark's Harbour mayor Leigh Stoddart. The funds are destined for the various partners in Team Shelburne and were held for more than a year in an escrow account under orders from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
In December, 2008, Justice Allan Boudreau was told by SWSDA's lawyers that the proceeds of the sale of the Shelburne Youth Centre had been dissipated by SWSDA and, according to CEO Frank Anderson, were nothing more than a "book keeping entry". The judge ordered Anderson and SWSDA to replace the monies from the proceeds of the sale of the former Canadian Forces Station at Sandy Point and the funds were released two weeks ago as a result of the settlement of a $5 million civil suit against SWSDA.
Some Team Shelburne members expected the transfer sooner and no explanation was offered as to why the funds had not been transferred earlier. Team Shelburne agreed to loan SWSDA an undisclosed amount in order for the near-bankrupt agency to comply with the terms of the settlement.
17feb2010: More legal woes for U.S. movie moguls as Irving Oil chases them to court for oil bill... The two American land speculators who purchased the former Canadian Forces Station at Sandy Point three years ago are being pursued in Small Claims Court for unpaid heating oil bills, according to testimony offered last week in a courtroom in Shelburne. Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow (doing business as SeaCoast Entertainment and seven other affiliated businesses) got the property in a controversial deal with Frank Anderson, CEO of South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and assured local politicians and media that they would invest "millions" in the facility and make it a state-of-the-art film production centre.
After assuring his board of directors that the province would cover a $1.75 million mortgage, Anderson instead offered the loan to SeaCoast with no payments due for three years. Mortgage payments of $22,000 begin in May.
SeaCoast is also apparently under threat of legal action from SWSDA's lawyers under direction from its board of directors, according to recent meeting minutes. During their two-year, payment-free tenancy, the pair sold off almost $1 million in prime lots without applying any of the income to the $1.75 million outstanding mortgage.
In the court hearing, the adjudicator determined that proper service of SeaCoast had not occurred and instructed Irving's representative to serve their agent, local lawyer Donald Harding.
16feb2010: Belliveau wants $6 million federal cash for marketing lobsters to China.... Low prices for Atlantic lobster are forcing the provinces and Ottawa to find new markets for a product that is the mainstay of many coastal communities. The Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers — which includes representatives from the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Nunuvut and the federal government — met in Halifax Monday and agreed to work together to expand and improve markets for lobster.
$6 million of the $15 million in lobster industry "bailout" funds have not been spent and should be used to promote lobster to potential customers in China, said Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau. "We raised the issue, and we should be targeting that money toward new marketing initiatives," Belliveau told media Monday after the one-day meeting. "Our whole industry for generations has depended on the United States, and we have to move away from that."
It was also announced that the new Lobster Council will receive $417,000 to develop a marketing strategy >>> see story >>> see Herald story
12feb2010: Fraud now part of "forensic investigation", says Auditor General... Hurlburt named as target.... CBC reports just now that at least one MLA is now being investigated for possible fraud in expense claims and that Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt is one of the "forensic" investigation targets... AG Jacques Lapointe says that his decision is based upon information about purchases received from media and citizens, as well as from preliminary investigations by his staff. CBC reports that Lapointe said that he is now looking at "irregularities of law breaking."
$7000 fraud???... AG's office apparently has been investigating the whereabouts of at least one of the two television sets purchased by MLA Richard Hurlburt, ostensibly for his office. CBC TV reported Friday night that their investigation shows that the retail price for the generator model for which Hurlburt charged taxpayers $8000 and which they filmed in his garage earlier in the week was closer to $1000.
Staff bonuses still secret... CBC reports that staff party leaders oppose release of the list of staff bonuses. House speaker Charlie Parker said that he would release the list of all $185,000 in staff bonuses paid by MLAs, none of which were reported to Canada Revenue, but that he needs the permission of the Premier and party leaders. Tory head Karen Casey admitted to paying her assistant $1000 each year, but the list referred to by the Auditor General shows at least one staffer got a bonus of $43,000.
Both Liberal leader Stephen McNeil and Casey told CBC that they opposed releasing a list of the various payments made to MLA staff. 30 staffers were given bonuses totaling $185,000 and 157 "contract" employees were paid more than $400,000. The AG said that he saw little evidence of any contracts or invoices or paperwork of any sort detailing hours worked , task performed or any other details. said that he would release the list of all $185,000 in staff bonuses paid by MLAs, none of which were reported to Canada Revenue, but that he needs the permission of the Premier and party leaders. Tory head Karen Casey admitted to paying her assistant $1000 each year, but the list referred to by the Auditor General shows at least one staffer got a bonus of $43,000.
Both Liberal leader Stephen McNeil and Casey told CBC that they opposed releasing a list of the various payments made to MLA staff. 30 staffers were given bonuses totaling $185,000 and 157 "contract" employees were paid more than $400,000. The AG said that he saw little evidence of any contracts or invoices or paperwork of any sort detailing hours worked , task performed or any other details. said that he would release the list of all $185,000 in staff bonuses paid by MLAs, none of which were reported to Canada Revenue, but that he needs the permission of the Premier and party leaders. Tory head Karen Casey admitted to paying her assistant $1000 each year, but the list referred to by the Auditor General shows at least one staffer got a bonus of $43,000.
Both Liberal leader Stephen McNeil and Casey told CBC that they opposed releasing a list of the various payments made to MLA staff. 30 staffers were given bonuses totaling $185,000 and 157 "contract" employees were paid more than $400,000. The AG said that he saw little evidence of any contracts or invoices or paperwork of any sort detailing hours worked , task performed or any other details.
12feb2010: Hurlburt may have collected $150,000 or more for "ghost" Halifax apartment... Tory leader says "not breach of the rules...".... Hurlburt may have collected $150,000 or more for "ghost" Halifax apartment... Tory leader says "not breach of the rules...".... Hurlburt may have collected $150,000 or more for "ghost" Halifax apartment... Tory leader says "not breach of the rules...".... In another stunning revelation about expense claims certain to further infuriate his previously loyal constituents, Former Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt is tagged by allNovaScotia.com to have taken between $16,000 and $20,000 for an annual apartment allowance, despite living with his wife in her HRM home.
The system apparently didn’t require receipts to prove Hurlburt had an apartment before he took the money and Tory Leader Karen Casey said she didn't think it was a "breach of the rules."
Hurlburt resigned earlier this week after admitting to expensing $8,000 on a home generator but failing to disclose his $2,500 TV. Casey admitted she knew about the TV but said she didn’t mention it because Hurlburt was seeking clarification from the speaker. On Wednesday she altered her story, saying Hurlburt should have disclosed the TV but it was OK for her to say nothing because it is the individual MLA’s responsibility.
In a usually bitter and partisan political environment, and despite the mounting evidence of widespread abuse of expense account system, party leaders are unanimous in not wanting any further inquiry.
11feb2010: Goucher and Hurlburt the big gougers in $700,000 expense spree... when the Speakers office released a list today of all technology expense account purchases totaling more than $700,000 made by MLAs over the past 3 years, former Tourism Minister Len Goucher took the prize, having walked away with 11 computers, 12 printers, 5 cameras and 4 VCRs... Goucher's expenses totalled almost five full pages and topped $43,000.
Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt bought 5 computers, 2 printers, 3 cameras and 2 television sets (plus an $8000 generator) for a total of more than $33,000... Tory leader Karen Casey bought 5 computers and 6 printers...racking up almost $19,000 in gew-gaws
The $1000-plus double-dippers who charged twice for the same amount included Michelle Raymond ($3400), Percy Paris ($2400), Michelle Raymond ($1400) and Murray Scott ($1000) other Nova Scotia. Bill Dooks claimed $9400 for a generator, which is now hard wired into his home. He spent $25,000 in the period.
MLA Sterling Belliveau spent $17,500 on tech items, which for the large part, were spent in his riding in Barrington ($12,000) and Shelburne ($1300).
These expenses, the Auditor General told SCT today, were for "receipted expenses". Each MLA is also entitled to a large volume of "unreceipted" expenses each year, which could drive the MLA outlay past $1.5 million for the period covered. >>> CBC story >>> full list of expenses >>> Herald story >>> all stories
Read Richard Hurlburt's full resignation letter... expresses "deep regret"... Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative party released the full text of Richard Hurlburt's resignation letter Wednesday, one day after announcing that the MLA for Yarmouth was quitting. >>> full text
Hurlburt quits - Casey torpedoed... Nova Scotia’s spending allowance scandal has claimed the political career of one of its central figures with the resignation of veteran Yarmouth Tory Richard Hurlburt, who admitted buying a generator and big-screen television at public expense. On CBC radio Wednesday, veteran political reporters Jean Laroche and Paul Withers opined that PC Party interim leader Karen Casey has "torpedoed" her chances as permanent leader by keeping mum about the full extent of Hurlburt's excesses for a full five days.
In recent days, Casey retreated to a "Dick Cheney bunker", refusing to meet with media face-to-face. Party insiders say that an agreement was reached during the recent annual PC Party meeting in Halifax not to discuss the leadership, but insiders say that the humiliation brought upon the party by Hurlburt's dogged refusal to own up to his transgressions was a major topic on conversation at the meeting. The reporters agreed that no one would want to step forward during the current expense flap.
Argyle MLA Chris D'Entremont has been named as a likely possible candidate for leader. In the inevitable by-election for Hurlburt's seat, PC riding president Trevor Cunningham is the odd-on favourite to take the Party nomination. Cunningham has also made no secret of the fact that he is also covetous of the position as superintendent of the Tri-County School District. >>> CBC story >>> Herald story
8feb2010: Topping $14,000 in questionable, "excessive" personal expenses charged to his government expense account, Yarmouth's Hurlburt is biggest "grifter" in growing expense account scandal... friends denounce him a liar and thief... Tory politician Richard Hurlburt spent $14,000 for giant TV and generator during the past year, both installed permanently at his private residence. After first denouncing calls for him to repay the province for the generator, Hurlburt announced Friday that he would cough up the $8000, after having previously paid back the $3000 installation fee for the machine.
During his public exculpation, including several media interviews, Hurlburt never once admitted that he was the "mystery" MLA who paid $3000 for a massive, flat screen TV set installed in his expensive country home. The Speaker of the House released the information Monday. Party leader Karen Casey has known about the expenses since February 3, but has also remained silent.
Once used to promote Hurlburt's election campaign, his Facebook page is now the home for angry diatribes from those who have registered as "friends" on his page. Some of the comments include: "Liar!, Thief!", "I am glad you got caught stealing...", "...take a good look in the mirror. CROOK!", "THIEF!!!!!!!!!!!", "you should BUY YOUR OWN", "Do you think were all that dumb?", "Richard's got a touch of gangsta!!", "...what other deals have you made for yourself?", "Richard is a bonehead...Good to see corruption finally have some accountability...", "I would appreciate the $2500 paid back to the province now."
This scandal is only the latest episode in MLA Hurlburt's track record surrounding his spending habits as MLA and for Minister. In early 2009 questions were raised about the then-Minister of Energy when he awarded an untended contract for $150,000 to business partner Frank Anderson and his troubled South West Shore Development Agency (SWSDA) in Yarmouth. The give-away was for the creation of an "Oceans First Task Force", which was defunded by the government after a scandal developed surrounding reports that an expensive junket to Norway by Hurlburt, Anderson and other was, according to some fishermen who attended, "like some big, expensive party every day."
The Oceans First project was part of the just-completed, extensive investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman surrounding years of questionable financial dealings by SWSDA. No report from Oceans First was ever tabled. Many questionable financial dealings of SWSDA under Anderson's leadership are expected to be outlined in an Ombudsman's Report due out this week.
"This guy's an embarrassment to the party," one Progressive Conservative politician told SCT about Hurlburt. "Any thoughts he ever had of being party leader are pure fantasy now." >>> see Hurlburt's Facebook page HERE. See "generator" news conference video HERE. Nova News Now story HERE. A story about Hurlburt and a list of the excessive expenses is HERE
"This is what makes people think politicians are crooks," said former Tory minister Jane Purvest. >>> see major CBC story HERE >>> see The AG Report HERE >>> CBC "mea culpas" story HERE >>> Herald story HERE. >>> See Globe & Mail story HERE
8feb20910: SWSDA decamps Barrington.... South West Shore Development Authority senior staffers told the Barrington Municipal Council last week that the development agency was canceling its lease for office space at the municipal building, effective February 28. When contacted by The Coast Guard, SWSDA chairman Rode Rose said that renewing the lease would depend upon "who's in and who's out" of a new development agency that Rose, CEO Frank Anderson and others are trying to create after SWSDA ceases operations March 31.
4feb2010: MLA Hurlburt at the centre of pervasive and irresponsible MLA expense spending, slammed by media... Yarmouth MLA big winner in provincial "Expense Lotto"... named in Auditor General's report to speaker regarding expense account spending... The just-released Auditor General's Report points out that, even though the NDP government has made some inroads in curbing excesses in MLA spending, problems remain and Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt is apparently named as one of the culprits for having an $11,000 generator installed at his home. >>> full story
2feb2010: Shelburne County cash goes to pay off SWSDA legal debt... After recently losing a legal battle it instigated ten years ago, the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) will be bailed out of a large cash settlement with Ocean Produce International for a cessation of the suit and counter suit.
In their closed-door, January 28 "Team Shelburne" meeting, the Shelburne County mayors and wardens agreed to contribute to SWSDA an "agreed amount" from the Shelburne Youth Centre Fund. In actuality, such a fund does not exist, as SWSDA lawyers testified in a Yarmouth court in 2008 that, under CEO Frank Anderson's direction, all of the funds from the sale of the Youth Centre, plus the remaining administrative fund supplied by the province, was spent by SWSDA and remained only as a "bookkeeping entry".
The judge ordered SWSDA to place $780,000 of other funds in a separate account until the legal action was over. A court order from Justice Allan Boudreau releasing the funds was delivered to the Yarmouth Court on Friday. Team Shelburne also voted to have SWSDA release the funds to the Town of Clarks Harbour for safekeeping, but clerk Brian Crowell says it may be weeks before the "banking procedures" provide for the transfer of the funds.
One economic specialist familiar with SWSDA's operation told SCT, "Given the past record of Anderson and SWSDA deducting all sorts of costs from Shelburne County project funds, I'd be surprised if there was much, if anything, left when they finally turn the remainder over to Team Shelburne." Anderson has recently admitted that at least $181,000 in "project funds" were charged against the OPI legal costs. As for Team Shelburne's expectations that they will receive monies from the "Youth Centre Fund", the specialist thinks that is "wishful thinking."
2feb2010: Yarmouth council attacks province for "punishment" in "personal" CAT decision.... Members of Yarmouth town council are keeping up that offensive against the NDP government surrounding the recent decision to cut off subsidies to the CAT ferry owners after $20 million over less than five years.
Councilors say they believe the province’s decision to discontinue funding of The Cat ferry service is personally motivated. “This is a choice to cause strife and hardship,” Councillor Esther Dares was quoted in the Yarmouth Vanguard. “How can we read that any way but personal? It’s punishment.” >>> full story
30jan2010: Legal bills still outstanding... According from sources from within South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA), at least $50,000 in legal bills for the 10-year civil suit are outstanding to top-end Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper. Two of the firm's top litigators - Gavin Giles and Bob Belliveau - led the McInnes Cooper team until the suit was recently settled just days before a six-week trial was to begin.
At a recent Shelburne Municipal Council meeting, warden Sherm Embree described the fees as SWSDA's primary liability and the controversial $1.75 mortgage on the Shelburne Sound Stage property as the primary asset. SWSDA has been order by the province to wrap up their affairs and cease operating by March 31.
The legal fees over the ten years are estimated to be more than $300,000, but SWSDA accounting reports have never shown the fees as a line item. Previous reports appeared to have the fees lumped in with paper and copy supplies and recently CEO Frank Anderson created a "dummy" project called "Shelburne Sound Stage/Park", which now shows a $181,000 deficit. Anderson has told board members and others that the project account is really to cover the legal fees.
29jan2010:Shelburne Town out of SWSDA orbit.... The Shelburne Town Council voted at a special meeting Wednesday evening to decline participation in any new regional development agency organized by the current staff and board of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA). The town joins Clarks Harbour and Municipality of Shelburne in separating from the troubled, Yarmouth-based development group.
SWSDA has been the subject of an extensive investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman and has been on the two losing end of several legal actions recently, including claims that they refused to properly disclose expense accounts and that they misappropriated assets subject to a $5 million civil suit. The 10 year-old suit was settled just days before a 6-week trial was to have begun. Those familiar with the suit anticipate that the settlement ranged between one and two million dollars.
$800,000 development funds to be released... The settlement will release a court hold on almost $800,000 destined for economic development in Shelburne County. "I wouldn't be surprised," said a local economic development specialist, "if those funds disappeared into SWSDA's bank account within minutes of that court order being lifted." Previously, more than $700,000 from the sale of the Shelburne Youth Centre was spent by SWSDA and, according to lawyers for CEO Frank Anderson, became just an "accounting entry."
29jan2010: NDP cash grab charged in Cat Ferry cancellation...dead cat to cost $3 million.... The Cat Ferry could still cost Nova Scotia taxpayers up to $3 million this year, even though it won’t be running, according to Economic Development Minister Percy Paris... >>> full story.
Liberal party leader Stephen McNeil told an online news conference on Thursday that the sudden decision to de-fund the Cat Ferry to the USA was really "a cash grab" by the government, who is exaggerating the economic condition of the province. McNeil was also critical of the government's decision to unilaterally remove up to $15 million in subsidies to the ferry operator in 2010. "They did this with no consultation with the citizens or government officials in the area affected," says McNeil.
An ACOA-funded transportation study of southwest Nova Scotia is due to be delivered within weeks. The study is likely to address several possible iterations of ferry service for the regions, including how to protect the essential needs of the fishing and fish processing sectors to get product to markets in the USA and upper Canada.
28jan2010: Shelburne County says NO WAY JOSE ! to SWSDA... Councils for the Municipality and Town of Shelburne met Wednesday evening to discuss the fate of their respective relationships with the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and its controversial CEO, Frank Anderson. "Same head, different hat," was the comment of one municipal councilor, as the discussion turned to the possibility of joining up with Yarmouth-area municipal units in a "revised" SWSDA with Anderson at the helm.
The municipal council voted unanimously to reject an offer from SWSDA chair Rod Rose to join the new group and voted unanimously to reject Frank Anderson's separate plea for a $30,000 funding commitment to the current SWSDA, which the provincial government will cease to fund as as March 31, 2010. "Throwing good money after bad," was a side comment heard during the debate. The Municipality has extended almost $200,000 in loans and guarantees to SWSDA, which might be lost if the agency's finances are as bad as has been reported.
Municipal warden Sherm Embree announced that, on behalf of the five Shelburne County governments, earlier in the day he had sent a letter to Economic Development Minister Percy Paris requesting guidance in forming a county-wide Reginal Development Agency and had spoken with Economic Development executive director Neal Conrad, who offered the province's assistance in the County's efforts toward self-directed economic development.
Previously, the Town of Clark's Harbour council voted unanimously to opt out of SWSDA's new development scheme and the Barrington Municipal Council has said that they would not commit "one red cent" to a new Anderson-led Agency until all of their questions had been answered. The Town of Shelburne met in closed session Wednesday to discuss the growing financial and legal entanglements with SWSDA. Previously, Mayor Al Delaney said the Town was not happy with SWSDA's recent performance on their behalf.
Only the Town of Lockeport has agreed to continue with SWSDA. Mayor Darian Huskilson told and economic development summit recently that, despite all of the problems with SWSDA, it was "still a good investment for $3000."
26jan2010: Not one red cent for SWSDA from ShelCo munis... at least three of the five municipal councils in Shelburne County have decided not to invest any monies in the core funding for the new Regional Development Authority being created in Yarmouth by Frank Anderson and his former SWSDA board of directors until Anderson and company can provide answers to a slew of questions directed at him by the councils. One councilor said his colleagues will not provide SWSDA "one red cent" until stringent conditions are met.
The Town of Lockeport previously committed $3000 in funding to the new group and the Town of Shelburne expects a decision after a special meeting called for Wednesday evening. The various "in or out" SWSDA positions were announced at a brief economic development summit held in Shelburne Tuesday.
In a letter to Anderson from all of the Shelburne County units, the SWSDA chief was put on notice that any involvement in the new RDA he has been pressuring municipalities to join would only be considered if the units felt assured about the issues of accountability, transparency, board structure, financial management, compliance with the development act and implementation of recommendations arising from the Ombudsman's investigation and report.
The tone of recent meetings in this area and the reportedly hostile and fractious tenor of the recent SWSDA meetings in Yarmouth make it unlikely that Anderson will see anyone but Lockeport supporting a new RDA under his leadership.
26jan2010: Shelburne Town still playing hide-and-seek with SWSDA documents... in an on-going game of cat-and-mouse, the staff of the Town of Shelburne continues to keep certain documents from public scrutiny, especially those connected to the Town's troubled relationship with the South West Shore Development Authority.
Despite being advised on numerous occasions that Provincial law dictates that "A person has a right of access to any record in the custody, or under the control, of a municipality upon making a request..." the staff refused to make public Tuesday a recent letter to SWSDA chairman Rod Rose and a response to the Town from Rose.
Most recently in SCT, as a result of a document request, it was disclosed that the many public assertions by SWSDA executives and town council that SWSDA was assisting in generating funding for the $5 million harbour project were a complete fabrication. One can only imagine what they are hiding now.
21jan2010: SWSDA BLINKS!... $5 million, ten-year civil suit with OPI settled... in a surprising turn of events, SCT was advised today that the impending trial in the 10-year legal battle between South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and Ocean Produce International (OPI) is over, based upon a settlement between the two parties. The long-anticipated, high-stakes trial was originally set to start on January 18, but was postponed twice by SWSDA law firm McInnes Cooper, according to SWSDA sources.
When contacted by SCT, OPI vice president Ed Cayer would only say that "the terms of the settlement were satisfactory to OPI." SWSDA chairman Rod Rose was unavailable for comment. The lawsuit was instigated by SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson soon after the agency acquired the assets of the former Shelburne Park Development Agency (SPDA) and has been a contentious issue among regional politicians and civic leaders. Deceptive and destructive practices by SWSDA and SPDA were alleged in court filings in the case and trial witnesses were expected to include Anderson, Cayer, Hugh Mackay (SPDA) and others.
It is anticipated that the lawsuit settlement and legal fees to date have cost SWSDA member municipalities more than $1 million. Recently, SWSDA board members were advised by Anderson and his legal team that funds would have to be generated to pay for the upcoming trial. One SWSDA board member told a regional economic summit meeting recently that SWSDA was $120,000 or more in arrears to the lawyers and the SWSDA board had charged Anderson with seeking "funding partners" for the legal costs. Anderson is reported to have told municipal partners over the years that the OPI suit would never be a problem for SWSDA.
At least $182,000 of the legal fees are thought to be obscured in questionable accounting entries in SWSDA's recent financial filings. None of the municipalities queried by SCT about an entry in the December 31, 2009 "project report" for "Shelburne Sound Stage/Park" could identify the project, purpose or activity related to the mysterious project. The entry shows an unaccounted for $181, 931 deficit against a $75,000 budget with zero income..
A SWSDA board member would only say that "I think that entry is for legal fees," and another municipality agreed to seek clarification from CEO Frank Anderson. Anderson and Rose have reportedly convened a special "in camera" meeting of his board on January 25 to seek approval for the settlement agreement.
20jan2010: SWSDA sinks in year-end red ink... mysterious $181,000 project deficit... the year-end 2009 financial statements filed recently by South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) show a deficit in project funding of $334,000 to year-end, with more than 50% of that amount, or $181,931 levied against a project called "Shelburne Sound Stage/Park". It is the only "planning and research" project with no income connected to it. None of the SWSDA directors contacted could identify the project and it has not appeared previously in any of the voluminous "staff reports" the agency produces. The Sound Stage property was sold by SWSDA more than two years ago.
A regional economic development expert familiar with the operations of SWSDA told SCT that one strong possibility for the mysterious project is that it was created as a line item for charges for legal fees in SWSDA's 10-year, $5 million battle with Ocean Produce International. The case goes to trial one week from today and is estimated to cost SWSDA more than $500,000. A loss for SWSDA and judgment could add millions to the cost. "If it isn't purely illegal," said the expert, "it is certainly a deceptive way to hide expenses from prying eyes."
Recent meeting minutes show that the board of directors instructed CEO Frank Anderson to seek "funding partners" to underwrite the legal costs. No announcement has been made about any success in this area.
19jan2010: Additional delay in SWSDA trial... the clerk for Supreme Court Justice Allan Boudreau told SCT today that the $5 million civil trial scheduled for months to begin this week has been postponed once again to January 27. South West Shore Development Authority board members announced on January 12 at an economic development summit in Barrington that lawyers at Halifax law firm of McInnes Cooper had requested a delay until January 25.
The delay is the thought by some to be connected to the dire financial situation of SWSDA, which has been described by senior staff and board members as effectively "bankrupt". The January 12 summit was told that SWSDA was at least $50,000 in arrears to McInnes Cooper and that the firm required at least $150,000 additional to complete the six-week trial.
No announcement has been made to the SWSDA board or staff about the results of a meeting between the authority's CEO and board chairman and Economic Development Minister Percy Paris last week to discuss an emergency bail-out. $500,000 was being sought by the embattled CEO Frank Anderson and long-time chair Rod Rose.
18jan2010: Clarks Harbour says no to SWSDA.... by a unanimous vote last week the town council of Clarks Harbour decided to withdraw from any future role with the Yarmouth-based Regional Development Agency which has performed very poorly for Shelburne County in its 14-year existence. “There’s been a lot of baggage with SWSDA,” said mayor Leigh Stoddart to the Coast Guard. He noted controversial land sales, a lawsuit and difficulties with finances as some of the past problems. A recent down-graded performance audit by ACOA and the Department of Economic Development noted that SWSDA "barely met expectations" in Shelburne projects while they exceeded in projects for Yarmouth County and that Shelburne County required "considerably more attention." >>> full story
17jan2010: Seacoast lawsuit in the offing?... the minutes of the December 18 and January 6 meeting of the generally-secretive South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and discussions with members of the embattled agency's board of directors suggest that a lawsuit against Seacoast Entertainment Arts might be in the offing regarding the recent transfer by SeaCoast of the prime waterfront lots from the former Canadian Forces property at Sandy Point to friends and family of SeaCoast management. SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson told his board he was caught unaware of the sale, although the department of Economic Development (holder of $450,000 mortgage on the property) told SCT in 2008 that they had no problems with a subdivision of the land.
The self-described American real estate speculators registered nine separate businesses in 2008, with Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow as principals and former warden Paulette Scott as the registered agent. After helping the pair secure the property when she was warden, Scott was then hired as the chief financial officer, but was forced to resign as warden due to the obvious conflict of interest.
Although Kendrick & Barstow told local political leaders and the media that they would be investing "millions" in the property and made several announcements of major films coming to the site, only a brief stint as a discounted, part-time production base for the Moby Dick remake and a few weeks hosting a low-budget horror flick materialized. The 20,000-a-day candle operation fizzled, as did mini-golf, restaurant, hotel, recording studio and magazine operations.
The couple winter in New Hampshire, where Barstow owns a luxurious, lakefront home which rents for $10,000 per month in summer. Anderson reported to his board in December that the American pair would supply him with current income and expense statements and balance sheets. In an online sales brochure pitching the site for $5,000,000, Kendrick and company assert that the film complex produces $1.2 million in revenue yearly.
14jan2010: Sinking SWSDA likely to leave munis on the hook for $1 million-plus... in what could play out as a financial disaster for some of the municipal "partners" of the faltering South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA), the looming bankruptcy of the development agency would mean that the various loan guarantees and loans and grants to the agency would be unrecoverable, resulting in further economic hardship for some municipal governments. The Municipalities of Argyle and Clare are on the hook to banks for $116,000 each, while the town and municipality of Yarmouth have combined liability of $239,200. The Municipality of Barrington would have to write off $99,2000 and the Municipality of Shelburne has two guarantees outstanding for a total of $154,000. Additionally, SWSDA has an outstanding loan with the CBDC in Shelburne for $150,000. All of these figures include the recent scheme devised by SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson to convert a request for a $200,000 line of credit to a series of "repayable grants".
The justification for the lines of credit proffered by Anderson was for short-term support for programs underway for which payments had not been received from funding partners. There is no indication in financial data presented to the municipalities that any of the monies were used for programming. "We can pretty much count on writing off these SWSDA guarantees," said one local warden at a recent meeting discussing the SWSDA relationship. "These guarantees were intended to be used to add flexibility to SWSDA in carrying out programming," he added, "not to be used up immediately."
If a SWSDA bankruptcy occurs after or as a result of the $5 million civil suit instigated by Anderson ten years ago against a former SWSDA tenant and coming to trial in ten days, the costs of the litigation, legal fees and judgments could increase SWSDA's debt into bankruptcy by several million. Several board members have said they were told by Anderson that SWSDA is effectively teetering on the edge of having no monies for day-to-day operations.
In the light of a government mandate for the current SWSDA to cease doing business as of March 31, 2010, one scenario being discussed by some in the area now is to have SWSDA declare bankruptcy immediately, which would forestall any further debt incurred by SWSDA relating to the civil suit or other outstanding liabilities. "It is crazy for them to continue under these circumstances," said one local official.
Any bankruptcy action by SWSDA would have a court-appointed trustee oversee the collection and distribution of assets to major creditors, who are likely to include Ocean Produce International (OPI) and the law firm of McInnes-Cooper, (worked for several years under Anderson's direction on the 2001 SWSDA suit and OPI counter-suit), Province of Nova Scotia ($450,000 mortgage on SeaCoast Studios property) and agencies, firms and individuals who hold unsecured loans with SWSDA. The most likely assets would include $780,000 set aside by Justice Allan Boudreau (also overseeing the up-coming civil trial) in a court action in 2008, a $1.75 million mortgage on the Sandy Point property adjacent to OPI's facilities and the building owned and occupied by SWSDA in Yarmouth.
The trial was suddenly put on hold last week by McInnes-Cooper lawyers, but is scheduled to resume on January 25. SWSDA is reported by board members to be in arrears to the lawyers in amounts ranging from $50,000 to $122,000, with an additional minimum of $150,000 needed immediately to complete the trial. Any costs for a likely appeal in the case would be additional.
13jan2010: $320,000 SWSDA legal bill unpaid - trial postponed.... In a surprising announcement at a Shelburne County economic development summit on Tuesday, it was disclosed by South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) board members that the embattled agency has yet to pay its legal team a reported $172,000 spent to date and $150,000 or more needed for a six-week, $5 million civil trial scheduled to begin on Monday, January 18. The agency is represented by Halifax-based McInnes-Cooper senior partners Bob Belliveau and Gavin Giles. The costs of just the legal fees for the pair during trial is expected to be $15,000 per week and it is estimated that real costs of the case to SWSDA and its member municipalities is closer to $500,000. Trials of this nature almost invariably include "expert witness" reports, which would add $150-200,000 to the costs.
It was also announced Tuesday that SWSDA's lawyers had asked for a postponement of the trial for at least one week. Trial was precipitated by a suit filed ten years ago by SWSDA against local firm Ocean Produce International (OPI), who also filed a counter suit and another separate action, with claims totaling $5 million. Board members say they were not advised by SWSDA executives about the reasons for the delay.
Meeting chairman Sherm Embree suggested that OPI had recently refused an offer to settle by SWSDA, a claim denied by OPI vice president Ed Cayer, who was present at the meeting. "The exact opposite is true, as SWSDA refused our recent offer, but never bothered to respond with a counter offer." If SWSDA board members are being so misled by its executive managers about so important an issue, added Cayer, "what else are they not being told about SWSDA's legal action and other circumstances?"
The five week trial is being heard by Justice Allen Boudreau. None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court.
13jan2010: SWSDA chiefs meet with ministers to get emergency cash... SWSDA board chief Rod Rose and CEO Frank Anderson reportedly met with Economic Development Minister Percy Paris and Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau on Tuesday to plead for a $500,000 emergency loan to prop up the faltering development agency. SWSDA board members have been reporting for weeks now that the agency was "bankrupt", even before Tuesday's disclosure of the overdue legal bills. "The province would be crazy to give them more cash to feed directly to Halifax lawyers," said a political observer familiar with SWSDA's current state of affairs.
At an unusual special SWSDA board meeting over the holidays, according to board members, it was suggested that, rather than the legal fees being paid by SWSDA, the municipal units in Shelburne should front the legal fees. Clarks Harbour mayor Leigh Stoddart suggested that one scenario would have the five Shelburne County SWSDA members advance the $300,000-plus in legal fees and be reimbursed from the $22,000 monthly mortgage payments from "the base" (former CFS Shelburne, now owned by SeaCoast Entertainments) due beginning May 1.
Those familiar with the property sale and activity of SeaCoast owners Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow in the past two years think this scenario unlikely. The pair have reportedly failed to pay even property taxes on the site and have established a number of failed businesses at the property since taking control. Currently, the property appears to be abandoned, with battered vehicles in ditches and some of the buildings left open to the elements, including piles of blowing snow. (see photos HERE)
13jan2010: CAT ferry company wanted additional $5 million, says deputy minister..... at a media scrum following testimony to the public accounts committee in Halifax on Tuesday, economic development deputy minister Ian Thompson told reporters that Bay Ferries Ltd wanted a subsidy of $5 million in 2010 to operate the high-speed ferry between Yarmouth and Maine.
The government subsidies to the private firm were $1.3 in 2005 and grew by more than 900% to $12 million in 2009. Ridership during the same period plummeted, from more than 100,000 passengers to 76,000 in 2009. The increase in per-passenger subsidy grew by more than 1200% in the same period.
According to AllNovaScotia.com, when asked by Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt whether Thompson or his department consulted with Yarmouth-based SWSDA on the ferry subsidy issue, the deputy replied in the negative. Anderson has reportedly been working behind the scenes in trying to influence the outcome of the ACOA transportation study for the region now underway. One of the scenarios presented would be a year-round service from the USA to Yarmouth, which is not likely sustainable without considerable subsidy, but which some observers fear would also result in the end of the Digby-St John ferry currently in service.
Anderson reportedly also was trying to persuade his board to fund the CEO and SWSDA staff to prepare a "business case" for the Yarmouth ferry but has also reported to his board that he would be virtually unavailable during the six weeks of the civil trial.
The $2 million government subsidy given to the failed Maine-Yarmouth Starlink Aviation service amounted to a per-passenger subsidy of more than $550. The government also funded the failed airline by pre-paying blocks of tickets for then-minister Hurlburt and others to travel from Yarmouth to Halifax and return.
22feb2010: EDITORIAL: Same old, same old… I feel embarrassed now to have thought that much would have changed in local political leadership in a short span of three years. What I am talking about, of course, is the willingness of our mayors, wardens, councilors and others to keep from us the information vital for our well-being – economic and otherwise. More specifically, I refer to the $780,000 (give or take) well overdue due to us in Shelburne County from the sale of the Youth Centre but held in a legal purgatory until the recent and relieving lawsuit settlement involving SWSDA and OPI .
With all of the others, I have watched the very public sturm and drang which has enveloped us all over these past many months and the admissions by some political leaders that they had been “asleep at the wheel” somewhat in protecting our singular and collective financial assets from manipulation – or evisceration in some cases - by the former regional development authority.
Despite what would be logical in the instance and despite assurances to involve the public in a decision to pledge allegiance to or separate from the previous RDA , that decision was made without the luxury of direct involvement by citizens. But that said, in the public hand-wringing sessions and council meetings which preceded the decision to forge our own regional economic destiny, the mayors, wardens and councilors – to a member – pledged that they wanted more accountability, more sensibility and more transparency in how decisions regarding our tax dollars are used.
The recent decision behind closed doors by Team Shelburne to loan an unspecified amount of that $780,000 to the soon-to-be-defunct SWSDA so that that bankrupt group could pay OPI what it was owed in the court settlement should be a signal of the “open” process we can expect from these guardians of the public trust.
Those monies belong to the citizens of Shelburne County . They are long overdue and, in our own ways, we fought hard to get them back. They are designated for economic development. If they are given or “loaned” to an entity – especially one with an absolutely spotty record when it comes to finances – we are entitled to know at a minimum: how much was loaned? On what Terms? When – if at all – can we expect repayment? When push comes to shove, even this current crop of leaders don’t seem to trust the public. As for answers to these questions, I for one am not holding my breath.
4feb2010: MLA Hurlburt at the centre of pervasive and irresponsible MLA expense spending, slammed by media... Yarmouth MLA big winner in provincial "Expense Lotto"... named in Auditor General's report to speaker regarding expense account spending... The just-released Auditor General's Report points out that, even though the NDP government has made some inroads in curbing excesses in MLA spending, problems remain and Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt is apparently named as one of the culprits for having an $8000 generator installed at his home. Some of the most serious offenses include $43,000 in "excessive" spending for computers, furniture and cameras, plus $6,000 for one MLA for web design. The report details "pervasive and irresponsible" spending on luxury items like a $5000 laptop and $700 espresso machine, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in unreported and "under the table" payments to senior staff. One MLA bought 11 computers, one four VCRs, one twelve printers, one paid his brother for art work and another his brother to fix a driveway.
Our local MLAs were both over and under the norm for spending, with Sterling Belliveau 15-20% over the average in some areas and 50% above in gadget spending, Chris D'Entremeont at 150% the average on advertising spending. Richard Hurlburt was the topper, though, claiming allotment assets of $24,710, more than 300% of the average of his colleagues. The Herald reports that the generator has been moved. Overall, Hurlburt spent 130% of the average for all categories.
Though not named in the public version of the report, Hurlburt (with MLAs Colwell and Preyra, among others) is named specifically as an offender in the version supplied to the Speaker of the House. Hurlburt or others who may have "topped up" payments to senior staff without remitting the standard deductions and tax amount, may also be held accountable by Revenue Canada and other agencies.
Premier Darrell Dexter has said through a staff member that he will repay $7800 for cameras and computers. Natural resources minister has paid $13,000 for custom furniture. More than half of the MLAs double-billed the taxpayers for expenses. The Borque news site has banner headline 'DEXTER CAUGHT RED-HANDED."
Auditor General Jacques Lapointe made several recommendations about changing accountability standards for MLA expenses. The report also addressed the issues of P3 schools, where the province will pay $52 million in extra fees included in contracts. Electronic health records were also discussed. The Report is HERE CBC story HERE Herald story HERE. See Globe & Mail story HERE
Brian Flinn of allNovaScotia.com said in CBC radio Thursday that rules created by a secret committee of MLAs allow for financial problems outlined in the report. In the last ten years, said Flinn, expenses for MLAs have grown two-to-four times the rate of inflation. Because the legislators could or would not vote themselves raises, says Flinn, they gave themselves more money through the "back door" of exaggerated expense budgets. "There is a psychology in government, said commentator Ralph Surrette on the same program, "where where those who do not "dip" are considered "nerds" and are excluded" from an inner circle. Graham Steele, according to Flinn, was told to "shut up" when he tried to address MLA expenses two years ago.
Asked about whether the most egregious offenders will come clean, Flinn opined that "in the next few days, we're going to see the dance of the seven veils."
This scandal is only the latest episode in MLA Hurlburt's track record surrounding his spending habits as MLA and for Minister. In early 2009 questions were raised about the then-Minister of Energy when he awarded an untended contract for $150,000 to business partner Frank Anderson and his troubled South West Shore Development Agency (SWSDA) in Yarmouth. The give-away was for the creation of an "Oceans First Task Force", which was defunded by the government after a scandal developed surrounding reports that an expensive junket to Norway by Hurlburt, Anderson was, according to some fishermen who attended, it was "like some big, expensive party every day."
The Oceans First project was part of the just-completed, extensive investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman surrounding years of questionable financial dealings by SWSDA. No report from Oceans First was ever tabled.
2feb2010: Editorial: Lobbying is NOT the name of the game in economic development ...
Over the past decade, the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) has increasingly interjected itself between populations and the municipalities in our area, not to mention the provincial and federal governments. A gradual process, SWSDA inserted itself by establishing itself as “the Authority” through which all funding was funneled and either acquired or controlled. People and officials actually began to believe that funding approval was contingent on SWSDA making the application.
SWSDA’s control of funding applications to both provincial and federal agencies resulted in the eventual replacement of municipal governments in their efforts to plan and control their own socio-economic development in the geographic areas covered by the RDA .
Additionally, SWSDA imposed itself in the funding and program relationships between individuals and non-government organizations and federal and provincial programs like Community Access Program (computers in communities), provincial immigration programs, human resources programs, seniors programs and community services through their designation by federal and provincial agencies and by the creation of subordinate agencies controlled entirely by staff with little or no accountability even to the SWSDA board pf directors.
This made it increasingly difficult for individuals and NGOs to establish dialogues with government bodies and access funding from these bodies. It became not uncommon for civil servants to refer citizens to SWSDA if they were seeking funding or access to a program. A good example of this is the CAP program that is dominated by SWSDA with the active support of staff of the provincial Library system.
The result has been a concentration of transformational power in the hands of SWSDA staff that is unfettered by the normal checks and balances imposed on governments by the electorate, its elected officials or public servants. In so doing, the RDA has dramatically weakened the relationship between populations and municipalities in South Western Nova Scotia and provincial and federal government bodies. The result is a weakening of local capabilities to plan and manage their own development.
This destructive behaviour has further exacerbated the negative impact of SWSDA over our communities and citizens over the past decade. The recent examples of SWSDA contributing to political fund-raising, initiating letter-writing to provincial ministers by municipalities, leaking complaints to opposition parties and the press have now been compounded by SWSDA’s blatant efforts to generate negative press respecting the decision about subsidies for the high-speed ferry by taping local populations for YouTube.
Neither the public consultation that led to the creation of RDAs or its enabling legislation anticipated that RDAs would take control and exclude people, organizations and municipalities from control of their own development. Nor did it expect that RDAs would become lobby groups using its resources to put pressure on governments or to moblize public opinion against governments. Neither the next RDA established to service Shelburne County or the “new” RDA being designed on the old SWSDA model should adopt any of these bad habits that defined our previous RDA for so long.
18jan2010: Editorial: A bright light in cloudy skies... After a year of almost constant disturbing news about the economic development climate in this region, there appears to be emerging a fresh light from under the gloomy clouds of pessimism. That this light is in part a result of the apparent death of a once-respected institution who has added to the gloom is more than ironic. If we can believe the reports from the area’s mayors and wardens who sit as directors of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA), that troubled agency may be suffering its last ghastly paroxysm before winding down its affairs after being so ordered to do so by April 1 by none other than the deputy minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development.
In the all-to-public drama worthy of its own “reality TV” status, SWSDA has been the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman based on citizen complaints, has been engaged in ten-year legal battle which is likely to cost taxpayers in excess of five hundred thousand dollars - maybe more than one million - and is now fighting almost weekly pronouncements by board members and senior staffers that they are virtually bankrupt.
The litany of court battles over executive travel expenses, the scrutiny occasioned by trouble real estate deals for the Boy’s School and the base at Sandy Point and involvement in a questionable mink ranch land sale which resulted in a call for the removal from office of public officials has not quieted the waters. While they claim to be the “go to guys” for funding for municipal projects, SWSDA has been unable in more than a year to raise one red cent of the five million dollars needed for Shelburne’s vaunted Port Project and has done little better on the Barrington Industrial Park project.
But the light, you ask, where is the light? It became clear at their most recent meeting that, in the midst of all of this regional sturm and drang, the Municipality of Shelburne , with a young and able CAO working with a progressive-minded council has been burning the midnight oil towards creating sustainable development in their neck of the woods. In less than a year, under CAO Kirk Cox’s direction, and with Sherm Embree leading an apparently willing council, the Municipality has created a thorough and well-conceived Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, which the administration and council seem poised to use also as a roadmap for sustained economic development in the area.
Their recruitment of two new physicians to the area has resulted in the first month in memory of no Roseway Emergency Room closures. They appear to be committed to constructing a new medical clinic and they were instrumental in attracting the $ 8 million-plus provincial investment in Shelburne Ship Repair, creating solid jobs and an even stronger corporate citizen in Irving . The ICSP has also just spawned a pilot project for a seniors-based regional transportation project and the Plan has dozens of other possible projects embedded in it. All of this in less than one year.
But the most ambitious – and attractive – move has been the Municipality’s announcement that, despite the collective hand-wringing which seems to characterize the municipal response from others in the county to the seeming collapse – or even bankruptcy - of SWSDA, they will be establishing a functioning economic development capacity starting now. They see clearly now that they can do it.
If I was warden Halliday or mayor Delaney, Huskilson or Stoddart, I’d be getting on the phone to Mssrs. Cox and Embree to find out how quickly I could “take a meeting” to discuss getting on that economic development engine, rather than being left behind at the station. Timothy Gillespie: editor/publisher
17dec2009: Shell game by SWSDA in $5 million Shelburne Port project... Contrary to assurances made by Frank Anderson, CEO of the beleaguered South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and Shelburne mayor Alan Delaney that Anderson has been actively pursuing funding opportunities for the five million-dollar "port expansion" project in Shelburne Harbour, records on file with the town suggest that Anderson's involvement is a complete fabrication.
A thorough review of all of the records on file for the project, shows absolutely no effort by SWSDA or Anderson on behalf of the Town. The only reference on file regarding SWSDA are three memos written to Anderson by the mayor, town clerk and a project consultant - none of which received a reply by Anderson.
Having been told that all correspondence for the largest-ever project in Shelburne's history was most verbal, SCT requested records of any conversations about the project. The Town failed to provide any record whatsoever of Anderson's involvement. The only other records of support on file for the project are a letter of support from the Town of Lockeport and a letter from South Shore MP Gerald Keddy to federal minister John Baird.
Anderson and Delaney have repeatedly stated that SWSDA was helping to find funding for the project and Anderson reportedly told his SWSDA board that he had produced two funding applications. The town's records dispute those assertions.
An economic development expert in the region who is intimately familiar with the history of port development and SWSDA described Anderson and SWSDA's efforts on behalf of the town as "laughable at best." SWSDA and Anderson have been the subject of a two-year investigation by the office of the Nova Scotia Ombudsman for alleged improprieties in economic development practices. A draft copy of the report was delivered to SWSDA members on December 8.
17dec2009: Hide-and-seek by mayors and wardens in SWSDA study... a critical report for the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman about municipal involvement in the oversight and management of the regional development agency is being kept from local councils by the mayors, wardens and councilors who received it more than a week ago.
Despite the fact that the mayors and wardens in the region have repeatedly stated that they could and would not participate in important discussions or votes at regional meetings (Team Shelburne, Shelburne County Industrial Commission, South West Shore Development Authority, etc) without conferring with and getting direction from their councils, these same public officials are refusing to share with their council colleagues the results of the report. The SWSDA board meets in Yarmouth on January 6 to discuss the report, two days before the deadline for a response to the Ombudsman's Office.
The investigation and report are a result of a complaint filed in 2007 (see letter here) regarding alleged erosion of the principal of public accountability and the resulting loss of public control over a public institution..." and the "... failures of Provincial and Municipal officials to properly manage" the assets owned by the citizens, among other things.
The Ombudsman's report is reported to contain several recommendations for revising the RDA management and oversight, but any questions of illegal activity would have been referred to the RCMP or other authorities.
One community activist who has attended many of the meetings of tha various regional bodies observed that keeping this report from the eyes of the various councilors seemed "the height of hypocricy."
17dec2009: More online ads by American speculators in cash grab from Shelburne Sound Stage... The eBay web site is now home to two additional ads for property sales at the former Canadian Forces base at Sandy Point. Magazine ad salesman Jim Kendrick and his common-law wife and real estate speculator Mary Barstow have put their SeaCoast Studios property for sale on the internet for $5 million and a prime waterfront lot is up for $25,000.
The couple have also posted the 170-acre Studio property online in other venues, claiming it is valued at $20 million and produces $1.2 million in yearly revenue. The ad for the "amazing" ocean view lot features a close up of Kendrick's tennis shoes, but does not mention the $2.2 million mortgages that are registered against both of the properties.
The pair, who promoted themselves as savvy business people, purchased the properties in a controversial sale arranged by SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson two years ago and the sale is part of the two-year investigation by the Nova Scotia Ombudsman. During the two years the couple have attempted several failed businesses, including a market, hotel, mini-golf, newspaper, calendar publishing and recording studio. One prospective buyer from Los Angeles told SCT that none of Kendrick and Barstow's assertions online stood up to even casual scrutiny.
The film maker said that when he confronted the pair about having sold of $1 million of the prime ocean front lots, they first denied it then said that they were "getting the lots back." When questioned by his board of directors about the lot sales, Anderson also denied knowledge, but later said they were "getting the lots back". See the ads here and here.
1 Dec 2009: Deputy Minister to meet with SWSDA board about Shelburne Sound Stage mortgage and loan guarantees... As a follow-up to his letter in May to the Mayors and Wardens in the region informing them of the government's decision to disband the current South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA), deputy minister Ian Thompson of the Department of Economic and Rural Development will meet December 11 with voting members of the SWSDA board, most of whom are mayors, wardens and councilors.
The meeting, according to Mayors Darian Huskilson of Lockeport and Leigh Stoddart of Clarks Harbour, is designed in large to discuss the government's position on a recent request of SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson for a $500,000 additional line of credit, backed by the Department of Economic and Rural Development. SWSDA, according to Stoddart and others who have discussed the matter with Anderson, is on the brink of bankruptcy and will not last into the new year without a major cash infusion. The topic of a new RDA for Shelburne County is also likely to be discussed, according to Stoddart.
Another item on the agenda, according to the mayors, is Anderson's request for the government to take over the $1.75 million second mortgage of the former Canadian Forces base in Sandy Point. In seeking permission of his board in 2007 to sell the parcel to a pair of American real estate speculators operating as Seacoast Entertainment Arts, Anderson told his board the government had agreed to carry the mortgage, as they hold a $450,000 first mortgage on the property.
"The large mortgage is an asset to SWSDA," a real estate specialist told SCT. "I can't see why they would possibly want to dispose of it unless they felt that the mortgagees were at risk of not making payments or that there was some other unspoken liability with the property. It's like money in the bank." Americans Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow have had a troubled tenancy at the sound stage property and have instigated several failed businesses there, including a video production firm, audio recording studio, candle-making firm, hotel, mini-market, mini-golf, drive-in movie, newspaper and calendar publishing firm.
Anderson negotiated a mortgage with 2 years of no payments, but the $32,000 per month rates begin in 2010 and the couple have reportedly had trouble making the facility pay for itself and are rumoured to be in arrears on their $50,000 per year property taxes. They have sold off ten prime lots from the parcel and have the property listed on several internet web sites as for sale for $5 million, but valued at $20 million. Despite the general lack of any business at the site, they claim $1.2 million in revenues in their prospectus. One potential buyer told SCT that they appeared to be "desperate to unload the property."
Some additional factors in the government's decision about the property are likely to be the impending Ombudsman's Report, expected to be highly critical of SWSDA and Anderson in a number of areas, but especially in their handling of the sale of the base and the former Shelburne Boy's School. The Base property is also connected to an on-going legal battle between SWSDA and Shelburne-based Ocean Products International. SWSDA was charged by OPI with "fraudulent conveyance" of the proceeds from the boys school. When Anderson and SWSDA admitted that he funds had been spent, a court issued a consent order protecting an amount equal to those from the sale of the base. This effectively keeps SWSDA from "dispersing" or manipulating assets into an "accounting entry" which are subject to claims in the $5 million suit. That case goes to trial in Halifax on January 18.
November 27, 2009: EDITORIAL: Why is Shelburne Town playing hide-and-seek - again! - with SWSDA files?... For the better part of half a year, the Town of Shelburne has been keeping a secret stash of files out of view in the dark caverns of Clerk Wilmont Hardy's inner sanctum or in the elegantly panelled and plushly carpeted confines of His Worship, Alan Delaney's office. Polite requests for the files go unanswered... Formal requests for the files go unanswered... the Clerk and his staff do not respond to written requests... what could be so damning in the town's - or the Mayor's - relationship with SWSDA and CEO Frank Anderson?.
Given what I've read of the mountains and mountains of SWSDA information available through some staffers and through every other town or municipal clerk in the region, let me hazard some guesses. When the files are made available - and they will be if it takes the Freedom of Information Officer, the Ombudsman or a Supreme Court Justice like in SWSDA's case - here's what we'll likely find:
1.) in the file for the $5,000,000 port funding that the Mayor insisted be turned over to Anderson's gentle care... nothing, zero, nada, nil, zip.
This despite the fact that Anderson just reported to his board of directors that he had completed funding applications, despite that fact that Delaney and Anderson have apparently met and conferenced several times on the matter, despite the fact that the Town is desperate for some development, we will find zero. In other jurisdictions, the Mayor, Clerk and Council would be expected to have at least one scrap of paper to support a $5 million project.
When SCT was told that the arrangements with Anderson were "verbal" deals with the Mayor, a request was made for a record of the alleged verbal agreements. The Town's response - pound sand!
Councilor Tony Mahaney is on record as asserting to federal officials prior to May that funding proposals had been made for the project - but there is no record of the proposals... anywhere.
What I would like to know is... had funding proposals for the project been made per Councilor Mahaney's assertions to federal authorities? If so, where are they and why can we not see them? If not, why not? and why did the Town (through Mahaney) misrepresent the facts to the feds?
I'd also like to know if there is one shred of evidence in the Town files that Frank Anderson - or anyone else at SWSDA - has made one phone call, met with one official, written one letter, submitted one proposal to help us with this great project? I suspect not, but I'd like to know why the big secret? Why the hide-and-seek? Why the cover-up?
As for the other SWSDA document that the Clerk refused to divulge (see SWSDA blog here) , it is a letter (see copy here) from Frank Anderson trying to bully the Council into signing away our right - by December 11, no less! - to sort out our options in deciding our future part for an RDA. Why don't the Town Clerk - and maybe the Mayor - want us to see the letter? I've read it and I know what I want the Mayor and Council to tell Frank Anderson:
1.) In his May letter, the Deputy Minister of Economic Development asked the municipal units to write to the MINISTER, not Frank Anderson about their intentions vis-a-vis a revised RDA regime in this region dictated by compliance with the RDA Act
2.) Mr. Anderson is asking for blind fealty to an organization that the Deputy Minister says will not exist after April 1, 2010
3.) Mr. Anderson does not address whatsoever the issues required by the Deputy Minister, including strategic plan, board composition and governance, etc.
4.) The issues of the enormous SWSDA debt and loan guarantees (by our council!!) are not addressed
In the atmosphere of mistrust and questioning of SWSDA and the relationships between the RDA, Frank Anderson and the various councils, clerks and staff, it seems a poor choice to me for Wilmot Hardy and Mayor Delaney to be playing "hide the records with an inquiring and energized public. T Gillespie ed/pub SCT
JUST SOME OF THE ACOA FUNDING TO SWSDA AND AFFILIATES: 1996: Promotion of Western NS as Tourism Destination - $100,000(ACOA); 1996: Study: privatization of ferry operations between NS and USA - $33,000 (ACOA); 1999: Shelburne Film Production & sound Stage - $975,000 (ACOA); 2000: Shelburne Sound Stage business plan - $20,769 (ACOA); 2000: SW NS Agrifood study - $28,000 (ACOA); 2000:Highbush blueberry research project - $45,220 (ACOA); 2001: Film industry skills learning programme - $250,000 (ACOA); 2001: Tourist Bureau Feasibility Study: - $23,550 (ACOA); 2001: Building addition construction - $401,200 (ACOA); 2001: Marine/Aquatic Centre of excellence feasibility study - $18,750 (ACOA); 2002: Implementation of ISO 9000 2000 management standards - $27,032 (ACOA); 2004: Community E-Commerce Centre - $295,437 (ACOA); 2004: Virtual marketing tour - $75,000 (ACOA); 2005: Provide Broadband to rural Yarmouth & Shelburne counties - $292,000 (ACOA); 2006: Marketing of incremental tourism activities - $157,500 (ACOA); 2006: Tourism Market Readiness Program - $100,000 (ACOA); 2007: Acadian Product Development - $274,112 (ACOA); 2008: Strategic Community Capacity - $770,000 ( ACOA); 2008: Museum and Historical Site Interpretation Specialist Project $67,500(ACOA); 2008: Tourism destination development plan Yarmouth - $67,500 (ACOA); 2009: Acadian Product Development Phase 2 - $100,000 (ACOA), 2006: Model mink farm development - $951,500 (ACOA). ^^^ RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE ^^^
November 13, 2009: SWSDA violates procurement policies with $85,000 sole-source contract... In yet another violation of standard financial and oversight practices, the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) violated local, regional, provincial and federal procurement policies in awarding a sole-source consulting contract to an Ontario company for a tourism destination development plan for Shelburne County.
When contacted by SCT, a senior ACOA spokesman said that the agency "works very hard to comply with all federal standards of fair and ethical procurement policies" and that they would never recommend to a funding applicant that breech any procurement standards on an ACOA-funded project.
At a news conference in Shelburne Friday to announce the funding, SWSDA chairman Rod Rose said when asked about the sole source, $85,000 contract, which was given to Ontario-based the Tourism Company, "It was OK to do this because it was an 'open contract.' " When asked if he was certain, he said "I am sure". No such thing as an open contract exists in Canadian or Nova Scotian procurement policies, according to senior sources with Public Works Canada and sources in the Nova Scotia government. The project is supported by $56,000 in federal funding and $25,000 from the departments of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Culture and Heritage.
The firm had previously completed a similar, government-funded project for SWSDA in the Yarmouth area. That report cited SWSDA more than 35 times and resulted in a series of recommendations in which immediate, five-year funding for SWSDA was strongly recommended as a critical factor in the project. Rose initially told SCT that the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism made the choice of the Ontario company, but recanted when questioned further. Senior SWSDA staff has said that the contract was awarded because "we know these people and they've done good work for us." The awarding of contracts solely on the basis of previous work is specifically noted as a "practice to avoid" in the Contracts Canada guidelines.
SWSDA, CEO Frank Anderson and the board of directors are currently under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in Nova Scotia. Part of the investigation includes questionable financial dealings by the agency, CEO, board and senior staff. The report is expected to address in part sole-source, untendered or otherwise questionable contracts and business deals by SWSDA regarding Team Shelburne, Municipality of Barrington, Port of Yarmouth, Shelburne Youth Centre, CFS Shelburne and others. The news conference was attended by wardens, mayors and councilors from throughout the county.
A recent government report cited in a October 12 Canadian Press story said that too many contracts skew the procurement process in favour of suppliers that officials preferred. " There was scant evidence in the files that bureaucrats did any homework about other potential suppliers." Such is certainly the case here.
"We expected, as a good business practice, that most of the procurement files would include documentation to indicate that some form of market research had been conducted to ascertain if more than one supplier could fulfill the requirement," says the report. "However, we found that this was not the case."
Despite the fact that this contract in question is for tourism development in Shelburne County, there is no evidence that SWSDA engaged in any consultation about the contract with NS Tourism, Destination South West Nova Scotia or any of the five Shelburne County municipal units funding tourism development in the area and for whom the contract was ostensibly developed.
"This is an outrageous violation of every contracting principal in Canada," said a former federal official who once oversaw and enforced the contracting and tendering processes of several federal agencies and was senior bureaucrat in the Nova Scotia government. "If it is not specifically illegal, it is absolutely beyond the pale of acceptability. The person who approved this should be fired."
The Tourism Company has also done tourism strategies for Regina, Manitoba, Ottawa, Northern Ontario, among others. TTC principals have been in the Shelburne area on and off for several weeks conducting research and industry sources tell SCT that they appear to be doing a good job. A preliminary report is due early in 2010.
November 5, 2009: Film studio sale off... inflated value and misrepresentation cited... Responding to an advertisement on a Wall Street Journal for a "film and television studio" valued at $21 million and producing $1.2 million per year in revenues, Hollywood filmmaker Ray Izad-Mehr made an offer recently to purchase the former Canadian Forces base at Sandy point from American speculators Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow.
In a series of interviews with SCT, Izad-Mehr explained that his initial serious interest in the property began to wane when Kendrick and Barstow could not adequately address the questions which arose in the process of the negotiations, especially issues which arose in news reports of the couples' troubled tenure at the 175-acre facility. "When I asked them about the recent sale of all of the prime oceanfront lots on the property, Jim Kendrick told me they had not been sold". When Izad-Mehr faxed Kendrick copies of the current tax records proving the sales, Kendrick then said that, yes, they were sold but he was "getting them back."
As for the facility generating $1.2 million income per year, with sixteen employees, full-time. Those familiar with the business speculate that one-tenth of that amount would constitute a generous assessment and have never seen close to sixteen employees at the site. A principal with the recent Moby Dick film shot in Shelburne said that the rates charged by Kendrick, et al were one-fifth to one-tenth of industry standards. "They were almost giving it away," said the filmmaker.
Ray Izad-Mehr cited the prospect of "union issues" and the unreliability of information from Kendrick and Barstow as reasons for breaking off the negotiations. He had planned to begin shooting a film in January, if the purchase had gone through. The property sales sheet mentions the 60-room Sea Song Inn, which the provincial tourism web site describes as having a hotel with "30, two-room suites, a conference centre and training site; restaurant, mini-golf and theatres (drive-in and indoor)." The property has never contained a conference centre or training site and currently appears to be abandoned.
November 3, 2009: Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission / SWSDA land deal questions quashed by Barrington Council... Despite voting unanimously less than a month ago to have the Council's actions in the questionable sale of land to YAIC for a "model" mink operation investigated by a capable 3rd party, and despite inviting Barrington lawyer Clyde Nickerson to make a presentation of his questions surrounding the trouble land deal - including a remarkable $20,000 fee to SWSDA - on Monday night the Council treated Nickerson like a pariah, rather than a citizen-activist asking important questions.
Nickerson's questions were generally answered with obviously rehearsed and canned responses by the Warden and Councilors, often citing Municipal Act code sections. Councilor George El-Jakl appeared disturbed at having to answer questions about his actins in public and attacked Nickerson with accusations that he "needed to open his ears" and that the lawyer had presented false information to the Council.
Nickerson protested El-Jakl 's behaviour and that of the Municipal lawyer who interrupted his presentation. El-Jakl refused the request of the Warden to apologize to Nickerson. The lawyer also outlined what he believes are illegal loans to SWSDA and improper transfer of funds to the YAIC.
One Barrington resident who attended the meeting said that "it was obvious that this council just wants to sweep the whole mess under the rug."
Despite the unanimous vote on record by the council for an investigation, Barrington Municipal Clerk Brian Holland said that a "decision was made" not to pursue an investigation.
October 28, 2009: SWSDA filching funds to pay for lawsuits?.... a review of the most recent financial filings of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) suggest that the agency and its board and CEO may be stealthily removing monies from "projects" and other areas to pay for mounting legal costs in the lawsuit SWSDA instigated against Ocean Produce International.(OPI)
In the ten years that SWSDA has vigourously pursued the suit, there has rarely appeared on SWSDA's books a line item for legal fees, despite the fact that they have engaged McInnes Cooper, one of the most notable and expensive law firms in Nova Scotia. Costs to date for SWSDA for the suit are estimated to be well over $300,000 - all or most of it hidden from plain view or not recorded in budgets or reports.
In the recent accounting, SWSDA reported "professional fees" of $23,400" relating to the $700 thousand dollars set aside by court order and addressed further by a recent contempt of court action which claimed CEO Frank Anderson and SWSDA had not complied fully with the judge's order.
Recent budgets also include $75,000 in project costs for Shelburne Park, the former military base sold recently to an American couple for $2.75 million. SWSDA reports issued to board members do not detail the nature of the $75,000 cost for a privately held property. After two years of several failed business ventures at the property, the self-styled real estate speculators now have the property on the market and valued at $20 million.
An economic development specialist familiar with SWSDA's operation told SCT that the lack of accountability for several hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds could bring serious charges in other jurisdictions. What is really outrageous, according to the source, is that none of the municipal leaders in the area have asked any questions about the accounting and accountability irregularities.
Based on a complaint filed with a 500-signature petition in 2006, the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman is completing a year-long investigation into the financial and other dealings of SWSDA, Anderson and the board of directors. Government sources say that the report is expected to be very damning of some SWSDA operations.
The SWSDA/OPI civil trial is scheduled for five weeks in January and includes an $5 million counter suit by OPI. Costs for SWSDA for the trial, preparation, expert witnesses, etc. are expected to add $200-300,000 to the massive legal costs to date, most or all of which must be taken from programming funds.
October 14, 2009: Yarmouth Industrial Commission relents on fight for outside auditor.... forced recently to ask for a $300,000 bailout from Yarmouth-area municipal governments, the troubled Yarmouth & Area Industrial Commission (YAIC) and its CEO Frank Anderson (also CEO for South West Shore Development Authority: SWSDA) have steadfastly refused to allow an outside auditor to supervise bookkeeping and reporting for agency.
Based on a request from Anderson for the bailout from local governments, the councils agreed to a deal with serious conditions attached, including detailed answers re: YAIC most recent financial statements, appointment of Grant Thornton as auditors, the three area CAOs are appointed to the YAIC audit committee, with one as chair, YAIC develop a strategy with goals and timelines, increasing financial transparency, hiring a real estate specialist.
Anderson and company apparently fought the audit issue, saying that Wheelans White was both capable and familiar with YAIC operations. Anderson met with the mayors, wardens and CAOs from the region following the recent YAIC annual meeting and was informed that the auditor issue was non-negotiable. Soon thereafter, Anderson informed the towns and municipalities that YAIC would agree to Grant Thornton as auditor.
Wheelans White is also the auditor for SWSDA, which has admitted recently that they are also on the brink of bankruptcy, despite an infusion of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds over the term of Anderson's oversight. The Nova Scotia RDA Act requires that RDAs have books prepared by a Registered Municipal Auditor, a designation not afford Wheelans White (see list here). The firm is also reportedly recommended by some Yarmouth-area politicians as the preferred referral for financial statements and business plans which are designed for quick approval.
The YAIC and Anderson are under apparently under close scrutiny by the Nova Scotia Ombudsmans Office, which has been conducting an exhaustive investigation of the financial and other dealings of SWSDA, CEO Anderson and its board of directors, comprised largely of mayors, wardens and other public officials.
>>> hear report to Yarmouth Council
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October 14, 2009: Barrington warden and council resignation sought for probable fraud, theft and gross incompetence and neglect of duty in mink farm land deal.... $20,000 payment to SWSDA, secret meetings, smelly rats claimed by Barrington lawyer... in a shocking turn of events at the Barrington Municipal council meeting Tuesday, local lawyer Clyde Nickerson spelled out in intricate detail how the controversial land deal for the Clyde River mink farm project was a tangle of illegal actions, secret meetings, mismanagement and probable fraud involving the warden and some current councilors, Yarmouth and Area Industrial Commission (YAIC), South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and CEO Frank Anderson.
Entitled a "presentation on the Municipal Government Act, Nickerson went through chapter and verse of how many parts of the Municipal Government Act(MGA), Canada Criminal Code, standard operating procedures and common sense were violated in the shady transaction which transferred 300 acres of municipal land to the YAIC in early 2007 for $66,000, after an appeal by SWSDA and YAIC CEO Frank Anderson that he would create a "model mink farm" in the area, employing and training dozens from the area
According to the MGA, land sales over $10,000 require a registered appraiser to assess the "market value", which did not occur in this case. Having spent what he said were "many hours" pouring over MOB meeting meetings, Nickerson pointed out that the decision to sell the unappraised land to YAIC was made in a secret meeting. Further, the following day, the council voted to give Anderson and SWSDA a $66,000 grant for "economic development", which warden Halliday told SCT last month was specifically for the mink ranch project.
When Anderson and company could not deliver on the model mink ranch project, the YAIC decided to sell the land to a local mink farmer, deducted $20,000 for "expenses" to SWSDA, supposedly gave the farmer a $16,000 "grant" and returned less than $30,000. The MGA, says Nickerson expressly forbids municipal funds to go to support a private business.
In detailing the twisted rodent real estate deal, the secret meetings and "gross incompetence" of the council when they turned a blind eye to YAIC, SWSDA and Anderson syphoning off more than $35,000 of ratepayers money, Nickerson quoted Halliburton's Sam Slick, to wit... "A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse." On the topic of the relationship between YAIC, SWSDA, Frank Anderson and the land and money transfers, the lawyer said, "I smell a rat!" (Ed. note: I have been advised that a previous illustration "Rodent problem in Barrington" regarding this issue referred incorrectly to mink as rodents, according to Wikipedia, a common mistake. They belong to the sub-family Mustelina, which also includes badgers, sable, marten and polecats. The illustration also included a graphic of Frank Anderson. Our apologies to all rodents.)
In closing, Nickerson said he had not yet found absolute proof of criminal intent, but that the level of gross incompetence resulting in the loss of funds suggested that the only honourable solutions for warden Halliday, deputy warden Donna Messenger and councilman George Al-Jaki were to personally repay the $36,000 or resign.
In a response similar to that which followed the recent call by her own council for an investigation into the activities surrounding the suspicious land deal, warden Halliday protested that her job was the "most thankless on earth", that she was doing the best she could and that she never knowingly committed fraud or theft. The previous story about the "mink stink" land deal and other rodent problems in Barrington and Clyde River is here.
Note: The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman is nearing the end of an extensive year-long investigation into the business and financial practices of SWSDA, Frank Anderson and YAIC. Investigators have apparently interviewed dozens of witnesses from private citizens to regional and provincial officials and government and is expected to issue a report soon. The NDP Party and MLA Sterling Belliveau promised during the recent election that an audit of SWSDA's finances would be conducted if they formed government. Government sources say that the audit is on hold until the results of the Ombudsman's report are delivered, but that "the government fully intends to get to the bottom of SWSDA's finances." >>>listen to presentation here
October 14, 2009; SWSDA near bankrupt, says Barrington warden in "bail-out" pitch for $500,000 credit line and $1.75 million mortgage... at the tail end of a long and tendentious meeting, the Barrington Municipal Council was asked to consider approving a letter of "strong support" for the beleaguered South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA). Warden Louise Halliday spoke of a special October 6 SWSDA board meeting at which CEO Frank Anderson explained that the RDA was out of funds and without a provincial line of credit, they might have to cease day-to-day operations.
The appeal was contained in a letter drafted by Clerk Brian Holland in which the council appeals to Economic Development Minister Percy Paris to grant a $500,000 line of credit to SWSDA and to transfer a $1.75 million mortgage on the former military base (now SeaCoast Entertainments) from SWSDA to the Government. Without specifically stating it, the letter is in support of a September 2 letter from Anderson to Paris requesting the credit line.
In response to a question about why the letter was being presented to council prior to discussion, Halliday stated that, due to the dire financial situation at SWSDA, time was of the essence. Holland iterated several times to council that he was the sole author of the letter, but it is almost identical in style and content to one sent by Anderson to all area councils as a template for letters of support.
In response to questions and comments from councilors, including that of councilor Shaun Hatfield comparing the request to a "bailout" and "enabling" a troubled entity, warden Halliday claimed that, although there was nothing in writing, she had sought and received on OK from the municipality's lawyer and that the mortgage transfer would simply return the former military base to the Province's oversight. In fact, the Province has never had control of the property. Until its transfer to Shelburne Park Development Agency and then SWSDA, it was owned and controlled by the Department of Defence and administered by ACOA.
With many unanswered questions, the Council ultimately voted to refer the matter to committee of the whole, where the municipality's lawyer would be invited to discuss the matter.
The other councils in the area received a similar letter and, based on several conversations about the matter, and considering the deepening crisis and questionable activities surrounding SWSDA, it appears unlikely that support letters will be forthcoming.
The Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission, also headed by CEO Frank Anderson, is also in a financial crisis, according to recent reports. Anderson made a pitch for a $300,000 bailout from Yarmouth Council in August. Sources close to the Municipality of Yarmouth say the municipality may consider legal action against YAIC in the dispute about a substantial amount of the rents from Register.com due to The Municipality being withheld by YAIC.
Note: In discussions of the mortgage at a recent SWSDA board meeting, when asked about the reports that SeaCoast had sold off ten of the lots on the property, thus devaluing the mortgage by $700,000 or more, Anderson said he "knew nothing about it." To other SWSDA members, Anderson has apparently admitted that the lots were sold, bit "we are getting them back."
SeaCoast has advertised the property recently in the Wall Street Journal as for sale for $5-8 million dollars, while reporting a cash flow from the property of $1.2 million. No mention is made of the prime waterfront lots being severed. Sources familiar with the SeaCoast operation say they would be surprised if the gross revenue there exceeded $100,000 a year.
September 24, 2009: Movie mavens selling Sandy Point base for $8 million profit... In what would amount to $11,000 of profit for each day they have owned the property, New Englanders and high school sweethearts Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow have the 175-acre Shelburne Studios up for sale on the international real estate marketplace, telling prospective buyers that they would be buying a "film and television studio".
The property was purchased for $2.75 million two years ago under clouded circumstances from South West Shore Development Authority and the sale is part of an investigation being conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman, whose report is due soon. Since taking a $1.75 mortgage on the property after failing to win government approval for same SWSDA has been trying to sell the note at a high discount on the open market, but has filed to get cabinet approval.
Recently, Kendrick and Co., who were granted a two-year payment-free mortgage by SWSDA, sold off ten of the prime lots on the oceanfront property for a reported $600,000. Since taking over the moribund former military base, SeaCoast Studios has announced several businesses, including a hotel, market, mini-golf, drive-in movie, candle company and newspaper. There is no evidence of any of the start-ups lasting more than a few weeks or months.
One observer told SCT that, as the site is a bare sound stage at best, anyone thinking they were buying a "TV and film studio" would be grossly disappointed. During this past summer, SeaCoast advertised a comedy script competition with the winner receiving a "professional film production" of their script as a prize. No film was produced and the contest seems to have gone the way of previous SeaCoast ventures.
September 17, 2009: SWSDA told NO! - again - by Dept of Municipal Affairs... Despite his on-going campaign to increase the gravy train of local municipal funding, RDA chief Frank Anderson was rebuffed once again by the Department of Municipal Services in August when they wrote and told him that the proposed end-run of changing the Municipal Act to allow SWSDA (no, not the arts guys) to borrow from the member munies to prop up its crumbling finances doesn't pass the smell test for good government. They told him once and for all that the RDA Act DOES NOT allow RDA's to buy, sell and own property.
The SWSDA coffers are so bare, say some, that they don't even provide lunches or snacks to board members who spend more than 6 hrs in meetings and travel, since all of the meetings are now held behind the locked gates of the Yarmouth SWSDA compound after Anderson and Co. called in the Mounties to remove an interested citizen from a meeting in Shelburne.
September 16, 2009: Real estate report shows sales down, prices up in 2009.. Yarmouth lags behind provincial average gain by 12.5%... In a report from the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS® the average price for multiple listing home sales from June to August was $197,007, up 5.7 per cent over the same three months in 2008.
A total of 3436 homes sold through the MLS® System in Nova Scotia from June to August 2009, down 3.5 per cent from one year earlier. The dollar value of these home sales totalled $676.9 million during the period, up two per cent year-over-year.
Sales were up throughout the province except in Cape Breton and Yarmouth, where the average price fell 7% to $116,000, less than 60% of the provincial average of $197,000.
September 14, 2009: Shelburne mayor Delaney suffers heart attack... Mayor Alan Delaney of Shelburne suffered a heart attack on Saturday and was rushed to Yarmouth Regional Hospital for treatment. By policy, the hospital would not discuss patient status, but Delaney is apparently responding well to treatment and is not expected to be hospitalized for long.
September 11, 2009: Southwest Nova fishers support Oceans First decision... In a letter to the editor, representatives from two major regional fishing groups have spelled out the reasons why the recent decision by the Nova Scotia Minister of Energy to discontinue funding for the troubled Oceans First Task Force was the right response.
Pointing out that the group appeared to be biased and created to support a pro-drilling stance, that the Georges Bank ecosystem is one of few in which there is a resurgence of groundfish and citing the probability that any oil or gas found on the Banks would be hustled off to our Yankee neighbors, the letter says that any future panel would use a truly impartial and unbiased process to conduct a review of lifting the long-term moratorium on oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank.
For more information about the Georges Bank and Oceans First connection, click here.
September 4, 2009: Munis and govt pols being pitched to dump SeaCoast mortgage on discount market... The SWSDA Accountability Blog reports today that, despite that fact that a Frank-friendly Tory cabinet wouldn't even touch SWSDA's bargain-basement approach to fast cash from the $1.75 million mortgage to the American duo operating the SeaCoast Studios Pitch-and-Putt Outdoor Movie Hotel and Nightclub Conglomerate, Frank Anderson and Co. are apparently going after municipal and provincial support for their plan to generate cash from a substantially discounted sale of the questionable asset.
The SWSDA blog suggests that holding a mortgage for $1.75 million whose terms provide for delayed payment "is like having a gold credit card where you've exceeded both the total and daily credit limit.....is it burning a hole in Mr. Anderson's pocket?"
September 3, 2009: Barrington re-thinking land sales policy... Provoked by protesting citizens who packed council chambers to the rafters meeting after meeting, the Barrington Municipal Council has started on the road to revise a land sales policy which the current council now feels needs changing.
Presentations at Council by the Clyde River Protection Committee made clear to Council that the previous policy was much of the problem behind what appeared to be a backroom deal to sell 300 acres of land to the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission, purportedly for a "state-of-the-art" mink farming facility proposed by YAIC and South West Shore Development Authority honcho Frank Anderson.
Based upon a discussion that Council do away with existing policies allowing for the sale of large tracts of Municipal land without public input, Councilor Shaun Hatfield moved that the portions of the existing policy be changed. Hatfield's motion would significantly limit Council's power when it comes to selling/ providing public land.
The new policy, if adopted by Council, would allow Council to sell or provide 20 acres or less of land without public consultation - and only if it is clearly in the social, economic, health, recreational, educational, or environmental interest of citizens. If this 20 acres or less is located in an environmentally (Clyde River watershed) or historically sensitive location (new library on historic outdoor skating rink) - then all rules with respect to a public hearing process would apply.
There is also discussion within the municipality of creating a policy regarding the transfer of public land so that the land would revert back to the municipality people should a proposed business plan or project fail to materialize, such as been the case with the original mink proposal by SWSDA/YAIC.
No to $20k SWSDA plea... The Barrington Council Committee also voted to deny the request from SWSDA's Frank Anderson for an up-front fee of $20,000 to prepare tendering documents for the construction of a Business Park in Barrington which Anderson has admitted previously he is unable to locate the funding to build. One observer of the Council told SCT that SWSDA's request was similar to "someone asking for a fee to paint a car which had been stolen the previous week." (see Shakedown story)
August 31, 2009: SWSDA shakedown redux?... As if getting stiffed by the province and feds on their SWSDA-produced pitch for funds for a business park wasn't enough, now the Barrington Municipal Council is being asked by the self-same SWSDA (not the arts guys) to pony up $20,000 to put together a tender offer for the business park that isn't going to be built! That would be like Shelburne handing over 20g's to Frank and Co. to design a traffic program for the visitors arriving on the storied Boston Ferry.
The Municipality is in an "economic crisis situation" regarding the need for a business park, according muni meeting minutes and South West Shore Development Authority agreed to seek funding for the project. The only application made by SWSDA was rejected as not fitting the criteria for the Community Development Trust.
To put the most recent SWSDA request in some perspective, the $20,000 would provide the following funding in Barrington:
Wood’s Harbour Days 20 years
Samuel Wood Historical Society 20 years
Do For Others Club 20 years
Charlesville Green Grove Cemetery 50 years
Barrington Municipal Exhibition 15 years
Safe Grad 60 years
Chapel Hill Historical Society 20 years
Shag Harbour Incident Society 30 years
Old Farm Cemetery 20 years
Ross Heritage Society 25 years
Thankfully, someone on Barrington Council (their minutes don't say who) asked what funding approval has been received for this project and the clerk said "nada". Where the citizens and politicians of South West might be on the lookout for the next SWSDA cash-grab is anyone's guess, but our money would be on 1.) the $5 million Shelburne Port expansion project (no written record on file of ANY funding attempts by SWSDA; 2.) proposal to assess the likelihood of Yarmouth Industrial Commission ponying up the $240,000 overdue to the Yarmouth Municipality in collected rents for Register.com; 3.) funding applications to Department of Environment to clean up the expected mess created by the mink ranches going into the Clyde River area.
August 28, 2009: Financial bail-out looming for Yarmouth Industrial Commission?... Under the leadership of development czar Frank Anderson, the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission (YAIC) has developed a dire cash flow problem needing $300,000 to solve, according to documents on file with the Town of Yarmouth. The Request for Decision (RFD) is posted online by the Town and states that the YAIC is "cash-poor" as a result of the Domtex project losses and they are without any other options to continue operating if the three area Municipal units do not rescue them with $100,000 payments each.
The CAO's recommendation comes with serious conditions attached, including detailed answers re: YAIC most recent financial statements, appointment of Grant Thornton as auditors, the three area CAOs are appointed to the YAIC audit committee, with one as chair, YAIC develop a strategy with goals and timelines, increasing financial transparency, hiring a real estate specialist.
Recently, financial problems seem to plague organizations headed by Anderson. The South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) is reported to be in serious financial shape and has been struggling to increase its loan guarantees from area municipal governments and Anderson has told his board - and it is common knowledge throughout government - that he and SWSDA are the subjects of a lengthy investigation by the provincial Ombudsman's Office, with one of the primary concerns being the relationship between YAIC, SWSDA and Anderson. SWSDA's financial statements were due in March, 2009 and Anderson has said recently that they will not be available until mid-September.
This past Monday, the Barrington Municipal Council voted unanimously to launch an investigation of the questionable Clyde River mink farm land sales deal overseen by Anderson, YAIC and SWSDA.
SWSDA previously came under criticism from citizens and local politicians for its handling of the sale of the former Shelburne Boy's School and CFS Shelburne (Shelburne Park). 500 Shelburne County citizens in 2006 asked for an audit of SWSDA's books by the government. SWSDA and Anderson have failed to produce any results in their well-published attempts to raise funds for a Barrington Industrial Park and Shelburne Marine Terminal upgrade.
Anderson has recently suggested that he and SWSDA could help Shelburne County develop their industrial commission, but a development expert familiar with SWSDA, YAIC and local sentiments told SCT that, in light of the current financial debacle and the two separate investigations, that idea may not develop much traction in the short term.
August 27, 2009: Frankly speaking... inquiring minds want to know... Seems like my news sources are filled with bits and bytes of news about SWSDA (not the art action one) and CEO Frank Anderson. Apparently, almost every government department and agency in Halifax is abuzz with the anticipation of the the highly-anticipated report from the Office of the Ombudsman about some of the questionable practices of South West Shore Development Authority and Mr. Frank. Insiders say the report, which is the result of dozens of interviews by trained investigators and still dozens more meetings with government officials, will be a scorcher.
For those who are not aware - or have a shortened attention span - the investigation was instigated by a request from the Concerned Citizens of Shelburne County in a petition signed by 500-plus ratepayers here who where incensed by Anderson's dealings on the Boy's School and CFS Shelburne (now SeaCoast Studios and Minnie and Goofy's Mini-Putt Emporium) and were also incensed with Paulette Scott and Reg Ridgely's determination to buy both of the white elephants from SWSDA at a hefty price, raising the tax rate for us all.
As evidence of the interest by Halifax pols and bureaucrats in the doings and dealings of Frank and SWSDA, those folks account for a substantial percentage of readers of SCT - estimated 20,000 visits over the past year and many regular visitors from Municipal Affairs, Economic Development, ACOA, DFO, Justice, etc etc.
Frank in the Barrington woodshed?... the economic development czar was apparently called Wednesday into the Barrington Muni offices to discuss the pending investigation into his handling (representing both SWSDA and Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission) of the great Barrington Mink Stink Land Deal and what role he and the Muni Council played in turning a $75 million state-of-the-art "model" project with 150 jobs into a one job fiaso which would make aged swiss cheese look like a solid object.
Anderson has apparently been telling folks that he has the Barrington folks (and Clarks Harbour) "locked up" as far as jumping the SWSDA development ship come March, when the Munis in this region have to reaffirm their confidence in the ineffective (for this region) RDA. Maybe they should all be locked up together?
August 26, 2009: Public meeting in Shelburne with provincial ministers... or, a breath of fresh air... When public agencies in this region call in the RCMP to keep reporters and others from hearing their business and when town and municipal councilors regularly meet in secret, private sessions to discuss land sales, development and other (who knows what?) matters, it is a real breath of fresh air to see NDP ministers Sterling Belliveau (Fisheries & Environment) and Percy Paris (Economic Development) schedule their confab on Friday with local mayors, wardens and councilors as a public affair, with citizens being invited to observe. Good on them!
The meeting is on Friday, August 28 at 10:30am at the King Street Community Centre (Fire Hall) . For more about this meeting and a treatise about "From Client to Citizen", go to the new Shelburne Citizen blog.
August 26, 2009: More bullying from SWSDA's legal beagles... Apparently concerned that a local arts activist group (South West Shore Department of Art, or SWSDA) would be presumed by SCT readers to be engaged in economic development activity in the region, yet another team of lawyers for South West Shore Development Authority (also SWSDA, but NOT the art action one) have threatened SCT with a law suit, claiming that the economic development SWSDA's trade name has been tarnished.
The threatened suit was described by an economic development expert as "beyond foolish". In a response to the SWSDA mouthpiece, SCT publisher Timothy Gillespie reminded the erstwhile attorney that, in addition to there being not a chance in hell of SWSDA succeeding in what would be a very lengthy and costly (more taxpayer dollars down the drain) lawsuit, SWSDA and CEO Frank Anderson should instead focus on "the enormous challenges facing (them), including serious economic difficulties, demands from deputy ministers to reform its organization, multi-million dollar lawsuits, actions for contempt, investigations by provincial and perhaps other bodies..." and that the lawyer "...might advise them to spend more time tending to business and less time bullying those of us who are working for serious and lasting improvements in the civic life of our communities."
August 26, 2009: Barrington muni ignores another SWSDA caution... Despite having had two successive meetings dominated by presentations and discussions surrounding questionable actions relating to the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission (YAIC) involvement in a failed mink ranch breeding facility and subsequent land sale surrounding the mink farm property.
Not more than 30 minutes after voting unanimously to launch a serious inquiry into the actions of the Council and SWSDA and YAIC in the matter - including questionable communications from and with SWSDA, the Council didn't bat an eye when the most recent questionable correspondence from SWSDA's CEO Frank Anderson was introduced at council. (see weasel words story below)
August 25, 2009: Oceans First de-funded... citing "fiscal pressures" and redundancy in research and review efforts, Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks has advised Yarmouth Municipal Council that the controversial Oceans First Task Force has been de-funded. The task force was the brainchild of business partners Frank Anderson (CEO for South West Shore Development Authority) and Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth MLA, former Energy Minister, construction executive), plus a high-ranking, pro-oil drilling energy dept bureaucrat.
Originally funded in a non-tendered $150,000 contract to SWSDA, the task force was mired in controversy from the outset, including outlandish sums reportedly spent on a useless Norway junket by Hurlburt, Anderson, bureaucrats and several pals, pro-drilling conclusions published by task force chair and Hurlburt/Anderson crony and Yarmouth lawyer Cliff Hood, months of inactivity, lack of public input... i.e., business as usual for the "Yarmouth Brotherhood".
A comprehensive review of Georges Bank information can be found HERE.
August 25, 2009: Overflow crowd hears unanimous vote for SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) land deal inquiry... after a thoughtful and concise presentation by Doug Brannen of the Clyde River Protection Assoc, the Barrington Municipal Council voted unanimously Monday night to invite a neutral third party to investigate the many irregularities in the land deal surrounding the creation of a mink ranch in Clyde River. The office of the Nova Scotia Ombudsman was suggested. A report from that office on another ongoing investigation of SWSDA is expected soon.
Brannen's presentation iterated circumstances which suggested several problems which may have impacted the apparently flawed decision-making by the Barrington Council, including: possible unseen and unhealthy relationships between SWSDA and YAIC (Yarmouth and Area Industrial Commission) [SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson represents both bodies as executive]; misrepresentation of status of an environmental assessment; lack of public access to information about public land sales; one lawyer representing both the current mink farm and the municipality; inappropriate 300-acre land option given to YAIC; the controversial sale of 300 acres to private investors by YAIC; the $66,000 grant to SWSDA supposed to cover the original YAIC purchase.
In a recent letter to SWSDA board members, the Ombudsman outlined the questionable relationship between YAIC and SWSDA as a specific area of investigation by the office. The Council voted Monday to rescind the previous vote granting YAIC future options on land in the area. Although Frank Anderson is quoted this week in local papers as saying that the original $75 million Mink Breeding Facility deal had fallen through due to lack of private financing, Brannen stated to recently Anderson told the YAIC that a major mink farm project in Shelburne County was on the burner, with $1 million each committed by federal and provincial governments and $3.5 million in private financing.
The Clyde River Committee representative who closed the mink farm discussion told the Council that they were not going away and that they would fight a mink farm in the area to the bitter end. >>> Nova News story
August 25, 2009: Mink stink spreads to Yarmouth County... Many of the people attending the Barrington meeting were from the Yarmouth and Carleton areas, where a bitter battle is being waged by citizens against the proposed increase in mink farms in that area. Mink farms are thought by many to be the source of the "devastating impact" of a blue-green algae infestation in lakes in Yarmouth County. A YMCA camp was shut down recently as a result of the algae.
A group of citizens plans a protest at the next Yarmouth Municipal Council meeting and "No more mink farms" signs are popping up throughout the area. Nova Scotia is thought to be the source for more than 50% of the minks bred in Canada, with as many as 1 million of the rodents being raised in Southwest Nova Scotia.
August 24, 2009: More weasel words from SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority)...in a letter placed on the agenda for Monday's Barrington Muni Council meeting, SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) CEO Frank Anderson makes a further foray into trying to get the Barrington (and 12 other) Council to further underwrite SWSDA's projects with loan guarantees (which are now forbidden by provincial legislation) by forwarding an August 14 letter to a low-level bureaucrat (with copies to ministers, wardens, mayors, etc etc). In it, Anderson says that a Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities resolution supporting his position is attached, and in this he is correct. Anderson also says that a response (presumably to the resolution) from then Minister Jamie Muir is attached. THIS IS NOT TRUE. What is attached is a portion of a letter from Muir, which appears to be in response to an inquiry from someone (but NOT a resolution).
SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) and its management seem still committed not only to the pusillanimous and profligate presentation of weasel words, but also to the prevalant preponderance of bafflegab, gobbledygook and newspeak. The question before the Council is: will anyone on Council even bother to question Anderson's veracity in this latest, shameless episode?
From Wikipedia: [ Weasel words is an informal term for words that are ambiguous and not supported by facts. They are typically used to create an illusion of clear, direct communication. Weasel words are usually expressed with deliberate imprecision with the intention to mislead the listeners or readers into believing statements for which sources are not readily available.] [ see weasel words web here]
August 24, 2009: Mink stink in Barrington...
a group of irate citizens filled the Barrington Municipal Council Chambers last week at a Committee of the Whole to protest the outrageous behaviour of the Council in selling off 300 acres (with 300 additional optioned) to SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) and Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission based on claims by Frank Anderson that he would create a $75 million, 150-job, state-or-the-art and ecologically-sound mink farming "university". Big surprise... multi-million mink deal fell through, but YAIC kept the land, then sold it to a couple of local guys who will, according to interviews with SCT, produce .75 jobs! (that's 1/2 of one percent of SWSDA's claims).
Apparently, about $28k of the $66,000 sale price came back to Barrington, but not until after the Council voted to "grant" SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) the self-same $66k for "economic development", according to their meeting minutes. When pressed several times by SCT, Warden Louise Halliday admitted that the "economic development" described in the minutes was, in fact, for mink farm development.
The citizens group is furious that the council never even considered holding a public meeting on this touchy issue and did much of its wheelings and dealings with SWSDA/Anderson/YAIC in secret, closed-door meetings. Although councilors Shaun Hatfield and Cecil O'Donnell seemed genuinely concerned about the outcome of the secret dealings and lack of public input, warden Halliday and the other councilors seemed oblivious to the consequences of this scenario as it unfolds.
All in the family... one odd part of the meeting, during a break after the presentation by the citizens group, had Warden Halliday's husband following this reporter around the room leaning in to listen in on interviews and conversations. At one point, Mr. Halliday verbally attacked a visitor from Shelburne, shouting that "Barrington never had no trouble until you fellas from Shelburne showed up." The ugly details of this and other dealings with SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) - should they ever become public - will prove the gentlemen horribly wrong. NOTE: The Barrington Council meets Monday night to address the issue further. It is on the agenda for 7:15pm.
August 17, 2009: SWSDA arts group coalition forms for art action projects... the disturbing political climate hereabouts, including the unbelievable shenanigans of SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) and Frank Anderson - not to mention the aiding and abetting by the various municipal and town councils in the gutting of our economic development future - has apparently spawned a new SWSDA - the South West Shore Department of Art.
My guess is that we can expect some interesting and provocative public art projects from these folks, if their first project is any indication. Below is a photo of a 100 square-foot highway billboard recently-installed on the well-trafficked highway 103 near Sable River. You go boys and girls! (click on the photo for larger version) (NOTE: based on furious call from Yarmouth, the Dept of Hiways tore down the sign on Thursday)
July 25, 2009: SWSDA and Anderson under new pressure to shape up or ship out... Several fronts have reported that the Provincial investigation of South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) is still in high gear, despite honcho Frank Anderson's assertions recently to his rubber-stamp board that, since he met with officials of the Ombudsman's Office and set them straight, everything was A-OK.
A Yarmouth County source reports that on Friday, the erstwhile directors of SWSDA got a letter from the Ombudsman telling them that the agency was under investigation for several serious issues, among them the relationship between SWSDA and the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission (YAIC), their financial dealings and the duties of the directors. It is thought by some that the YAIC is a front for SWSDA and some of its real estate interests, that Anderson's big, "secret" paycheck comes from YAIC and that the incestuous cross-pollination of directors, employees and political cronies among SWSDA and YAIC would make even the most cavalier of apiarists blush. Within minutes of the sale of the former Boy's School in Shelburne, Anderson and SWSDA wrote large checks to YAIC.
Added to this mess is the likelihood that Lockeport and Shelburne towns and Shelburne muni are poised to send Anderson and SWSDA packing back to the graft-hungry confines of Yarmouth County and the likely loss by Anderson and SWSDA in the impending contempt trial, plus the ponderous weight a $ 5 million civil suit which goes to trial in January... but wait, there's more to this Damaclean nightmare. What about the absolute certainty of additional scrutiny of Anderson's expense claims and spending habits and his growing Yarmouth real estate empire with partner and former Provincial minister Richard Hurlburt?
What the current and past directors will come to realize in the coming months and years is that, when the true nature of SWSDA's finances are finally disclosed - and they will be - they will be held both morally and personally responsible for enormous damages and liabilities which will ensue. These are likely to be in the millions, with local taxpayers possibly on the hook for every penny. If and when the local pols who are promising public input into our future relationship with SWSDA and Anderson hear the growing drumbeat of civic unrest at their utter lack of fiduciary duty and collusion in our misfortunes, they will see that the time for turning a blind eye to the shenanigans of the RDA and its cronies is long past.
If SWSDA had not been the ABSOLUTELY worst thing to hit Shelburne County since the great depression, leaving the ugly scab of broken promises, failed ventures, "disappeared" funds and general malaise in its turgid wake, I'd feel bad. Oh, Frank... please don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.
June 25, 2009: No 3rd paycheck for Hurlburt despite heavy lobbying... Although business leaders and politicians in Yarmouth may have become accustomed to receiving 2nd and 3rd paychecks on top their sometimes bloated salaries and expense accounts, MLA Richard Hurlburt lost his bid to add $24,000 to his paycheck by becoming the defeated Tories interim leader. The putative head of the "gang" which had run Yarmouth and Southwest Nova business and politics for some time, Hurlburt was reported in Thursday's Herald as "lobbying hard for the interim leader’s post" and "thought to have a lock on the job." Tough-talking, no-nonsense Karen Casey got the plum by unanimous consent.
As late as just days before the election, Hurlburt is thought to have been lobbying - and possibly offending by his efforts - the Tory cabinet to allow SWSDA chief Frank Anderson (one of the Yarmouth gang and real estate business partner of Hurlburt) to discount an already bargain basement-priced mortgage for the former military base in Shelburne, sold to an American couple who seem to have a knack for opening Mickey Mouse businesses there which never quite seem to catch fire. Anderson had gotten approval from his rubber-stamping board of directors to sell the base by assuring them that a provincial guarantee on the mortgage was a sure thing. Oops.
June 15, 2009: Dept of It's about bloody damn time... in a move that may change the face of economic development in South West Nova Scotia, the Ian Thompson, Deputy Minister of Economic and Rural Development has informed Rodd Rose, chairman of South West Shore Development Authority that SWSDA does not qualify for performance-based funding under its current incorporation. To receive future funding - which SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson has said is crucial to the organization's continued existence - and to ensure transparency and accountability, the development authority must completely re-constitute itself, including: incorporate under the RDA Act, must change its name, must change its board composition, must create internal management by-laws, etc etc.
This is the same agency that for years has been under almost dictatorial control by Anderson, Rose and a small cadre of Yarmouth-based politicians - including the now-backbencher Rich Hurlburt - and has been the subject of much public sturm and drang over the past two years. Anderson reported recently that he and SWSDA were under investigation by the Ombudsman's Office and the NDP and Liberal parties have demanded complete forensic audits of SWSDA by the Auditor general. The RCMP is currently conducting an investigation regarding the incident where Rose and Anderson forced the removal of a reporter from a recent SWSDA board meeting.
Anderson and SWSDA have also been the subject of news reports (and some law suits) surrounding contracts, various property sales, the Georges Bank Review, funds destined to Team Shelburne and irregular Societies Act registrations, among other matters.
Let's see how the weak-kneed local pols react to this great opportunity to take some real control - and responsibility - over economic development. FYI, the Muni of Barrington refused to provide a copy of the letter, as did Thompson's office. Town of Yarmouth coughed one up no sweat. The Town of Shelburne has refused to provide any correspondence with Anderson re: his handling of the $5 million pitch for port improvements. What does everybody have to hide when it comes to business dealings with Anderson and SWSDA? More information about the RDA issue, including a copy of the letter can be found HERE on today's SWSDA Blog.
27may2009: Yarmouth Industrial Commission $140,000 in arrears on rents to Municipality for Register.com... A dispute is brewing between Yarmouth AREA Industrial Commission (YAIC) and the Municipality of Yarmouth over the large sum owed by YAIC to the Municipality for $1.4 million invested in the headquarters for the internet firm Register.com.
In 2001, the YAIC asked the Municipality to fund $800,000 of the construction of the firm's HQ in the Hebron Industrial Park and requested a further $600,00 for an expansion in 2005. The monies were to be repaid through YAIC as combined rents of $12,000 per month. As of May 15, the arrears amounted to $133,666, which would make the current arrears close to $140,000 and some of them more than one year overdue..
At a recent Council meeting attended by YAIC General Manager Frank Anderson (also CEO of SWSDA), the Commission was given 90 days to correct the arrears. Including the YAIC funds, Register.com has been the beneficiary of $8.5 million in various government grants and loans since 2001. Calls to several Register.com officials were not returned by press time.
22may2009: No permission on lot sales... A senior official with the Department of Economic Development told SCT today that the government has not given permission for the current mortgagees of the former Canadian Forces base in Sandy Point to sell ten prime lots from the property. The department holds a $475,000 mortgage on the property and the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) holds another for $1.75 million.
According to several board directors of SWSDA, the agency has also not given any permission for the sale of the ten lots, once on the market for $195,000 each, which would have needed board approval. "The municipal taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for all of the mortgages on the property," says a regional property developer, "and now they have allowed these people to strip much of the value of the property without paying a cent on the outstanding mortgages. It's just crazy!"
Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow, who negotiated a two-year, interest and payment-free loan from SWSDA, recently sold off the ten prime waterfront plots to family members and the initial American investors in their SeaCoast Studios company. The dramatic view lots were parsed out of the original 106-acre property purchased by the pair last year at less than 10% of appraised value. The 2008 lot sales went to Kendrick's American relatives and investors in the struggling media business, plus to Seacoast itself.
20may2009: SWSDA blog most popular in Nova Scotia... the runaway success of the newish SWSDA Accountability Blog has surprised even the most cynical observers of political and civic action in the often sleepy recesses of South West Nova Scotia.
Boasting a readership well over 7,000 readers, the blog is by far the most popular web site of its sort in the Province. A reader commented recently that the blog's popularity "shows us that the people of the area are interested." Author Ed Cayer has been spelling out daily the spending excesses and irregularities of the SWSDA CEO and the apparent lack of oversight of SWSDA activities by the mayors and wardens in the 13 municipal units in the region. Reader's comments range from mild amusement to wild rage at seeing the financial facts spelled out so clearly
Other popular blogs in the province include SCT (80,000 readers in the past 12 months) Rod Hemeon's Streetscape blog in Yarmouth, the Hawkeye Blog and The Contrarian, latest addition by former Sydney Tar Sands flack Parker Donham. Seems at least some of the folks in region like their news straight.
14may2009: Government defending SWSDA on blog... In an unusual turn of events, the Nova Scotia Government (most likely the Department of Economic Development) issued what might be a blanket "party line" spin of the value of RDAs and the rigorous scrutiny given them by "professional staff in the Department of Economic and Rural Development" (headed up - coincidently or not - by Minister Richard Hurlburt). The item appears in the comments about a post about SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson's $6000 trip to Toronto .SWSDA Accountability Blog
The blog and its readers have been expressing the general citizen outrage at the high-handed - and some say unprincipled - behavour of SWSDA management and board. The criticisms levied against Anderson and other SWSDA apparatchiks include expense account abuses, ignoring Supreme Court judges orders, possibly inflating charges against projects, accepting salary payments from other sources with no board authority, failing to pay HST due the federal government, among others.
14may2009: Shelburne Town wants Team Shelburne to assess raison d'etre.... At the May 12 meeting, Shelburne Mayor Al Delaney asked Team Shelburne members to prepare to discuss in June the future role of Team Shelburne and the body was advised that Minister Richard Hurlburt has been silent to date on any monies forthcoming from government based on expected proceeds from the sale of the former Boys School (Note: despite the repeated requests for these funds, SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson has sworn under oath that they no longer exist, having been absorbed by SWSDA operating expenses) .
The bulk of the meeting was taken with discussions about physician recruitment and renovations to the medical clinic in Shelburne, including the offer by Shelburne Municipality to head up fundraising for the project. Medical student Tyler Green has offered to spend fours years of practice in the county in exchange for a $25,000 bursary for his medical school expenses.
13may2009: SWSDA CEO salary sharing big surprise to municipal leaders.... The revelation Tuesday that SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson has had another employer paying part of his total salary came as a complete surprise to his SWSDA board members, according to interviews with SCT.
Warden Sherm Embree said that he and his council had no idea that the embattled CEO was collecting another paycheck. Former Shelburne municipal councilor Raymond Davis, who has been a solid SWSDA supporter and Anderson apologist at times, was also unaware of Anderson's double-dipping in the employer pool.
Lockeport Mayor and MLA candidate Darian Huskilson was obviously upset when advised about the fact that SWSDA has disclosed that a "third party" is paying some of Anderson's salary, but would not allow itself to be named. No one on the board was aware of the double salary, according to Huskilson. "As far as I knew, we were paying for a full-time CEO and we were getting the full benefit of his day-to-day efforts." The "time-sharing" or "moonlighting" arrangement was not right, said Huskilson. "He should have been obligated to tell the board that he was being paid by someone else and that perhaps we were not getting full benefit of his services." Huskilson is one of the few SWSDA board members who have publicly challenged Anderson's imperious management style and undemocratic practices.
Current MLA and former Barrington warden Sterling Belliveau sat as a SWSDA board member for more than six years and was never informed of Anderson's other paycheck, nor was Eddie Nickerson, former Barrington councilor and deputy warden and also an MLA candidate. "The NDP party has asked repeatedly for audits of SWSDA and their financial and management practices," added Belliveau, "and the government has refused."
Asked if he was surprised about the revelation, Davis said, "Nothing surprises me anymore." (see letter from SWSDA here)
12may2009: Mystery funder behind big bucks for SWSDA CEO... The shenanigans surrounding the financial dealings of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and CEO Frank Anderson just got murkier yesterday when the public agency refused to divulge the salary compensation for Anderson.
After stalling for more than five months on a request for details of CEO Frank Anderson's compensation, SWSDA officials said in a letter this week that "Mr. Anderson's salary is also paid by a Third Party, which has not consented to the release of their information."
Given the constant controversy surrounding SWSDA and Anderson and the questionable value the agency and CEO have had over the years to economic development in Shelburne County, it is likely that this latest refusal of Anderson to clarify his and SWSDA's finances will raise more questions than it answers.
Who is paying Anderson? (Yarmouth Industrial Commission? Port of Yarmouth? Yarco Holdings / Richard Hurlburt? PC Party?) If they are paying Anderson for development services, why are all expenses being borne by SWSDA and the municipal tax payers which support it? If any of these entities are Anderson's real bosses, is it any wonder that Shelburne County gets left out of the development mix so often?
SWSDA pays Anderson $63,000 per year, but it is estimated that his real income may be as high as $150,000. SWSDA and Anderson are subjects of several lawsuits alleging untoward financial dealings. One suit claims losses of upwards of $5 million and another suit claims "fraudulent conveyance" of funds from SWSDA accounts. Anderson and SWSDA face a contempt of court hearing in October regarding alleged refusal to follow a court order in the fraudulent conveyance action. SWSDA declines to make any statements on record regarding Anderson or their business dealings.
11may2009: SWSDA to close Shelburne office?... In the midst of a din of criticism from Eastern Shelburne County about the business and management practices of South West Shore Development Authority and CEO Frank Anderson, the agency announced at its latest board meeting that it may close its offices in Shelburne. The report by Municipal councilor Townsend did not give any timeline, but the decision would seem to fly in the face of Anderson's repeated claims that SWSDA considers Shelburne county development an important part of his mandate.
A recent report on the SWSDA Blog stated that, of the $25,000 in expenses claimed for one year by Anderson, not one expense was billed to any projects in Shelburne County.
8may2009: $2 million waterfront land sale at Seacoast Estates in Sandy Point... Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow recently sold off ten prime waterfront plots to investors at their SeaCoast Studios property (former military base) in lower Sandy Point. The 10 lots are assessed at $75,000 each - but were on the market for $200,000 - and were parsed out of the original 106-acre property purchased by the pair last year at less than 10% of appraised value. The 2008 lot sales went to Kendrick's American relatives and investors in the struggling media business, plus to Seacoast itself. >>> full story
7may2009: SWSDA blog big hit with readers... A web log (blog) dedicated to promoting transparency in the business dealings of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and its CEO has become surprisingly popular in its short life, if reader's comments are any indication.
The blog is the creation of Ed Cayer and has dealt with reader queries such as "Who does Frank Anderson report to?", "What economic benefits has Shelburne County seen from the sale of the Boy's School and military base?" >>> more
7may2009 Frank Anderson's $320 London breakfast and $463 room service?... Amongst the receipts included in the SWSDA CEO's expenses, according to the new SWSDA Blog, is a receipt for a 9:00am London airport tavern bill for $277US ($320cdn)... The blog also notes that Anderson claimed reimbursement for $463.00(cdn) billed to another SWSDA employee's room. The charges are part of the $250,000 Anderson is estimated to have spent in the past ten years in travel and entertainment expenses, purportedly directed towards economic development activities for the region... >>>more
5may2009: SWSDA blog outlines Boy's School irregularities... In the latest posting from the SWSDA Accountability blog, SWSDA's role in ensuring that Ralston MacDonnell was the chosen bidder for the former Shelburne Boy's School is outlined.
30apr2009: Crystal Clear... New web site details SWSDA spending habits of public funds... A new web log (blog) - SWSDA Accountability to Public - has been launched to outline the controversial - and perhaps unlawful - spending habits of the management of South West Shore Development Authority.
In Wednesday's issue, the blog details the purchase by CEO Frank Anderson of a $300+ purchase of Swarovski Crystal at the Duty Free Shop at the International Airport in Vienna, Austria. A previous blog entry shows a $40 tip added to a $130 entertainment bill in Halifax, with no apparent accounting of what SWSDA business (if any) was being conducted at the lunch or dinner.
The travel expenses of Anderson were the subject of a lengthy struggle by Anderson and SWSDA in which the public agency they spent a possible $50,000 or more of tax-supported funds in legal fees to keep the details of the CEO's travel costs secret from the public. The blog author, Ed Cayer, pressed the issue with the Supreme Court and, in late 2008, received a court order making the records public.
Anderson's travel and entertainment expenses records for 2005 exceed $20,000 and include many sessions at the Triangle Ale House, a notorius hangout for politicos, and Rudders in Yarmouth, plus some expenses for his wife. (see previous editorial here). Cayer has been engaged in a 10-year legal battle with SWSDA, which is scheduled fo trial in January, 2010.
The blog states that its author hopes to create an "informed public participation platform" and also shows a link to the Province of Nova Scotia travel expense policy.
28apr2009: No second-year funding yet for crippled Oceans First task Force... Despite the recent assertions by South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson that he had no intention of honouring SWSDA's contract with the Nova Scotia Department of Energy to submit a full report of activity for the Oceans First Task Force, senior department officials insist that the $75,000 funding for year two of the project would not be forthcoming until Anderson and SWSDA delivered on the initial phase of the contract.
The Task Force was ostensibly formed to assess the benefits and risks to the Tri-County region for oil and gas exploration in the areas surrounding Georges Bank. The Task Force has been mired in controversy from its inception, including questions about why a $150,000 untendered contract was approved by then-minister Richard Hurlburt to a business partner, how much of the initial $75,000 payment was spent on reportedly lavish spending on a junket to oil & gas operations in Norway, why a pro-drilling political crony of Hurlburt and Anderson was appointed chair of the steering committee and why the Task Force has yet to convene even one meeting in seven months.
8may2009: $2 million waterfront land sale at Seacoast Estates in Sandy Point... Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow recently sold off ten prime waterfront plots to investors at their SeaCoast Studios property (former military base) in lower Sandy Point. The 10 lots are assessed at $75,000 each - but were on the market for $200,000 - and were parsed out of the original 106-acre property purchased by the pair last year at less than 10% of appraised value. The 2008 lot sales went to Kendrick's American relatives and investors in the struggling media business, plus to Seacoast itself
The South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) holds a $1.75 million mortgage on the property and the province has one for $475,000. Commercial development experts say that, allowing the couple to sell off the prime portions of the property to their American friends and relations could "gut the value" of the property if the pair was not able to make the mortgage payments of $22,000 per month from the mini-putt golf, convenience store and outdoor movie enterprises on the property.
Anderson had previously received approval from the SWSDA board to sell the property to the American couple on the condition that the provincial government would carry the $1.75 million mortgage. When the board learned subsequently that the province had made no such commitment, they were forced to carry the large mortgage or risk being sued by the buyers.
All of the SWSDA board members contacted by SCT said they were ever advised by CEO Frank Anderson that Kendrick/Barstow would be selling off $2 million of the value of the property. "We were not advised of any of this prior to these lot sales, said former SWSDA treasurer and Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson said that he was very upset to hear that the sales had been consummated with no notice to the board. "As we are holding a huge mortgage on the property, we should have been advised about a sale of $1 million or more from the lots."
Carla and Marco Polidori were investors in the 2007 Seacoast deal to purchase the property and were offered one of the prime oceanfront lots. They do not plan to move to Nova Scotia but have considered building a cottage there. They would not disclose the purchase price. The lots were on the market for almost $200,000 and are assessed at $75,100. Seacoast bought three of the lots from itself. There is no record of any of the monies from the lot sales being used to pay down the SWSDA mortgage.
SWSDA recently held another closed door session in April at which Anderson detailed his plans to sell the $1.75 million Seacoast mortgage at a discount on the open market. Such a sale would need cabinet approval, which does not appear forthcoming. Anderson had previously told his board that he had permission to sell the note.
Mary Barstow had recently had the remaining property for sale on eBay for $9 million, but withdrew the sale when challenged by SCT about whether she had informed mortgage holders of her plans. Neither Seacoast or SWSDA will comment on record about their business dealings. >>> click here to see map of lots and listing of buyers.
2apr2009: Minister leaks $790.000 Cabinet agenda item in Yarmouth meeting... In what some say might be a case of pre-election posturing, Municipal Affairs Minister and Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt told Shelburne County officials on Monday that the Executive Council of Nova Scotia (cabinet) would be discussing the issue of a loan or grant to the group of $790,000 at Thursday's cabinet meeting.
The monies are apparently to replace the proceeds of the sale of the former Shelburne Youth Centre, which have been ordered sequestered by the courts in a fraudulent conveyance judgment against the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) and its CEO Frank Anderson.
Hurlburt divulged the information at a top-secret and unscheduled Team Shelburne meeting held in Yarmouth and convened by Barrington warden and Team chair Louise Halliday. According to the minutes of the meeting, Hurlburt was told by Halliday, Clark's Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart, Shelburne Mayor Al Delaney, Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson and Shelburne Municipal Warden Sherm Embry that the group felt the monies should never have been set aside.
Cabinet meetings have historically been subject to great secrecy, a privilege which has been assailed by critics, but upheld in the courts. A senior official with the Executive Council office said that the privilege of secrecy is essential to the proper functioning of the Cabinet and all Cabinet members and staff are forbidden from discussing the agenda or content of the meetings. Any breach of confidentiality would be a serious matter and could be subject to serious punishment.
Hurlburt, whose aspirations to become Tory party leader are well-known, could be disciplined by Premier Rodney MacDonald and Cabinet, but in the charged pre-election environment, it is unlikely. "It will probably be the same 'boys will be boys' attitude that seems to pervade this gang," a government-watcher told SCT.
NDP finance critic Graham Steele recently criticized the secrecy and hurried nature with which spending decisions were being made by the current cabinet. "Secrecy and speed are the perfect recipe for financial disaster," he told the Halifax Herald.
The meeting minutes also revealed that, despite serious recent setbacks by SWSDA and Anderson in the 10-year, 5 million dollar legal battle with Ocean Produce International, all of the politicians at the table felt that "they will win the lawsuit" and the monies will be forthcoming. There is no record of any of the councils instructing their Team Shelburne representatives to take such a position.
A source familiar with the on-going push to have the government bail Shelburne County out of the economic development bind precipitated by the fraudulent conveyance decision and SWSDA's immediately absorbing the Youth Centre sale funds says that Hurlburt has told some local officials that "there is no chance in hell" that the government will agree to shell out almost $800,000 with the risk of a multi-million dollar lawsuit looming.
In addition to bringing the Team Shelburne financing to Cabinet, Hurlburt has also apparently been charged with trying to convince his colleagues to allow SWSDA CEO Anderson to "shop" the $1.75 million mortgage for the former CFS Shelburne (sound stage and film studio) on the discount market. Anderson, who is a Hurlburt business partner and political ally, told SWSDA members (including all of the Team Shelburne partners) months ago that he expected permission immediately and had buyers on the hook. More recently, Anderson reported that he felt Cabinet permission was imminent.
As an admittedly public and municipal body, Team Shelburne is subject to the provincial legislation requiring public notice about their meetings. Team Shelburne policy is for meetings to be held on the second Tuesday of each month, and, since the last meeting was March 10, the next meeting was scheduled for April 14.
Under the legislation, Team Shelburne was required to issue prior notification of the Yarmouth meeting, which was not forthcoming. "Despite all of the hoopla about Team Shelburne being transparent and open in their dealing, it's apparent that when push comes to shove, it's the same old way of doing things, a local observer told SCT.
17apr2009: Yarmouth big winner as Tories put the pork in "pork barrel" with $8 million-plus slush funds... Online news service AllNovaScotia.com reports that the current government has doled out more than $8 million in previously unreported funds from "slush funds" controlled by ministers and directed mostly to 22 Tory ridings.
The web-based news service outlined cash awards in the area from the departments of Tourism & Culture and Economic Development of more than $1 million to the Municipality of Yarmouth and South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA).
The April 17 edition also reports that the Department of Municipal Services overseen by Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt has yet another unreported slush fund, much of which might be expected to arrive in his riding prior to the up-coming spring election.
7apr2009: Lockeport tops province and Shelburne County shines in municipal survey... government bad at communications with citizens.... The Town of Lockeport took top spot in a new municipal report card on spending and services in Nova Scotia released today by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in a survey to be released today. Also among the top one-half of the fifty-five municipalities were Town of Shelburne (5) Municipality of Shelburne (23) and Municipality of Barrington (25).
The institute’s biggest finding is how bad government is at letting people know what they’re up to, said the Chronicle Herald in story Tuesday. A weakness in public reporting, combined with some municipalities not considering as public that information which reflects how tax dollars are spent.
"Of course, we are very pleased with the finding, Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson told SCT. "This speaks well of the tremendous effort our council and staff have put into developing sound financial management over the past few years. We believe that our commitment to create and sustain a certain quality of life under some trying circumstances has generated overall satisfaction by our rate payers."
The findings have taken the institute two years to collect and compile information on subjects like governance, police and fire service, taxation and recreation facilities. The project had the support of the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce.
The AIMS Performance Report grades municipalities based on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery using a three year average (2005, 2006 and 2007). Efficiency examines how the municipality spends tax dollars and effectiveness examines the extent to which a service or policy achieves its intended result. These measures are further broken down into absolute, in-context and total.
None of the fifty-five municipalities received an "A", but none received a failing grade. Seven municipalities, including Clarks Harbour, Clare, Argyle and Mahone Bay did not submit enough data to be rated.
6apr2009: Gloucester eyes aggressive push for Yarmouth ferry... Long-time ferry supporter and Massachusetts state senator Bruce Tarr told the Gloucester Daily Times that "We are reaching out this week to the people in Yarmouth," in relation to the recent announcement that the new port strategy includes the replacement of the seasonal CAT ferry with a year-round, single-hulled ship.
The new ferry, still in the planning stages, would target commercial truck traffic as well as passengers and land in Yarmouth, the province's traditional seaport connection to the United States.
The Cat is operated by Bay Ferries, who also operate the Digby-St. John Ferry service. Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald told SCT that Bay Ferries had not made any decisions about the future of the Cat Ferry and that a major decision about changing the ferry service would only happen after serious consideration of the financial models involved.
The Nova Scotia government and ACOA have jointly commissioned what has been called an "exhaustive review" of the needs of Southwest Nova and why people are and aren’t using the Digby Ferry and other services. The study is supposed to get input from local communities and businesses in order to have as much detail as possible. see transportation study story here
2apr2009: Minister leaks $790,000 Cabinet agenda item in Yarmouth meeting... In what some say might be a case of pre-election posturing, Municipal Affairs Minister and Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt told Shelburne County officials on Monday that the Executive Council of Nova Scotia (cabinet) would be discussing the issue of a loan or grant to the group of $790,000 at Thursday's cabinet meeting.
2apr2009: SWSDA to Energy Department on Georges Bank report - pound sand... In what some insiders are calling an abuse of his political sway with Cabinet ministers, South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson has refused to meet the contractual requirements of the agency's $150,000 Oceans First Task Force project. "He seems to be so tight with the ministers and other Tory power brokers, he can get away with just about anything," said one source.
2apr2009: Diesel-drinking crustaceans protest lack of action in barge sinking off Yarmouth... An environmental group is keeping the pressure on Environment Canada to do something about a dredging barge that sank off the coast of Nova Scotia last November carrying 70,000 litres of diesel fuel. >>> more
1apr2009: RCMP monitoring SCT after complaints filed... In a surprising finding from internet traffic statistics, it was discovered Wednesday that the RCMP based in Ontario appear to be monitoring the SCT web site. SCT publisher Timothy Gillespie filed a formal complain with the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner, who then assigned the investigation to the RCMP National Investigative Unit in British Columbia, according to documents provided to SCT.
The complaint alleges that two Shelburne-based RCMP officers erred in threatening Gillespie with arrest in order to have him leave a public meeting of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA). A Shelburne County resident says that he also filed more than five complaints about with the RCMP via their online "Tips Hotline", with subject headers including "white collar crime", "tax evasion", "stolen money", "Frank the CEO". Although the complainant says he received no response from the RCMP, he reports that the Tips Hotline no longer accepts tips or complaints via email.
The RCMP complaint resolution process allows for an informal settlement if agreed to by both parties. Gillespie has received no expression of interest from the RCMP in mutually-agreed resolution.
26mar2008: RCMP to investigate SWSDA meeting fracas... The Vancouver-based RCMP Complaints Commission has advised SCT publisher Timothy Gillespie that his complaint of being improperly removed from a February 18 meeting in Shelburne of the South West Shore Development Authority directors meeting was being pursued by RCMP investigators.
The March 6 complaint cited the lack of effort by the Shelburne RCMP detachment commander and constable in assessing the legitimate right for media and others to attend SWSDA meetings before threatening to arrest Gillespie if he did not leave the meeting.
RCMP policy allows for informal resolution by both parties, but no attempt has been made to date by Shelburne RCMP to attempt a resolution. A formal investigation of the behaviour of the Shelburne officers now seems likely.
In a related matter, reliable sources say that SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson has informed local municipal leaders that he intend to hold all future SWSDA meetings in Yarmouth to prevent "certain people" from attending. A tied vote (resulting in a defeated motion) regarding closed meetings at the March 18 SWSDA meeting was subsequently "converted" to a passing motion by Anderson and other directors.
Several of the SWSDA directors are known to be disturbed at the recent antics of Anderson which have generated widespread criticism of the way SWSDA conducts its business.
18mar2009:SWSDA opens legal opinions to public scrutiny... Directors of the embattled regional development office tell SCT that, in a move uncharacteristic of the generally secretive South West Shore Development Authority, the business agency CEO has determined that correspondence from its solicitor outlining a legal strategy surrounding CEO Frank Anderson's dictum that media and citizens are not to attend SWSDA meetings is a public document under the provisions of the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information Act and Municipal Act legislation.
Anderson and SWSDA recently lost a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision regarding access to information after Anderson refused for two years to divulge his expenses when requested by a citizen. Anderson had reportedly informed the board of directors at that time that he had legal advice that he didn't have to turn over the records.
"SWSDA has a track record of making very bad decisions based on supposedly solid legal advice," says one authority on the workings of the agency. SWSDA is thought to have spent more than $50,000 in legal fees following the advice surrounding Anderson's expense records. The CEO and SWSDA face an on-going contempt action likely to be heard in April, plus a $5 million civil action which is slated for trial in January 2010. Legal costs for the civil action are expected to exceed $1 million, all of which is paid from tax--generated operating funds supplied by local municipalities and other government agencies.
10mar2009: Minister's office in SWSDA cover-up?... The office of Municipal Affairs Minister Richard Hurlburt has jumped into the controversy surrounding the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) CEO Frank Anderson's determination to keep the prying eyes of the public and media away from his business.
Hurlburt is a long-time friend, close neighbor and current business partner of Anderson's and now appears also to be a legal authority. A Shelburne County resident recently made an inquiry of the Minister as to why SWSDA was excluding the public from its director's meetings, which are almost exclusively attended by elected officials discussing the expenditure of public monies.
Hurlburt's office replied that, "SWSDA is a not for profit entity and also is not governed by the Municipal Government Act. It is within their authority to determine who does or does not attend their board meetings." A local authority on municipal governance was disturbed by the Minister's unwarranted intrusion into a local issue. "It is outrageous for the minister to be trying to influence public opinion on a legal matter completely outside of his jurisdiction," the expert told SCT. "This is especially true," he added, "since the courts have just given a completely opposite view."
Anderson has informed his board that the March meeting would need to be scheduled in Yarmouth and not Barrington, so a lawyer could attend and present a legal opinion on the matter. Anderson pursued legal action on the recent freedom of information lawsuit based on similar legal opinion. SWSDA and Anderson lost the lawsuit, which cost taxpayers in the region $50,000 or more.
10mar2009: Anderson and Hurlburt to receive $150,000 gift from Town of Yarmouth?... In a letter addressed to Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney and his council, a local resident questioned the decision by the Council to allocate almost $150,000 to extend a sewer line to vacant properties owned by development czar Frank Anderson and provincial Minister Richard Hurlburt, operating under the rubric of Yarco Holdings.
In the letter, homeowner Rod Hemeon requests that council revisit the matter, which he considers a possible "gift" to the property owners, while raising tax rates. The letter also quotes one councilor as saying that, if he and other members had been advised about the history of the property, "the outcome [of the vote] would have been different."
The property is near the Yarmouth Airport and is certain to become more valuable in the near future due to recent developments at the airport. Anderson and Hurlburt have instigated much of the airport development.
9mar2009: EBay swamp sellers and lawyers may face contempt charges... Carmen Blinn, her real estate firm and lawyers have ignored a court order for them to turn over important documents in an on-going case involving their alleged fraudulent land sales in Port Clyde using the eBay auction web site. The properties continue to be offered on the internet using the same materials that were described as "false and misleading" in the court cases.
Blinn's lawyer, Stephanie Atkinson, was rebuked by Supreme Court Justice Patrick J. Duncan in December for withholding the documents from SCT publisher Timothy Gillespie for 11 months and then arriving in court unprepared to defend her actions. Justice Duncan granted Gillespie's motion for Blinn and Atkinson to turn over the various emails and drawings and issued an order for Blinn, et al, to produce the materials no later than February 7. The judge also ordered Blinn to pay all of Gillespie's expenses in the legal action.
To date, no documents have been produced and no payment has been made on the expenses from the hearing, which the judge said was made necessary solely as a result of the failure of Blinn and company to produce relevant facts to Gillespie. "This seems a blatant contempt of the judges order," says Gillespie, "and I have informed Mrs. Blinn and her lawyer that I intend to move for a contempt order from the court."
Blinn and her partner have been the subject of several complaints to eBay, RCMP, Justice Department, Nova Scotia Real Estate Board and various law enforcement agencies in the USA. They are also the subject of other lawsuits in Nova Scotia Supreme Court claiming fraudulent sales practices in eBay land sales in Yarmouth County and Cape Breton. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
20feb2009: No progress on Oceans First Task Force... Energy Dept disputes SWSDA claim... The Department of Energy-funded group slated to survey regional benefits and liabilities of oil and gas exploration on and near the Georges Bank fishing grounds has yet to have its first meeting, according to members interviewed by SCT. "I haven't heard anything about any meetings," said Dan Earle of the Tusket River Environmental Protection Association.
The Oceans First Task Force is the creation of former Nova Scotia Energy Minister Richard Hurlburt and South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson and is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Department for SWSDA. Hurlburt has been avid proponent of ending the current moratorium on petroleum development on Georges Bank. Anderson told the SWSDA board of directors on Wednesday that the project was still in the "letter-writing" stage and that local municipal units would be receiving letters soon about the progress of the research project.
With a deadline for a major report on findings from the Task Force due on March 31, it appears doubtful to those familiar with the process that a credible report would surface by that date. In January and prior to any Task Force meetings, steering committee chairman Clifford Hood announced that the Task Force had concluded that oil and gas exploration and production would not be harmful to fisheries or habitat. "It seems to me," said a consultant and project manager familiar with similar projects, "that this might be a case of $150,000 going down the drain to support a series of foregone conclusions."
In January, Anderson told his board that parts of the project would be overseen by SWSDA worker Pam Thibault of Clare and that the Department of Energy was funding researchers from Dalhousie University for the project. A senior official for the department told SCT that Anderson's claim is not true. Neither Thibault or Anderson would speak on record for this story.
18feb2009: SWSDA tosses reporter from meeting... Despite the recent ruling by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court that the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) was a public agency according to the laws of the Province and despite protests by several member politicians, CEO Frank Anderson had the Shelburne RCMP escort SCT editor and publisher Timothy Gillespie from the Shelburne meeting of the agency in Shelburne early Wednesday morning.
Anderson told Gillespie that, despite the court ruling, he considered the meeting a "private" one and not open to the public or the media. In a November, 2008 decision, Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Hood determined that, because its membership is comprised almost exclusively of elected officials and the agency's funding is almost exclusively from public funds, SWSDA is a "municipal body" and should not be exempt from legislation controlling their actions.
Anderson and SWSDA have a track record of disputing decisions and orders from the courts and other authorities. He refused to comply with a decision by the province's Freedom of Information officer to release his expense records (this prompted the lawsuit before Justice Hood), initially released only a partial version of the records and, with SWSDA, is facing a contempt of court action for allegedly not complying with another judicial order.
One SWSDA member reported that the board of directors decided at the meeting that the agency was obliged to conform to Freedom of Information requests as "municipal agency", but determined that they were not subject to public meeting legislation. "In light of the court's recent ruling," said an authority on the governing legislation," that is a patently absurd and dangerous conclusion. All of the municipalities which comprise SWSDA are now subject to almost certain legal action in the courts and to all of the costs and bad publicity that will entail."
During the standoff prior to the expulsion, a senior regional public employee was heard to say to other SWSDA members, "Everywhere Frank goes, there's a problem". SCT intends to file complaints with the Crown Attorney's Office, RCMP management and Department of Municipal Affairs and other relevant agencies.
2apr2009: SWSDA to Energy Department on Georges Bank report - pound sand... In what some insiders are calling an abuse of his political sway with Cabinet ministers, South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson has refused to meet the contractual requirements of the agency's $150,000 Oceans First Task Force project. "He seems to be so tight with the ministers and other Tory power brokers, he can get away with just about anything," said one source.
In October, 2008 Anderson received a non-tendered contract from the department, which was then headed up by Minister Richard Hurlburt, major Yarmouth politico and business partner of Anderson. The scope of services included submission of a plan for year two and a comprehensive list of activities and major report to be completed by March 31, 2009. No report has been forthcoming, according to department officials.
Anderson has told his SWSDA board of directors recently that he will only complete the year-one tasks due March 31, 2008 by March 31, 2009 and then only if he is fully funded for the second year. The first year "deliverables" included establishing a representative Task Force to undertake an assessment of the benefits and risks of oil and gas exploration and development in the Georges Bank region, currently under a government enforced moratorium.
Internal SWSDA documents obtained by SCT indicate that staff is recommending changes to the contractual focus of the Task Force to ostensibly satisfy community, rather than department needs, as dictated by the scope of service. No permission has been sought from or granted by the department to alter the terms of the contract.
A senior official with the Department of Energy told SCT in January that the Department and Minister were adamant that the deliverables and timeline of the contract be adhered to and that they fully expected the required comprehensive submissions on March 31. The official told SCT late last week that current Energy Minister and Department still expected SWSDA to comply with the terms and timelines for year one of the contract.
Of the six substantial requirements for activity on or before March 31, SWSDA has attempted to complete only one - that of submitting an outline for activity for year two funding. The Task Force has not met once and there has been no research or assessment or community input or evaluation required by the contract.
Recent reports by Anderson to SWSDA board members and interviews with steering committee members indicate that pro-drilling, Yarmouth lawyer and Anderson/Hurlburt ally Clifford Hood is still managing the Task Force behind the scenes.
22jan2009: $12 million for ferry saves service for 2009... The province's Industrial Expansion Fund will cover financial losses for Bay Ferries Ltd. on its Yarmouth-Maine service to allow the company to maintain the operation for the 2009 season, according to an announcement made by Murray Scott, Minister of Economic and Rural Development at 1:00pm Thursday. The total amount of assistance will depend on the financial results of the service, but will not exceed $12 million, according to the release. Bay Ferries has received more than $25 million in government subsidies in the past 30 months.
"Without this immediate assistance the service would not be able to continue," said Murray . Bay Ferries Ltd. operates the Cat high-speed ferry between Yarmouth and two ports in Maine , Bar Harbor and Portland . About 100 people are employed by the Bay Ferries service in Yarmouth . In 2008, 85,000 customers used the ferry service.
Increase in fuel costs together with economic challenges in the United States and now Canada , plus new passport requirements taking effect June 1 will add to uncertainty over Canada-U.S. travel. A joint federal-provincial study will examine the transportation needs in southwest Nova Scotia to determine long-term decisions about the Yarmouth to Maine service. The federal government has committed $1 million for the study.
The $12 million could amount to a subsidy of $150 or more for each passenger, or 100% of the Yarmouth-Bar Harbour fare and 75% of the Yarmouth-Portland fare, if 2009 tourism numbers follow current trends. The province announced a $4.4 million subsidy for Bay Ferries In 2007, the government gave Bay Ferries a $2.5 million subsidy to keep it afloat. In 2006, a joint government agreement awarded Bay Ferries $8 million to keep its St.John to Digby service going until then end of January, 2009
21jan2009: Georges Bank Task Force chair resigns.... Amidst recent criticism of the way the government-funded Oceans First Task Force has conducted its business since being created in October, 2008, committee chairman and Yarmouth lawyer Clifford Hood announced he was quitting the panel.
News stories in Nova Scotia and New England have called into question the secrecy and political maneuvering behind the group, whose contract with the Department of Energy requires them to do an unbiased study of the benefits and risks in oil and gas development off the coast of South West Nova Scotia, including the Georges Bank area.
Hood, who is a vocal pro-drilling advocate, told the Coast Guard that he was an interim steering committee chairman and that a larger group would be formed. Hood previously told SCT that former Energy Minister and Yarmouth businessman Richard Hurlburt had appointed him permanent chair of the group.
The Task Force has yet to meet formally, but has issued a news release promoting drilling on Georges Bank and reports indicate that they may have spent upwards of 40% of their year one budget. >>> more on Georges Bank
21jan2009: Expense claim holdout gives in... in one of the longest-running provincial battles for information about the expenses of a public official, the lawyers for South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson have agreed to turn over the expense claim documents demanded in a Supreme Court judges order from November, 2008.
In 2006, Adelard (Ed) Cayer made a request for the expense claims of Anderson, whose entire SWSDA budget comes from the tax-supported public sector, and was denied by the SWSDA chief. An appeal to the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information Commissioner was upheld, as was a subsequent appeal to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Anderson's defence to date is estimated to have cost taxpayers and municipal governments in Nova Scotia upwards of $50,000.
In November, 2008, Justice Suzanne Hood ordered that Anderson's turn over the records he sought in his application, but Cayer only received an edited expense report, but no receipts. "I asked for the full record and the justice said to remit it," says Cayer. It was only after a lengthy post-order correspondence that law firm McInness Cooper agreed to turn over the pertinent receipts.
SWSDA and Anderson have been engaged with Cayer's Ocean Produce International for ten years in a multi-million dollar civil suit which is set to go to trial in January of 2010. SWSDA is facing a contempt of court hearing regarding a side issue to that case, involving allegations that Anderson and his staff they did not adequately account for funds from the sale of the former Shelburne Boy's School. The larger suit is estimated to have cost taxpayers $500,000 or more to date.
Cayer says that he is still contemplating further legal or administrative action regarding the edits made by the lawyers on the expense claims.
20jan2009: $2 million goes to Yarmouth air service... Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt announced Tuesday that a commitment of $2 million over five years will be made through the Industrial Expansion Fund and will be jointly administered by the Yarmouth International Airport Corporation and the Department of Economic and Rural Development.
The fund is designed to The fund will operate for five years to help establish two daily flights each from Yarmouth to Halifax and Yarmouth to Portland, Maine, starting in February. The service will be run by Quebec-based Starlink Aviation and will employ an 18-seat turbo prop aircraft
The five-year funding comes from a pool designed to assist industries involved in innovative research and technology, according to a government press release.
The investment is based in part on the projections of income of $4.5 to $6.5 million per year from 10-15,000 passengers from the Halifax-Yarmouth flights and 15-20,000 from the Halifax-Portland leg, according to Jeffrey Monroe, manager of the Yarmouth International Airport.
Monroe told SCT that up to eight jobs in Yarmouth and 3-4 jobs in Halifax would be created from the service.
12jan2009: SWSDA lawsuit dismissed... a lawsuit filed by a high-end real estate firm against the South West Shore Development Authority has been dismissed.
Claussen Walters & Associates sued the development authority last April for $275,000, money it said it was owed as commission for its role in the sale of the former naval station in Sandy Point, just outside Shelburne. >>> more
APOLOGY and RETRACTION
The December 16th, 2008 edition of "Shelburne County Today" contained an article entitled "Yarmouth Contempt Hearing Cancelled".
The article stated that a contempt hearing involving the South West Shore Development Authority's Chief Executive Officer, Frank Anderson, was cancelled because of the failure of Robert G. Belliveau, Q.C., the lawyer to the South West Shore Development Authority, to meet applicable Court filing deadlines. The statement in the article was wrong in several respects and is hereby retracted.
In fact, there is no pending contempt of court application relating to Mr. Anderson. The pending contempt of court application pertains only to the South West Shore Development Authority and Ocean Produce International limited, a company operated by Adelard A. (Ed) Cayer. The contempt of court application is being defended by the South West Shore Development Authority. No findings of contempt of court have been made.
Further, Mr. Belliveau, on behalf of the South West Shore Development Authority, had met all applicable Court filing deadlines. The cancellation of the Court hearing was because of the anticipated inclement weather and because of the request made by Ocean Produce International Limited's lawyer for more time to prepare a response to the Court filings which Mr. Belliveau had made.
The article also stated that Mr. Belliveau's Court filings suggested that there was no agreement between the South West Shore Development Authority and Ocean Produce International Limited regarding the maintenance of certain funds under the control of the South West Shore Development Authority until litigation between the two entities had been completed; and furthermore, that Mr. Belliveau had no authority to enter into any such agreement on behalf of the South West Shore Development Authority when he purported to do so approximately one year ago. These statements in the article were also wrong and they are also hereby retracted.
In fact, Mr. Belliveau did have authority to enter into the subject agreement on behalf of the South West Shore Development Authority and did so approximately one year ago. The subject matter of the Mr. Belliveau's Court filings related only to an ambiguity in the language of the agreement which has resulted in the most recent dispute.
The article also stated that Mr. Belliveau's Court filings were in breach of certain of a lawyer's ethical responsibilities as defined by the Codes of Conduct of both the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society and the Canadian Bar Association, in that his filings made him a witness to the proceedings to which they related. These statements in the article were also wrong and they are also hereby retracted.
In fact, it is not uncommon for lawyers to file their own affidavits in support of or in response to applications in which their respective clients' are involved, particularly where the matter in issue is the interpretation of an agreement which has been negotiated directly by the lawyer for a client. The I custom which has therefore evolved over many years is that lawyers who file their own affidavits in support of or in response to such applications will not act directly for such clients while they are being cross-examined on any such affidavits but only then.
Both Shelburne County Today and its publisher, Timothy Gillespie, apologize to Mr. Belliveau for any embarrassment the article has caused him, his firm, the South West Shore Development Authority or Mr. Anderson.
EDITORIAL: Mea culpa mi amore… or, Sometimes NOT saying you’re sorry is the hardest word. For you regular readers, you will know that yesterday I published a heartleft apology for errors I hade made in a story published in December. For those of you who didn’t read the apology here it is. Thinking I’ve done the right thing, it’s all over, everyone is happy, I go about my business. But no, too easy… too easy. Now I get calls saying I shouldn’t hadda otta dunnit, the apology that is. That I was a wuss for caving to the “man.” Man! A man can’t win fer tryin.
So, let me go back a bit. I ran a story in December about one of the several SWSDA court actions ongoing (can’t show it to you now, you see, something about a possible lawsuit, or something like that). Three weeks after the story runs, Darrell – no, the other brother Darrell - shows up at my back door with a letter from a pricey Halifax lawyer and a draft law suit (see, told you), which tells me that a $400 an hour Halifax lawyer says that I said untrue things about some other $400 an hour lawyer – a QC to boot! - who was in Yarmouth court defending a 150 grand-a-year regional development czar from claims that he – the czar guy - has somehow not done what he should have with just under about a million dollars of public money that came from the sale of a reform school – to a buddy, who is now clear-cutting the land - and, according to the economic development minister of the day – also the czar’s good buddy and business partner, who just last gave the czar guy and his folks 150 Gs for a secret, bogus “Let’s Drill on Georges Bank” task force steering committee study - was somehow supposed to end up going to help us all out – with the money from the sale of the military base – this to a couple a swells from the States who are selling the furniture and fences and everything else not bolted to the floor as fast as their candle-making, pitch-and-putt , YouTube Comedy Show hands will move - down here ‘cause we got fewer jobs cause they shut down the military base and the reform school - which is connected somehow to a lawsuit involving czar guy and his agency, who have paid the second 20-sawbuck an hour mouthpiece and his other QC pals maybe up to half a mill - of our tax money - in that case to date - Clear as mud, right?
Now, I have to believe that these pricey lawyers – remember, they’re getting paid mostly from your precious tax dollars – probably know their jobs – they better know ‘em, at 400 per, eh? - and they have read all the court papers and all the transcripts and gone over their notes and all of that very lawyerly stuff and so, if they say I didn’t get the facts right, I’m gonna believe them. Wouldn’t you? I mean, they are officers of the court and have a solemn obligation to tell the truth. Right? So, I’m gonna believe them. Even though I was in that very courtroom that day and heard every word by Mr 400 per QC and read every court filing, affidavit and such – twice even. I gotta admit, political connections, law degree and $500,000 in fees trumps 30 years of reporting any day, right? But I did read the letter and the court materials and did agree that they should get their apology and I printed it. And I mean every word of it.
Now, back to the drama unfolding. These QCs and other sharp suits, they wouldn’t be taking advantage of a little blogger in the middle of nowhere trying to push that blogger guy around, to, like bully him. Right? That would be wrong. Right? So’ the fact that there are two of the biggest and most powerful law firms in Nova Scotia, with two of the most famous – did I mention expensive? - lawyers in the province having a go at this poor schlub of a solo blogger who they probably know is not going to lawyer up at the drop of a writ – cause he hasn’t yet – shouldn’t be a factor. Or should it?
Now, here’s where it gets a little more interesting – or so says some. Just a couple of weeks ago, the law partner of the second pricey suit - 400 QC - calls the lawyer of the guy who brought the legal action to Yarmouth in December – who was originally sued ten years ago by czar guy and his development agency, which case has dragged on longer than the stalled Nova Scotia energy policy and which, if the lawyers can keep their stuff together will finally go to trial in 2010 - and tells him that the czar guy just told him – the partner – to file a defamation law suit against the blogger and the lawsuit guy. Jeez! I’m sure there is no connection. What do you think?
The fact that this smells so much like a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) that you gotta hold your nose from a mile away is probably just another coincidence – like these suits being threatened just as czar guy is feeling intense heat from all directions. That the primary function of SLAPP suits – cause most of them don’t end up nowhere - is to wear folks down financially and morally and spiritually and physically - should be no consolation for no one. That Mr. czar guy told his mouthpiece to call the other guy’s mouthpiece about the impending suit after being told by his board of directors – now that’s a bunch, I tell ya - not to launch any more tax-funded lawsuits until he gets the nod from the board – but doesn’t get the nod – heck, doesn’t even bother to ask them – should also be no consolation.
So, now I gotta figure out. Do I stop writing about these folks for good? Not the lawyers, I mean, they’re just doing their jobs and collecting on average $360,000 in billable hours per year and maybe shouldn’t have to suffer the pains of public exposure like the unwashed many – but the other folks, the ones who appear day in and day out in these pages – the czars, ministers, wardens, councilors, wannbes, American hucksters, ferry promoters, mink ranchers, oil drillers, quarry diggers, resort builders and carpetbaggers. Do I just sit back – and let these people climb over us in their frantic, pell mell clamour to slurp loudly from the sweet elixir of money - our money - and power at public trough, meanwhile picking our pockets of tax dollars to get even more obscene advantage for themselves and their pals and their projects – then using our tax money again to pay 400 QC and his ilk to sue – or threaten to sue – anyone who pipes up?
Well, let’s see. Since I’ve been at this game, and before this recent episode, I’ve been threatened for writing not nice stuff by one of our local mayors, by some republican money schemer from the USA who told us a ferry was coming here from Boston any day now and didn’t like the scrutiny that came his way, by the clear-cutting, wharf-running, no-tender project consultant buddy who bought the reform school and by the characters that were accused of selling swampland in Port Clyde. Actually, they did sue me and their brilliant lawyers have dragged that one out for two years and counting, all the while, losing every time we went to court. Every time. But I gotta admit, they only had four lawyers working on that case. Think of the billable hours there! Then, the pitch-and-putt impresario and magazine salesman called me a punk in his little paper for writing about his shenanigans and those of his candlemaking consort and then the local politician-turned-municipal administrator who, sitting in his tax-supported office, created a venal, vicious and anonymous, blind blog to rain on the parade of a few of us when we had the audacity to criticize his council and councilors. Whoa! My head’s spinning here.
My guess today is that I won’t stop writing. In this game, in no time at all, you realize that, if you take the time to dig into the back room shams, public money wastefulness, petty power and corruption and just plain lack of collective public will by the politicians we have elected to protect us, you soon become a ready target for all of the big-shot lawyers, development kingpins, carpetbaggers and failed politicians who’ve got thin skins, an axe to grind and a bad attitude. So, like it or not, we’re all probably stuck with me for awhile more. About the apology. I mean every word of it. Really. Oh, just in case these wise guys get too much for me to deal with… anybody know a good lawyer? Editor Timothy Gillespie has been writing about municipal, provincial and local malfeasance and other things for 30 years. He is the founder of the Public Access Project, an activist-based advocacy forum for the public right to participate fully in their own democratic institutions.
31dec2008: Georges Bank "Oceans First" task force chair sets course for $150,000 project... Yarmouth lawyer Clifford Hood has been named by Energy Minister Richard Hurlburt as the chairman of the "Oceans First Task Force", funded by a $150,000, two-year grant from the Department of Energy. The task force, which, in its contract with the department, is charged with examining economic opportunities from offshore oil and gas operations n the sensitive Georges Bank region, including environmental and social risks.
The contract with the South West Shore Development Authority includes the hiring of an offshore energy opportunity officer and SWSDA has hired former Yarmouth harbour master Garth Atkinson as what Hood refers to as a researcher on the project.
Hood says that the task force is still in the steering committee stage, with ten or so members from the fishery, unions and business, plus a representative from the Tusket River Environmental Organization. Hood would not divulge the names of the committee, saying that he had not cleared disclosure with the members. The committee will be expanded soon, according to Hood "to include a broad, community-based consultation group from South West Nova Scotia."
Hood said in a news release that the steering committee began their work with a trip to Norway for "intensive discussions with industry and government." Since the project began in early October, the committee has already concluded that "it is possible to conduct seismic testing and oil and gas drilling in sensitive areas," and that "oil and gas can be developed on Georges Bank with minimal effect on the environment."
Public meetings with "stakeholders" and interested parties are planned for communities throughout Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne Counties, says Hood. "We are trying to make something in this region," he told SCT, "and not get overwhelmed by a Halifax-centered mentality." As for including the Ecology Action Centre or other groups located outside south west Nova Scotia, Hood expressed little interest. "God bless the EAC," said Hood, "but they are not the only people who know anything about oceans."
Hood, who was previously a petroleum engineer, admits to generally having a pro-drilling stance on the issues at hand. "I was vocal about being opposed to the moratorium ten years ago, so people won't be surprised where I stand today."
The contract requires Hood, Atkinson and SWSDA to produce the results of the 2008-2009 work plan delivered by March 31 and to have a 2009-2010 work plan by January 31. The March 31 report includes a review of oil and gas experience in eight Nova Scotia counties, reviewing capabilities in southwest Nova Scotia, establishing a skills assessment methodology, description of work with stakeholder committees and information sessions, plus dissemination of results of the public sessions. (Scope of work can be viewed here)
Chronicle Herald story about task force can be viewed here
No appeal for SWSDA in expense claim case... the Halifax lawyer for Frank Anderson and the South West Shore Development Authority informed Shelburne businessman Ed Cayer that the agency will not appeal the recent Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling that determined that SWSDA was a public agency and Anderson's expense records should be made available, per Cayer's request in 2006.
Despite the November ruling by Justice Suzanne M. Hood that SWSDA is and was always a public body under the Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act (MGA) and should be fully subject to freedom of information ( FIOPOP) standards, Anderson and his lawyers had refused to make the record available to Cayer until he was informed today that no appeal would be forthcoming.
Hood cited four court cases, including a recent, similar case in which the judge determined that it was "contrary to the purpose of the (FOIPOP) Act and access to information legislation in general to permit... [the evasion of] the statutory duty to provide residents with access to information..."
The case, according to Cayer, has absorbed more than two years, tens of thousands of dollars of public money, thousands of dollars of private money, volunteer organization time and resources valued at thousands of dollars "to finally get SWSDA to accept that they are not above the law."
"What Mr. Anderson has done is demonstrate why taxpayers should not rely on his or SWSDA's judgment on what information the public should be able to see," says Cayer. " Given SWSDA and Mr. Anderson's unfettered access to public money to spend or as he says, 'dissipate' as he sees fit, pubic access to SWSDA information is important."
Hopefully, added Cayer, if Anderson knows that the public can see what he is doing, we may get less waste and more bang for our tax dollars. Cayer was joined in the suit by the Nova Scotia Right to Know Coalition.
Anderson still faces a contempt of court action based on allegations that he disobeyed a judge's order about setting aside funds from the sale of the former Boy's School in Shelburne. An affidavit submitted in that case by the same lawyers defending the FOIPOP suit may be challenged in cross examination, which could lead to the lawyers being removed from the case. SWSDA also faces a trial in January of 2010 surrounding a ten year-old, $5 million civil case. Neither of those cases has been heard in court.
23dec2008: As soon as you leave the Yarmouth Wendy's and drive north along the harbour on Water Street, you can hear the sound. A low, quiet murmuring at first, then a hum, a mumble, gurgle, chatter, shout... then finally, as you approach the shiny, new offices of the South West Shore Development Authority at number 233, a cacophonous symphony of deafening wails of mallard, merganser, pintail, teal and wigeon... quack, quack, quack, quack.
Everyone in the building, in the town, along the South Shore and in the entire province can hear it... that is everyone but the man who rules the roost at SWSDA, the cock-of-the-walk, if you will, Frank Anderson. You see, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has just made a ruling that affirms what we all know, and have known for years. I know it, you know it. The good mayors and wardens of our towns and municipalities who are charged with the oversight of SWSDA know it, as do the members of parliament and all of the MLAs. The ministers and deputy ministers and mandarins at ACOA and fisheries and oceans and the departments of energy, economic development, immigration, health and education know it.
What Justice Suzanne Hood told Mr. Anderson and his board of directors and his high-priced and sometimes high-handed lawyers was that SWSDA, because it is comprised of public officials and does ostensibly public service and feeds constantly from the seemingly unending trough of public monies, is and always was a municipal body under laws of Nova Scotia. Of course, for years, Mr. Anderson has done gyrations worthy of a Circ de Soliel headliner to avoid SWSDA being seen as what we know it to be.
In effect, what the esteemed justice told Mr. Anderson and all of us is that, "if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck... it must be a duck." The justice told Frank Anderson and SWSDA in no uncertain terms that they had an obligation to provide the simple information requested. She is convinced beyond all doubt. A sensible and honourable man would say, "OK, I was wrong", and move on.
Not this bird. Not on your life. You see, when a cock rules the roost, and is used to all of the privileges that come with that, he doesn't give up easily - or maybe even ever.
The issue at stake was that some citizen wanted to see a few of Mr. Anderson's expense claims. No business or state secrets, no precious personal information about the folks who are clamoring to do business here in the South West. Not too very outrageous at all. With no effort at all, the same guy could have seen the expense claims of almost any public official. From Prime Minister Stephen Harper, or any cabinet official; for Premier Rodney MacDonald, or any of his cabinet or MLAs or deputies or sub-deputies. With no problem, because these folks understand that they are doing our business with our money and we have a right to know what's going on. What they call nowadays a no-brainer.
This John Q Citizen could also have easily seen the expense claims of the very bureaucrats who have signed over more than 20 million dollars over the years to SWSDA and Mr. Anderson over the years. But, the one public official in Nova Scotia - maybe all of Canada - whose expenses seem to need to be hidden from view appears to be - Frank Anderson. Now, this is the same Frank Anderson who proudly told the media earlier this year that he purposely designed the structure of SWSDA so his expense claims - and plenty of other information - would remain a secret from us all, including those members who are our mayors, wardens and councilors.
In fact, while the case above was going on, Mr. Anderson was busy trying to re-structure the make-up of his board so it didn't look so much like a duck when he got done. They made up some new by-laws and took a vote to make it so, all of these well-meaning public officials. SWSDA event sent the Registrar of Joint Stocks a certification that all of the members had signed the new rules. Funny thing is that, to a one, none of these officials recall signing anything. Oh, yes, Margaret, it still quacks.
No matter. Frank Anderson and his new executive council will likely continue the fight to hide away the inner workings of SWSDA's finances, callously squandering hundreds of thousands more precious economic development dollars in $400 per hour fees from Halifax's best legal minds on an appeal of this case and others like it. Why not, it's not their money they are spending. Guess whose it is?
I wouldn't be at all surprised if, unbeknownst the membership of good burghers nestling down for a Christmas celebration with friends and family, SWSDA worker elves are hunkered down at 233 Water Street with the big drake, planning more holiday surprises wrapped in obfuscations, writs, summonses and declamations.
Meanwhile, in my dawn-lit office overlooking the harbour in Shelburne, I still hear the faint, not unpleasant sound off the water... quack, quack, quack. Timothy Gillespie, editor and publisher.
17dec2008: Cabinet to meet soon on SWSDA request to discount film studio loan... even though South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) announced recently they had approval from government to discount the loans outstanding on the film studio/sound stage property sold recently to two Americans, the Department of Economic Development says the decision must go to cabinet and that the decision will be made soon.
Premier Rodney MacDonald and cabinet meet Thursday and it is expected that the discounted loans will be discussed there with an eye to creating an Order in Council, which would have to be signed by Lieutenant Governor Mayanne Francis next week, then published, or a Cabinet Minute Letter, which would remain a secret from the public.
As the sale of a mortgage as disposal property is regulated by the Government Purchases Act (188), it would not qualify for the super-secret Minute Letter. The Act stipulates that purchases and sales valued at more than $1000 should be tendered in order to ensure fairness, obtain the best value, protect the public and to achieve the best price. The Governor in Council (Premier) is charged with ensuring that the provisions in the act are complied with. Current procurement policies have a $10,000 cap for non-tendered items.
The property, a former federal military base, was valued at $30 million in the 1990s and assessed at $15 million in 2005, was given to SWSDA with for $500,00 in 1999 by the Shelburne Park Development Agency. Within months, SWSDA engineered a collateral mortgage for $475,000 against the project from the Department of Economic development and, since they became owners, have generate $2.67 million in income for loans, grants, non-refundable deposits and sales, including a reported $1 million from the recent sale to Seacoast. Additionally, SWSDA was awarded $2.6 million to renovate the "sound stage" at the property. SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson testified at a public hearing in 2007 that the property was held in trust and all proceeds would go to local economic development in Shelburne County.
The development group then attempted to sell it for $5 million and sold it in early 2008 to Seacoast Entertainment Arts for a reported $2.75 million, $1.75 million of which was converted to a mortgage loan from SWSDA with no payments for two years. Anderson currently faces contempt of court charges stemming from a court action in 2007 ordering him to second $700,000 or more from the sale pending the outcome of a $5 million suit brought against Anderson and SWSDA for unlawful conversion of funds. No final decision has been made in either case.
Opinion: Contempt for us all... in my personal time these days, I have been engrossed in the letters and speeches of Abraham Lincoln. While reading part of his first speech to Congress yesterday, I was roused from my reverie by his description of a lawyer, who, in "...struggling for his client's neck, in a desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog and cover up... some point arising in the case, which he dared not admit, and yet could not deny."
I was reminded immediately, of the very good - and very expensive - lawyers who will appear in Yarmouth on Thursday to defend SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson on a contempt of court charge before Supreme Court Justice Patrick Duncan. I watched these same attorneys in that same court one year ago when the judge made clear instruction to Mr. Anderson about seconding specific funds attached to a civil case.
The attorney, after proudly admitting to the court that Mr. Anderson had, in a matter of days, squandered every penny of the proceeds from the Shelburne Boy's School; proceeds which had already been promised by Anderson and his pals in the provincial government to badly-needed and long-overdue economic development projects in Shelburne County, proceeded to dodge the questions put to him by the judge. In the end, the judge said there was no use crying over money no longer in existence. But the judge told Anderson he had to set aside almost a million dollars from another of his real estate fire sales - this one of the film studio - subject to a decision in a $5 million civil trial involving a former tenant of SWSDA at the same former military base in Sandy Point.
If Anderson is not found in contempt on Thursday, it will certainly not be for lack of trying. More than any public official in this part of the province, he seems to have contempt both for those in authority and those who he is supposed to serve. He has refused an order - now a Supreme Court decision - to make his expense and other records public, he has refused to clarify spotty real estate deals when asked to by his board of directors and he appears to move around some of the $ 5 million in SWSDA's annual budget - and more than $30 million in government funding this past decade - like the dealer in a game of three-card Monty.
Despite the fact that the good attorney and his law partner, plus dozens of support staff - have collected a possible $500,000 or more over the years to defend against and punish SWSDA's critics, not one penny of the money can be found in SWSDA's published, public accounting.
But like a practiced bully to whom no resistance is offered by his peers when he regularly trounces the dorks, dweebs and small-fries, Mr. Anderson is aided and abetted - knowingly or not - by a collection of less-than-noble public officials who sit as our representatives on the board of directors of SWSDA and also sit by passively as he does as he damned well pleases. They all voted unanimously in August on an Anderson-drafted bid to thumb SWSDA's collective nose at the public and the courts through some by-law changes and just this week, many of them voted unanimously to have Anderson spend the money he admitted under oath he had "dissipated" into a mere "book keeping entry".
Frank Anderson's appearance in Yarmouth Thursday will net those good lawyers almost $10,000 and, if he is found in contempt Thursday, Anderson will just spend 10 or 20 thousand more public dollars appealing the decision, while our erstwhile mayors, wardens and councilors go their merry way imagining they are doing a grand job of protecting us and our assets. So, who's really in contempt here? Timothy Gillespie, editor/publisher
12dec2008: No permission to discount mortgage or sell fences and furniture at former film studio, says government... the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development has disputed recent claims made by the CEO of South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) that there is an agreement to discount the $1.75 million mortgage held on the Canadian Forces base at Sandy Point. The property, valued at $30 million in the 1990's and, according to SWSDA, $18 million in 2005, was on the market in 2006 for $5 million and was sold for $2.75 million early this year to a Vermont-based couple who have opened several businesses there, including a drive-in movie and pitch-and-putt golf course.
At an October 15 SWSDA board meeting, CEO Frank Anderson said that he had verbal permission from the department of economic development to sell, or "get rid of" the $1.75 million mortgage held by SWSDA "even if it was at a loss". The communications director for the department disputed Anderson's claim, saying on Thursday they have no record of any such permission and that it would be a cabinet decision in any case. A request from Anderson was received by the deputy minister October 31, two weeks after he assured SWSDA board members he had been assured permission.
In addition to operating a plethora of small businesses at the site, current film studio owners Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow have also been selling off assets at the mortgaged property since they took over in March. Furniture from the 60-plus "hotel" rooms was sold, as were pieces of the chain link fence protecting the property, which were advertised on the couple's Good Times newspaper.
The $475,000 mortgage the government holds on the property expressly forbids the conversion of any of the " fixed or movable assets" of the property and the former public relations chief for the department told SCT this summer that no permission has been sought or given to sell anything connected with the property.
When asked by SCT, whether she and her partner had permission to sell assets from the property, Mary Barstow told SCT that permission wasn't necessary because "I own this place." When pressed further about any permissions sought, Barstow would only say that she had no comment on the matter.
"After having just sold this public facility at low-ball pricing and now to consider a backroom deal with god knows who to dispose of the mortgage with no proper, third-party assessment is nothing short of criminal," said an experienced real estate developer and broker. "These are public assets and this is public money we are talking about and the government and the cabinet should be aware of that."
The department spokesperson told SCT that apparently permission has been granted to sell home lots from the property and a Yarmouth broker is offering 1-acre lots for $195,000. In a private sector real estate arrangement, according to a broker familiar with such transactions, the mortgage held on the property would be modified to specify a portion of each lot sale for partial pay-down of the outstanding mortgage. No such protection seems to be in place in either two of the mortgages being held by the two public agencies. "No one in their right mind would let someone with a mortgage sell the land out from under them," said the broker.
If the lots are sold and materials are removed from the property and the owners were to default on the mortgage for any reason, there would be no way to replace the lost value in the property, says the broker, and the property would have to be even further discounted in any subsequent sale, or the public agencies - and the taxpayers - could end up with worthless property.
The recent sale was at 16% of its previous appraisal and less than 10% of the one previous. If Cabinet were to grant permission to SWSDA to dump the mortgages at fire sale prices, the taxpayers could be out even more money on the facility, while SWSDA and Anderson could reap immediate cash-flow infusion of up to $1million or more.
The embattled SWSDA and Anderson continue to face a slew of legal and political hurdles, including a large, 10-year civil case scheduled to go to trial in 2010, a contempt of court hearing next week, a recent court judgment demanding that they release documents to the public, a probable appeal of that case, a formal complaint to the provincial government affairs watchdog and a complaint to the Registrar of Joint Stocks. The NDP and Liberal parties have both asked for investigations of the agency.
Editorial: Where were you when they bled us dry?... it is painful to watch the economic fabric of a community slowly unravel before us, but in nine years here, I have seen the economy shrink, businesses close, young people and old move west and watch politicians not taking care of some of the business we rely upon them to do.
I have also seen an assortment of hustlers, con men and scam artists invited to own and occupy what used to be some of our most valuable public facilities - at fire sale prices. These are places which employed hundreds of our friends and families and which were central to the well-being of our communities. And I have seen millions of our diminishing dollars poured down seemingly inexhaustible rabbit holes of "economic development" schemes which never seem to pan out.
There is a form of corruption about us and I don't necessarily imply that anyone is "on the take", even though a charitable observer of the workings of our economic development process here could not even rule that out. I use the word in its archaic, old English sense, in that there seems to be a general decay and a sort of deterioration extant here and few, if any, of those in charge seem to give a hoot. I mean also the corruption that exists when those charged with protecting us simply do not do the job they said they would do.
When tens of millions disappear into the gaping maw of a ill-advised scheme to make movies so far from the only city in the region that craft guilds, unions and producers have to do summersaults to even consider coming here, we should ask questions.
When the agency who cooked up this brilliant scheme - and channeled the many millions poured into it - is charged with and paid handsomely for marketing the place than becomes its owner of record and can only bring a pitiful number of small movies to it over the years, we should ask questions.
When the studio idea goes broke - or the government dough (our dough) runs out, and this same agency is paid to market the place for sale, we should ask why they only seem to attract schemers, scammers, con men and hustlers from Antigonish, Utah and other points west.
When our only other major institutional employer is unceremoniously shut down by the government upon which we depend to protects us - after first humiliating and destroying the lives of many of its finest employees, questions should be asked and answers should be forthcoming.
After gaining title to that 168-acre parcel and after sucking tens of thousands of dollars from it in "administrative and marketing" fees, when the overseers - the same ones who did so well with the film studio - deliver it into the hands of one of their best pals in a brazen, shameless back-room deal, there should be questions asked.
I could go on, but I sense you get the picture. Instead of the film industry, boatbuilding shops, residential care centres, ESL schools, medical care centres, entertainment complexes, resorts, aquaculture centres and fibreglass factories, promised to us, what we get is a sorry amalgam of pitch-and-putt, outdoor drive-ins, kitchen stove candles, amateur videos and newspapers, clear-cutting, bottle and computer junk collecting operations - plus tons of empty promises - which provide few jobs but great embarrassment for us all.
If we look solely to the development agency for answers, we are wrong. If we merely blame the current owners of these places for gravitating to where there is an eager and gullible citizenry, passive politicians and otherwise easy pickings, we're wrong again. We should look closer to home.
Each and every municipal unit in this county (and in Yarmouth also) has a mayor, warden or councilor sitting on the board of directors of the development agency. We have politician alternates and local representatives from business, government and the chambers of commerce on the board. Have any of them, over the last eight years, asked the hard questions which need to be asked? I venture not.
In fact, we have had local wardens and deputy wardens and councilors who, as executives on the board, have aided and abetted this corruption and have also protected us from knowing about the machinations of our own economic development future. "That's too confidential to discuss here, with you", I have heard them report in hushed tones at council and chamber meetings.
I can safely say that, in the past eight years, few, if any, of these public servants have taken the time to fully comprehend the workings of this agency - even though we have paid - and continue to pay - hundreds of thousands of dollars of our precious rate-payer monies to keep them afloat. And look what we got in return. All of these mayors, warden and councilors - every last one of them - have just voted unanimously to give even more of our money to the agency as "repayable loans". Plus, they have all signed - all of them - letters to the agency which are now being used to thumb our collective nose at none other than the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. It all further isolates us from the information we need to understand what is being done with our money.
I suspect that not one of these mayors, wardens and councilors has seen - or even asked to see - the expense reports for the $100,00--a-year CEO or even asked for nor been shown how many hundreds of thousands of our dollars has been spent over the past eight years in bringing and defending lawsuits which seem to drag on for years and which seem to crop up regularly like the n'er do well uncle at Thanksgiving dinner.
Currently, SWSDA faces a major civil lawsuit and the CEO faces a contempt of court hearing regarding finances from the sale of public facilities and has just been told by the Supreme Court that taxpayers have a right to review his travel and other expenses. Nonetheless, I suspect this will result in not one request by our local politicians to attempt to see if our tax dollars are being spent wisely there.
In researching a recent story, I interviewed officials with most of the municipal units in this area. Despite the critical nature of economic development in this region, despite the constant controversy about the workings of our development agency, despite the obvious reasons why they should be paying close attention here, not one of these institutions had a complete set of records of their current or past involvement with the agency. They are all well-meaning people, to be sure, but not one was keeping proper track of things.
We can't seem to do much about a powerful, politically connected and ambitious development czar, but we can start asking questions of our wardens, mayors and councils, because they are supposed to be working for us - in our best interests. We should all be madder than hell. We should call them. Write to them. Talk to them in the bank or post office. One question we might start with is "Where were you when our county was bled bone dry right before your very eyes?"
9dec2008: SWSDA's FOIPOP gambit runs afoul of Joint Stocks rules... in what appears to be an attempt by South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson to reconfigure his corporate structure to evade public access to the workings of SWSDA - including Anderson's own expenses - the organization filed questionable documents recently with the Nova Scotia Registrar of Joint Stocks. In the the most recent antics, SWSDA seems also to be thumbing their collective nose at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
On August 13 SWSDA secretary and Municipality of Argyle councilor Charles LeBlanc certified that a special resolution amending its bylaws has been "signed by all directors" and that it was brought forward "pursuant to the Societies Act of Nova Scotia." When contacted about the certification, LeBlanc told SCT that he didn't recall seeing or signing the document and said that Frank Anderson "handled all that kind of stuff."
In interviews with several SWSDA directors, none of them recalled signing the resolution and none of the members recalled having received the notification per the requirement that 30 days notice is needed for an annual general meeting changing by-laws and the notice must "specify the intention to propose a special resolution."
Lockeport mayor Darian Huskilson does not recall receiving a notice of special resolution, nor does Shelburne municipal warden Sherm Embree. Barrington Warden Louise Halliday received a review copy of the resolution, but, she said, "it certainly did not arrive 30 days prior to the August 13 meeting."
In 2007, Shelburne businessman Ed Cayer requested copies of Anderson's travel expense records, under the provinces freedom of information (FOIPOP) statutes. Anderson refused Cayer, saying SWSDA was not a public agency, then refused to abide by the demands of the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information Commissioner to turn over the files. Cayer took the case to the Supreme Court, with the Right to Know Coalition - despite SWSDA's objections - intervening as interested parties
Anderson then began a campaign to redefine how board members are selected, saying that if members were elected by SWSDA, then they were not acting in their official capacity and SWSDA was not subject to freedom of information requests, despite its configuration and its almost total dependence upon public monies. The campaign included some bungled attempts to re-design SWSDA's corporate by-laws and included drafting form letters for mall of the nine municipal councils agreeing to Anderson's interpretation of their role in things.
The August 13 resolution contains the results of the form letters as a special resolution to amend the bylaws. The changes also added two new executive officers to SWSDA's board, including past president, Roger King. Apparently, King has been operating for some time as a non-appointed member of the executive committee and has been a key ally of Anderson's in the various internal disputes which have arisen at the troubled organization over the past three years.
The resolution also stipulated the redundancy that board members were obligated to keep silent about discussions which happened in camera at board meetings. None of the board and executive members contacted by SCT could recall any substantive discussion about the by-law amendments which run contrary to a recent Supreme Court ruling. "The issue was described to us as one merely of housekeeping, " said SWSDA treasurer Huskilson. "We were told that the really important issue was about the increase in board executive."
Two weeks ago Justice Suzanne M. Hood of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court published an opinion which said that, despite attempts to amend its by-laws to the contrary, SWSDA is and was always a public body under the Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act (MGA) and, in that, fully subject to FIOPOP standards.. She cited four court cases, including a recent, similar case involving the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) in which the judge determined that it was "contrary to the purpose of the (FOIPOP) Act and access to information legislation in general to permit... [the evasion of] the statutory duty to provide residents with access to information...".
Despite Anderson's tactics, Justice Hood noted that minutes of the various municipalities showed that they believed they appointed SWSDA members and that the judicial standard of "grammatical and ordinary meaning" had been met.
The Justice was not impressed with the tactic and said in her ruling that she relied in part on testimony by Anderson before the Legislature and in SWSDA's own by-laws and web site in reaching her decision. Hood also is reported to have said in court, "this case is not going to be decided on a verb," meaning Anderson's parsing of "appointed" and "elected" were meaningless, as far as she was concerned.
At least some SWSDA board members agree wholeheartedly with Justice Hood about the status of SWSDA as a public body. When asked whether he considered SWSDA a public body, warden Embree said, "Yes. We are a group comprised of public officials doing economic development with the province and municipal governments." Mayor Huskilson has been on record for more than two years for more transparency in the business dealings and decision-making of SWSDA, which has put him at loggerheads with the sometimes imperious and violently independent Anderson. "It is wrong to think that an agency which serves the Nova Scotia public and which depends wholly on public funds could hold itself above these laws," said Huskilson.
Justice Hood is expected to file an order in the matter within the week and then SWSDA and Anderson will have 30 days in which to appeal the decision. An appeal, according to SWSDA members contacted, should only take place after a full presentation and discussion of the consequences to the SWSDA board, which would have to take place at its December 19 meeting.
Anderson also faces a hearing soon for contempt of court regarding his alleged refusal to obey a previous court order regarding the isolation of proceeds from the sale of the former military base at Sandy Point. In that case, Anderson testified under oath that the monies previously targeted for Team Shelburne from the sale of the former Shelburne Boys School had been immediately spent and were nothing more than "an accounting entry".
Recently, Anderson has assured the minister of economic development that he was ready to spend the "disappeared money" on a project in the municipality of Barrington.
Anderson's contempt trial is scheduled for Yarmouth Supreme Court on December 18.
26nov2008: Big loss for SWSDA chief on legal front... Supreme Court demands release of expense records... RDAs are public bodies says court... in what may be a far-reaching decision for access to public records from government agencies, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court published an opinion today in a two-year legal battle to obtain the expense claims of Frank Anderson, CEO of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) under the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Act.
The suit by Shelburne businessman Ed Cayer was filed after Anderson and his attorneys refused to abide by rulings by the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information Office and Cayer appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court where the matter was heard by Justice Suzanne M. Hood. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Anderson and SWSDA have continued to claim that SWSDA is not a "public body" and that SWSDA and Anderson are somehow exempt from the FIOPOP legislation.
In her 38-page decision from a trial de novo, Justice Hood spelled out her reasoning for the decision, which included opinions that, despite attempts to amend its by-laws to the contrary, SWSDA is and was always a public body under the Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act (MGA) and, in that, fully subject to FIOPOP standards.. She cited four court cases, including a recent, similar case involving the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) in which the judge determined that it was "contrary to the purpose of the (FOIPOP) Act and access to information legislation in general to permit... [the evasion of] the statutory duty to provide residents with access to information..."
Citing these cases and SWSDA's own by-laws and minutes of the meetings of many of SWSDA's member municipalities, Justice Hood said that she also agreed with previous court decisions which dictated a "liberal" interpretation of the FOIPOP statutes.
After receiving Cayer's request and the ruling of the FOIPOP commissioner that, as a public body, they must comply, Anderson and SWSDA amended their by-laws and convinced all of the member municipalities to send him identical form letters saying that they did not appoint their respective members. Despite these tactics, Justice Hood noted that minutes of the various municipalities showed that they believed they appointed SWSDA members and that the judicial standard of "grammatical and ordinary meaning" had been met.
The Justice was not impressed with the tactic and said in her ruling that she relied in part on testimony by Anderson before the Legislature and in SWSDA's own by-laws and web site in reaching her decision.
The decision clarifies in some way the long held and widespread perception among many in the region of the lack of accountability of SWSDA to those who it serves. Lockeport Mayor and former SWSDA treasurer Darian Huskilson was pleased about the decision. "It is wrong to think that an agency which serves the Nova Scotia public and which depends wholly on public funds could hold itself above these laws," said Huskilson.
Former Shelburne may P.G. Comeau has been a vocal critic of Anderson and the RDA for years, based in part on Anderson's inability to bring development projects to Shelburne and to take seriously his role as an employee who should answer to the board of directors. When asked by SCT about the court's decision, Comeau said, "It's about time."
The Supreme Court suit was joined by the Nova Scotia Right to Know Coalition (RTKC) whose mandate includes advocacy of government bodies complying with the FIOPOP statutes. RTKC attorney Brian Awad was also pleased at the ruling. "This shows clearly that the FOIPOP law applies to SWSDA and other RDAs and also that courts should be using a liberal interpretation of the MGA. These bodies are an important part of the public sector."
RTKC founder and former Nova Scotia FOIPOP commissioner Darce Fardy told SCT that he was pleased about the implication that this ruling would carry over to requests for information from other RDAs and for other similar bodies.
In the decision, Justice Hood stated that she had reviewed the requested documents and "almost all of which is sought can be released" and that any witholding due to competition or privacy issues must be sparing. The suit referred to various expense reports of Frank Anderson from May, June and July, 2005, but would now apply to all of the public records of SWSDA.
In previous court appearances, SWSDA's attorney Gavin Giles has suggested they would appeal an adverse ruling. Mayor Huskilson is still a SWSDA member and told SCT that "any consideration to appeal this and spend thousands more dollars should come before the board of directors of SWSDA for our discussion and approval
12aug2008: Supreme Court says accountant must turn over private file in SWSDA-OPI case... Justice Glen McDougall has ordered KPMG accountant Mary Jane Andrews to supply both parties in an ongoing and complex lawsuit with the basis of her projections for 2004 losses suffered by Ocean Produce International at the former CFB Shelburne in a breach of contract suit against Southwest Shore Development Authority which has been ongoing for many years.
Andrews was an expert witness previously in the suit. The working papers include in part, confidential, hand-written notes about six-year projections for average growth for Acadian Seaplants, a KPMG client. The judge opined that the material "forms part of the essential facts on which [Andrews'] opinion is based."
A trial date for the case is expected to be announced later this month.
31july2008: Muni council debates SWSDA cash... the Shelburne Municipal Council considered Monday night the recent request from SWSDA for a $10,000 "repayable grant" to bolster the line of credit for the regional RDA.
Warden Sherm Embree described the grant alternately as risky and very risky, as the repayment is wholly dependant upon a change in the Municipalities Act being considered in the fall sitting of the legislature. "I don't think that will pass," deputy warden Pat Nickerson told her council. The changes would also make SWSDA comply with freedom of information laws, a matter which is currently before the supreme court in Nova Scotia.
The staff recommendation was to approve the grant, based on the rationale, said CAO Kirk Cox, that "all of the other parties have done so." Councilor Terry McIntyre said that the grant "might be throwing $10,000 out the window."
Former warden Paulette Scott said that all of the other SWSDA partners had committed loans and Shelburne would have to "pay to play" if we wanted development projects in the area. Council deferred a decision to September.
In other business... Tri-County Schools chief Phil Landry did not appear for a scheduled presentation on education funding inequities by the province. Council approved an additional $2500 grant for insurance for the proposed public swimming pool at SeaCoast Entertainments (former CFS Shelburne).
Editors note: with a solid financial base, with highly-paid clerk and CAO and ample support staff, with some councilors encouraging public attendance at meetings, wouldn't you think that the municipality would bother to print more than 4 agendas for use by the public and media? At a cost of about $.02 per, I would. TG
24july2008: Muni Councilor Davis ditched in Hubbards, sent for psych assessment... Shelburne Municipal councilor Raymond Davis appeared in court Wednesday on charges of dangerous driving and fleeing police and was remanded to psychiatric assessment by the court. He is due in court August 20.
Davis, who has been the subject of much controversy recently regarding his erratic behaviour during council meetings and elsewhere, spent the night in jail in Bridgewater.
When contacted by SCT, warden Sherm Embree said that Davis had the "hopes, prayers and well wishes" of his council and that, with the support of his family, Davis might look for a speedy recovery. >>> more
23july2008: So sue me!! Ralston MacDonnell and Bowood sued by lawyers for non-payment.... Halifax lawyer Fergus Ford has sued Ralston MacDonnell, MacDonnell's wife and Bowood Corporation for $3,422.00 in unpaid legal bills arising from MacDonnell's controversial acquisition of the former Shelburne Youth Centre (Boy's School).
Ford's numbered company filed the suit in Halifax Supreme Court (SH 298765) on Monday. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
4june2008: Province funds Sea Coast Studios purchase for $475,000... Records on file show that the province of Nova Scotia holds a $475,000 mortgage on the former Shelburne Film Studios property in Sandy Point.
When the property was sold recently for $2.75 million, it was announced that the previous owner, South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA), was carrying a balance of $1.75 million for two years. SWSDA CEO Frank Anderson told SCT Thursday that the $475,000 was part of the $1.75 million. The local Community Business Development Corporation also had a $50,000 loan against the property. CBDC executive was not available for comment.
31may2008: More legal woes for RDA in Sea Coast Film Studios deal... Claussen Walters Realty has sued the South West Shore Development Authority in Supreme Court in Bridgewater for $275,000, claiming that SWSDA reneged on a written offer to pay a finders fee for the recent sale of the former Canadian Forces station at Sandy Point to U.S.-based magazine publisher Jim Kendrick.
The suit alleges that a Claussen Walters agent showed the property to a Kendrick associate and that the agreement (for 10% of the sales price, which was $2.75 million) is in writing. SWSDA's defence says that no such deal exists and that the real estate firm did not show the property. Local broker Al Keith apparently showed the property and received the 10% offer letter.
Australian film producer Steve Gilmour, who claims to have been ousted from the deal by Kendrick and SWSDA, told SCT that SWSDA chief Frank Anderson told him early on their negotiations for the property that he (Anderson) could not sell it to another party because SWSDA would have to pay a $300,000 fee.
SWSDA, Anderson and the property have recently been in the news surrounding questions and court actions regarding funds from the sale of the former Boy's School in Shelburne, the refusal of Anderson to disclose his travel and entertainment expenses and the apparent conflict of interest of SWSDA executive Paulette Scott, who quit as Shelburne Municipal Warden after taking a job as chief financial officer at Sea Coast. >>> more
21may08: SeaCoast Studios moving along at a brisk pace... building lots, recording studio, retail, golf, drive-in and hotel... first film production slated for September... in a recent electronic interview, SeaCoast Entertainment Arts (S.E.A.) exexecutive Jim Kendrick told SCT that much activity is taking place at the former military installation in Sandy Point.
Kendrick says that 14 people are now working at SeaCoast Studios, including eight full-time and three part-time staff, plus owners/managers Kendrick and partner Mary Barstow, working as unpaid directors. Three full-time and two part-time employees work for the "Sea Store" group and several local staff are "on-call".
Former warden Paulette Scott is now chief financial officer and administrative supervisor. Scott vacated her warden's chair due to conflicts of interest which arose between the SeaCoast position and her role with the council and as an executive with the regional development authority, from whom the property was purchased.
The previously-reported May 1 movie deal turned out to be a UK-based hoax, the origins of which are being investigated, says Kendrick. Final contracts and scheduling are being set for a film to begin shooting in September. The pool renovations are on slow-down mode for the time being.
Nineteen lots have been surveyed and perc tested and are being prepared for subdivision approval by the Municipality. The hotel on site is being renovated and, as soon as it is licensed, will be available for invited guests, film crews, recording studio clients and event participants, according to Kendrick.
The drive-in movie theatre and mini-golf facilities are due to open in two weeks.
14may08: Embattled fibreglass firm sees $13 million annual sales and up to 23 new jobs for the area in emergency signage contract... fibreglass manufacturer and bathtub maker Terry Hawkins told the Coast Guard recently that his eponomous Terry Hawkins Industries (THI) has a chance to rebound from near-extinction with a provincial government order for fibreglass signage panels.
The panels, according to Hawkins, are being coveted by Canadian sign manufacturers and, after an emergency installation by the province, "everybody wants the product." None of the Nova Scotia sign manufacturers contacted by SCT had heard of the materials or THI and the department of transportation was unable to confirm an order for the panels..
Hawkins has previously told local media that he would bring 30-90 jobs to the area making small houses, bathtubs and saw handles, but ran into serious financial difficulties when the firm lost those contracts and he was unable to make payroll on several occasions. Some employees remain unpaid.
In 2006 and 2007, THI was the recipient of provincial and federal government loans and grants totaling more than $360,000 and is thought to have raised private investment capital approaching $500,000 from local business people and family during the past three years.
The web site for the firm has been inactive for several months, as has the factory in Sandy Point. >>> read more
23apr08: Seacoast property sale and mortgage finalized for former Canadian Forces site... two-years of no payments part of the deal... The South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) has taken a first mortgage for $1.75 million on the recent $2.75 million sale of the former Canadian Forces Station (the base) at Sandy Point, according to documents filed with the registrars office in Shelburne.
The mortgage is payment and interest-free until May 1, 2010, after which an interest rate of five per cent per annum for eight years and has payments of $22,000 per month attached to it. Seacoast Entertainment Arts, owned by American investors Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow, is the mortgagee on the property.
Seacoast recently received more than 200 applications for employment at "Sea City" and Seacoast Film Production Studios, after announcing plans to solicit producers for filming at the site and to create a business "incubator" there, housing a variety of businesses, including candle making, fish hatching, food services, tourism accommodations and a variety of retail operations.
Of the the $1 million cash received by SWSDA in the deal, there is a court order to hold aside $520,000, there is a $400,000 plus mortgage from the province and there has also been much discussion in the community of a 10% broker's fee promised for the sale.
24apr08: Seacoast principals to appear before Muni Council... Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow have been requested by Shelburne Municipal Council to make a presentation at Monday's council meeting in chambers. The American pair were the successful bidders for the Shelburne sound stage at Sandy Point, which they have renamed Seacoast Film Production Studios.
They have recently announced the hiring of municipal warden Paulette Scott as executive assistant to Ms. Barstow
8may08: Shelburne a "Banana Republic" according to new film studio owners... in a May 5 news release, Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow touted the fact that Americans were finally taking over the "crown jewel" of Nova Scotia film studios, located in what they described as "Canada's Banana Republic" (the disambiguative phrase is described by wikipedia as "a pejorative term for a country with a kleptocratic government, often with a primitive economy and sometimes a puppet state of a major power".)
Some local citizens are none too pleased with the demeaning description, and one ventured to say that the implications for the mayor and warden overseeing kleptocracies are not good either. "It's great when folks from away come in and insult us all right off," groused one businessman.
When interviewed about whether he saw any relevance in calling Shelburne a Banana Republic, inferring a puppet state, Shelburne mayor P.G. Comeau told SCT, "They were obviously referring to the Municipality of Shelburne."
The news release also described a hotel on the site, which the facility's promotional video says has 60 rooms. The property has not previously been licensed as a hotel and the Province of Nova Scotia has no record of an application being made to operate a hotel or food service at the former military base. One local tourism operator chafed at the addition of 60 unlicensed rooms to the struggling tourism picture. "We're all hurting already, now this."
Mary Barstow described the long-dormant property as "alive and thriving" and portrayed Shelburne as an "historic village". At a recent presentation to Municipal Council, Barstow and Kendrick made no mention of the film studio, but told council that a mini-golf and drive-in theatre would be built there, as would a candle factory. The $15 million film scheduled to begin shooting May 1 has yet to materialize. sct
- One reader suggests that SeaCoast meant to say "Banana Belt"
- A concerned taxpayer writes to say that, since former warden Paulette Scott is now the marketing & sales person for the outfit, she might have written the release, based on her experience as warden.
8may08: Embree takes over as Shelburne warden in fractious council meeting punctuated by outbursts, epithets and crying jags... reports from the most recent Shelburne Municipal Council meeting describe the session as "wild and crazy", among other things.
Former warden Paulette Scott quit her honorific post citing the appearance of conflict with her new job as executive assistant to Mary Barstow, one of the new owners of Seacoast Studios, located at the former military facility at Sandy Point.
Upon Sherm Embree's election as warden, councilman Raymond Davis apparently launched into a series of interruptions and tirades against Embree, finally storming out of the room saying "kiss my #@s!" Former warden Pat Nickerson broke down weeping and the meeting was adjourned temporarily. Nickerson told SCT previously that Davis had driven her to day-long bouts of crying with vicious personal attacks against her and her family.
When SCT called Davis for comments, we were told that he was "away for awhile" and is not expected to return soon. sct
25apr08: Warden tells Herald "no conflict"... says that "nasty" people have wrong idea. Paulette Scott denied any conflict of interest in her position as warden and employee at SeaCoast Entertainment in a Herald story on Friday's front page business section. Councilor Terry McIntyre is quoted as being shocked and several of her councilors have urged her to resign.
Scott has been heard privately to be blaming the entire problem surrounding the conflict issue on SCT, telling some that "most people don't care about the issue."
24apr08: No to warden's job, says Nickerson... Shelburne deputy warden Pat Nickerson told SCT today that she will not consider taking over as warden when Paulette Scott vacates the position on Monday, due to concerns by council and ratepayers that Scott is in conflict of interest vis-a-vis a new position.
Saying she has been the target of a campaign of "vicious and untrue personal and professional attacks" by another councilor, Nickerson said that she was not one to "back away from civic responsibility", but that she was not inclined to suffer the personal pain of the unwarranted attacks. Councilman Raymond Davis has been waging a behind-the-scenes campaign to have Scott remain as warden, saying others were not fit for the position.
As of 5pm Thursday, Scott had not resigned, but if she officially tenders her resignation to the clerk prior to Monday's meeting, there could be a vote for warden at that time. If not, the council would have to wait until a future meeting to elect a warden. Scott has said publicly that she is quitting as warden "because it is the right thing", but privately she is blaming the local media for the conflict of interest situation.
24apr08: Power play... Brooklyn, South Shore Power sold... AbitibiBowater announced April 22 the purchase of Brooklyn Power Corporation and South Shore Power Services Incorporated by Bowater Mersey Paper Company Limited. >>> more
23APR08: Shelburne Warden to resign over conflict of interest issues... "right thing to do"... in an unannounced closed-door session on Tuesday evening, Municipality of Shelburne warden Paulette Scott informed her council that on Monday, she would announce the end of her tenure as warden of the municipality.
Recently, Scott was at the centre of a controversy regarding her being hired for an executive position by Seacoast Entertainments, the firm which has recently purchased the former Sandy Point Canadian forces site. Scott is also vice-chair of the regional development authority, which owned the property.
Just days ago, Scott told SCT that there was "absolutely no conflict" in taking the job and no matter what pressure was put upon her, she was "...taking the job and staying on as warden." Tuesday she apparently told her council colleagues that she was stepping down because it was "the right thing to do."
Deputy warden Pat Nickerson is likely to serve as warden until the October elections, but councilor Raymond Davis opposes such a move, saying he has three votes for his plan. "I would like to see Paulette stay on as warden," Davis added, "and give up her post on SWSDA." Davis has been the SWSDA alternate for several years and, according to him, he is "fully up to speed on all of the issues" before the body.
Davis opined that Scott was the only viable warden on council and iterate a variety of professional and personal issues which would make him and other councilors inappropriate candidates for the position.
23apr08: Seacoast property sale and mortgage finalized for former Canadian Forces site... two-years of no payments part of the deal... The South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) has taken a first mortgage for $1.75 million on the recent $2.75 million sale of the former Canadian Forces Station (the base) at Sandy Point, according to documents filed with the registrars office in Shelburne.
The mortgage is payment and interest-free until May 1, 2010, after which an interest rate of five per cent per annum for eight years and has payments of $22,000 per month attached to it. Seacoast Entertainment Arts, owned by American investors Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow, is the mortgagee on the property.
Seacoast recently received more than 200 applications for employment at "Sea City" and Seacoast Film Production Studios, after announcing plans to solicit producers for filming at the site and to create a business "incubator" there, housing a variety of businesses, including candle making, fish hatching, food services, tourism accommodations and a variety of retail operations.
Of the the $1 million cash received by SWSDA in the deal, there is a court order to hold aside $520,000, there is a $400,000 plus mortgage from the province and there has also been much discussion in the community of a 10% broker's fee promised for the sale.
24apr08: Seacoast principals to appear before Muni Council... Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow have been requested by Shelburne Municipal Council to make a presentation at Monday's council meeting in chambers. The American pair were the successful bidders for the Shelburne sound stage at Sandy Point, which they have renamed Seacoast Film Production Studios.
They have recently announced the hiring of municipal warden Paulette Scott as executive assistant to Ms. Barstow
22apr08: Major entertainment complex for Bowood unveiled... the Bowood project developed by Ralston Macdonnell has unveiled a sweeping plan to create an multi-faceted entertainment complex at the former Boy's School in Shelburne. The plan, according to the facility's web site and a recent presentation by project director Stephen Antle, is to house events, live shows, corporate business meetings, seminars, workshops, promotional events, fundraisers and recreational activities at the Sandy Point location.
Named Bowood's Eventex, the entertainment company is overseen by Antle, former producer of the very successful Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso and promises to specialize in live entertainment, exhibition and cultural productions. The complex houses several performance venues with a combined capacity over 1,000 and will be the home soon for shows by Bruce Guthro, Charlie Acourt and the Hupman Brothers (May 26), Dwight D'Eon (May 10) and comic Jimmy Flynn (June 7)
Antle recently told a Chamber of Commerce gathering that, rather than compete with the Osprey Arts Centre, Bowood/Eventex would concentrate on shows that were not offered at or not suitable for the arts centre.
April, 2008: It's true... it's true... this job's for you... Shelburne warden goes to work for new base owner... stepping into yet another firestorm of conflict-of-interest allegations, Municipality of Shelburne warden Paulette Scott has accepted a job as executive assistant to the chief operating officer of Seacoast Entertainment Arts, Inc., the company which recently purchased the former Canadian Forces Station at Sandy Point (the base).
Scott is also vice-chair on the executive of South West Shore Development Authority, (SWSDA) who sold the base to Seacoast, which is helmed by the American team of Mary Barstow and Jim Kendrick. Scott told SCT that, although she did not have a title yet, she would be overseeing all "economic development" at the facility.
With now-departed CAO Reg Ridgely, Scott was intimately involved for months in the recent machinations to sell the property. Scott says her involvement did not include any negotiations with Kendrick and partner Mary Barstow, but Australian film producer Steve Gilmour says that is simply not the case.
"She met with Jim, Mary, me and my partner Clare (Bourke-Jones) at least twice," says Gilmour, who exited the deal prior to closing. Gilmour says that he was told by Ridgely that there were several other meetings at Municipal offices with the pair. Scott and Ridgely were reported at the time to have suggested that Kendrick and Barstow encamp in offices supplied by the municipality, but current CAO Kirk Cox nixed the idea.
Scott told SCT that she sees "no conflict whatsoever" in taking a position at a firm which just bought property from an organization on which she sits as an executive as part of a deal that she helped orchestrate. "Think about it," says a local expert in economic development and government process, "she helps negotiate a deal for a couple of American investors, then votes to sell the property at a bargain-basement price, then votes to have her agency carry 60% of the selling price. It's a no-brainer"
Scott told her councilors at a closed-door council meeting this past week, which she described as a "personnel" discussion, which, according to provincial law, are designed to discuss issues surrounding employees, not government officials. Some on her council are disturbed at what they consider improper, if not unethical, behaviour, and some, like councilor Raymond Davis, see "nothing wrong whatsoever". Councilor Terry McIntyre says he definitely does not approve of the move.
According to Kendrick, the purchase and sale agreement with SWSDA had always committed SWSDA to ensuring $1.75 million of the purchase price. "Paulette never told us that when she reported to council," adds McIntyre. "I was very surprised to hear about it." SWSDA treasurer and Lockeport mayor Darian Huskilson says he was also not informed of the $1.75 million guarantee and thinks the SWSDA board should have been informed.
The minutes of the SWSDA meeting cinching the $1.75 million agreement read "It was moved... and seconded... to accept the terms to facilitate the sale of the Shelburne Base as negotiated."
Scott says that on April 28, she will reveal to the public all of the details of her employment. "I realize that some on my council do not approve," says Scott. "and that I may take a pounding from the public for it, but I am keeping this job." Note: Shelburne Municipal Council recently opposed a recommendation that conflict-of-interest legislation for municipal bodies be amended to allow challenges by citizens without going to Supreme Court.
Scott was at the centre of another conflict of interest outcry when she went to work as a public relations worker for the proposed controversial El Paso natural gas project. There have been several out front and back-channel attempts by the Municipality to get Scott a hefty increase in her warden's pay and to find her a job. According to informed sources, former CAO Reg Ridgely spent considerable effort both trying to find her a job and badgering council members to increase her pay. Note: Councilor Raymond Davis informed SCT that he was the one behind the move to increase Scott's income and brought such a motion to council, where it was defeated.
Several months ago, Scott put her name forward as an employee of SWSDA, where she also sits as vice chair. The plan was apparently scotched when calls of concern were made to SWSDA officials. More recently, the warden paraded in downtown Shelburne wearing a sandwich board trumpeting the base sale and appeared on the front page of the Coast Guard with Kendrick and Barstow. sct 19apr08
Base fix-ups and developments underway... in an exclusive interview with SCT, Jim Kendrick described the flurry of activity his Seacoast Entertainment firm has been engaged in since taking over the sound stage property in Sandy Point. COO Mary Barstow's Victorian candle factory is packed and ready to ship, as is Barstow's "logo ware" firm. The radio station idea is on hold, says CEO Kendrick, but a sound recording studio is underway, as is a video recording and distribution operation
"The $15 million film coming May 1 is on track," says Kendrick and the pool needed for water scenes is being retrofitted at present. High speed satellite internet is operating throughout the facility and accommodations are being upgraded for use by film companies and tourists.
The recent job fair netted 200-plus resume's, from which 3 people have been hired, including municipal warden Paulette Scott. "We are very impressed with the talent pool here," added Kendrick. There are two 'co-ventures" underway, one of which involves the renovation and rehab of the large kitchen there.
The facility, according to Kendrick could become a local "enterprise incubation centre". Kendrick's US-based Seacoast Entertainment Arts operation will be moved to Shelburne, he says. The firm has a website which promises services such as websites, magazines, newspapers, TV production & distribution, music production/recording/distribution, artist management, concert promotion, digital video/editing, advertising/marketing, commercials/jingles and screenwriting. http://www.seacoastentertainmentarts.com/ sct18apr08
Butt out of base business, or, pound sand about where the money comes from... the matter of where the funding is coming from to finance the $2.75 million purchase of the former CFS Shelburne and sound stage is still a murky mystery, despite this reporter's efforts to get some clarity.
According to new owner Jim Kendrick, the purchase a sale agreement for the sound stage at Sandy Point included a provision that required owner SWSDA to finance $1.75 million of the purchase. There have been reports that SWSDA has been "shopping" a grant or loan to Kendrick and Barstow out of an economic development fund which houses millions of dollars in "forgiveable" loans.
Mary Barstow told SCT that both partners were very "financially stable". When asked why they would then get a government loan or grant or mortgage, she said that was what rich people did, they got mortgages. Barstow refused to divulge whether the $1.7 million from the government would be a mortgage, grant or loan.
Kendrick said that the deed is scheduled to be registered today. This reporter quipped that "sounds like they found the money", at which point Kendrick launched into a tirade saying that his was a "real deal", not some "f*&%king fantasy world...", and, he added, that if the reporter "played loose and fast" with him, he would "fix you, you motherf*#@ker."
When asked whether the $1.7 million will be a loan or grant or mortgage, and what agency or department was funding the deal, Barstow refused to answer, saying if we wanted to know, "call the government." sct18apr0
SWSDA gets $10,000 for immigration website... The South West Shore Development Authority was one of ten organizations singled out for grants to spruce up immigration-related web services in the province.
SWSDA's Immigration Information Navigator Website project involves the creation of a website dedicated to informing immigrants of the settlement services available in south west region. Highlighted would be the Navigator position itself, the already created resource directory/welcome kit, links to pertinent partner sites, newsletters, along with press releases and other media coverage, and upcoming events, programs, classes and information sessions. The site will be in both French and English.
Funding partnerships for Shelburne Film Studios well ahead of projections... Jim Kendrick, who with partner Mary Barstow is slated to be the new owner of the Shelburne Film Studios, told SCT Thursday that he and his project partners will produce far more than they have promised in the development of the former military base and that funding levels are well in excess of original projections.
"Business plans evolve, we are in our fourth iteration now and people will see that this facility (Shelburne Film Studios) will boast a very fine film production facility and all necessary support services," Kendrick explained from his offices located at the Sandy Point site. "The tremendous support from all quarters has been very encouraging," he added. "We expect this development to be good for all of the financial partners, for Shelburne and for Nova Scotia."
In the past, Kendrick said, the operators of the studio had mistakenly depended upon film making a a sole source of income. His company, Seacoast Entertainments, will be looking at other sources of income.
"The deal," says Kendrick, "just gets better every day." sct14mar08
Not easy for real estate firm going green... A local real estate company known for its high-end waterfront properties is sponsoring a talk next week on protecting the environment... >>> The Herald
Kelly Cove applies for McNutt's Island salmon farm expansion... Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd (Cooke Aquaculture) has applied to the federal government for an expansion of its Shelburne Harbour salmon operation, according to records from the March 7 application.
In a recent Liverpool Advance story Kelly Cove manager Jeff Nickerson said he expects "10 new, high-paying with benefits" jobs to result from the expansion. Currently, the company farms three sites over 11 hectares in the harbour, with 14 employees harvesting about 750,000 fish.
A Cookes public relation staffer told The Advance that the expansion would allow for rotation of fish and the creation of “integrated multi-trophic” farms, where mussels and seaweed might also be grown on a salmon site. sct14mar08
Base purchase on schedule... the proposed purchase of the former naval base at Sandy Point is moving at an accelerated pace, according to buyer Jim Kendrick. "We've been working on this idea for a long time," says Kendrick, "and now so many people have come to us saying 'how can we help?'"
All of the requirements of the purchase agreement have been met and financing is in place for a March 31 closing, says Kendrick. He and partner Mary Barstow have put an offer in on a home in Shelburne and plan to spend much of the month of March in the area getting ready to take possession of the property.
The recent reports in the Herald and elsewhere that he would not be using the sound stage are false, Kendrick says. "We've met with Ann Mackenzie and Film Nova Scotia have been very cooperative." MacKenzie told SCT that, when the sale is complete and Kendrick and his Seacoast Entertainment / Arts want to start attracting tenants for the sound stage, "We at Film Nova Scotia will take an active role in marketing the venue."
Kendrick and Barstow were formerly allied with Australian film producer Steve Gilmour on the project, but that partnership ran aground and Kendrick says he has "no idea what has become of Gilmour." The Aussie has told SCT that he and his Atlantic Film Studios are continuing a Nova Scotia production of the feature film Moon Harvest, written by his partner, Clare Bourke-Jones and Gilmour was featured in a front page op-ed piece about the film industry in the March issue of Nova Scotia Business Journal.
Speak up... our readers write... Nickerson way off-base on SWSDA money? 15mar08
Unfortunately Deputy Warden Pat Nickerson's (see Speak Up column here) private and personal thoughts on the issue of SWSDA and its activities and operations now and in the past appear to have been reflected in her present and past municipal capacities as Warden and Deputy Warden of the Municipality of the District of Shelburne. She also seems to have forgotten the obligations she assumed when elected and sworn in as an official of our Municipal Government. I believe the oath she took makes it clear that her first obligation is to the municipality and its residents and taxpayers.
Clearly the Deputy Warden is better at English literature than she is at bookkeeping. Otherwise, how could she persist in arguing that "... the money is not....mis-used..." I think Frank Anderson's affidavits submitted for the court hearings in Yarmouth in November and December are clear So are the statements at court by Mr. Anderson's lawyer at the November hearing... The money is gone.
If one reads Mr. Anderson's affidavit it becomes abundantly clear that a considerable part of the original $600,000 provided by the Province, solely for the maintenance of the school property, was actually spent on activities other than maintenance. In fact, not only the original $600,000 is no longer there. The $550,000 from the sale of the school is gone too, Based on Mr. Anderson's affidavit's exhibits. Further, I believe that these monies as well as the $200,000 in guarantees provided by the municipalities of Shelburne County is gone too.
Deputy Warden Nickerson says that all Team Shelburne needs to do is put forward projects for SWSDA to finance. She claims that SWSDA could then use "... those funds plus use them for leverage with other levels of government." Unfortunately, we know from Mr. Anderson's affidavit that the money is gone and as he and his lawyer have said very clearly,, the monies are only a book entry. As I see it, the only way for SWSDA to finance projects put forward by the municipalities would be to "borrow" money from other projects, core funding, the bank or some other source...possibly with additional guarantees from the municipalities.
Seems to me that the municipalities of Shelburne County have already put their money where their mouth is (to borrow Deputy Warden Nickerson's phrase) and that money is also gone, according to Frank Anderson. What part of that doesn't Deputy Warden Nickerson (speaking on her own behalf) yet understand?
Team Shelburne should stop wasting time and put their money where their mouth is... This nonsense about missing funds from the sale of the Youth Centre has got to stop. SWSDA (South West Shore Development Authority) is operating as the provincial body that it is, according to all RDAs. The money is not stolen, not mis-used, not in the hands of the CEO. It is there where it should be, ear-marked for projects in Shelburne County.
Team Shelburne, when they come up with a project for the county will be able to access those funds, plus use them for leverage with other levels of Government. An RDA cannot put funds "In trust" or divide up the proceeds of the sale. It is project funded and very much a creature of the Provincial Government.
"Team Shelburne" was set up by the Province in 2003 when the closure of the Youth Centre was announced. The four Ministers came to the Municipality and explained how Team Shelburne would operate - it is an advisory body only and under the auspices of the Dept.of Economic Development.
Minister MacIsaac has explained to Team Shelburne that the money is available for Economic Development PROJECTS in Shelburne County. What part of that don't they understand? Instead of wasting time and money, Team Shelburne should be working on a project for the County -- such as a Tourism officer.
Yarmouth County have always put their money where their mouth is and have at least two tourism officers -- and how the money flows in.
Pat Nickerson 10mar08
Ms. Nickerson is not writing as member of Shelburne Municipal Council, but as former Warden, first Co-Chair of Team Shelburne and former vice-chair of SWSDA.
Editors Note: On February 21, 2008, based on a motion by Warden Paulette Scott, Team Shelburne voted unanimously to defer the request from Discover Shelburne County Tourism Assoc. for funding for a tourism coordinator to individual councils.
EDITORIAL... It is no secret that SCT has been among many vocal critics of the role that SWSDA and CEO Frank Anderson have played in economic development in this region, but let's give credit where credit is due.
Anderson and company are often excoriated by local officials in private and public for doing little, if anything, to bolster projects in and around Shelburne and SWSDA's role in the controversial sale of the former Boy's School and the status of the $700,000-plus from the sale remain a topic of concern for many.
One would think then, that the announcement of SWSDA's role in the largest single grant to a Shelburne-based heritage event in recent memory would generate enthusiasm among locals pols, but not so.
The announcement at Shelburne Town Council recently of a SWSDA-negotiated $50,000 grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development for the Loyalist Landing 2008 Celebrations resulted in not one word of comment or congratulations from the mayor or Council.
Shelburne Councilor Al Delaney, chair of the Loyalist Landing 2008 Society and prime mover behind the grant explained to Council that it was only through the hard work and concentrated effort of Anderson and SWSDA that the crucial monies came to be, but not a peep from Council ensued.
Delaney has explained recently in other venues that he believes that this Loyalist grant success may be a perfect example of SWSDA's "bring us workable projects and we'll find the funding" mantra oft repeated over the last few years.
Whatever the true genesis of the grant success, and whatever misgivings we have about economic development strategies in the region, we need to give credit where credit is due. Congratulations to SWSDA, Frank Anderson, Economic Development, Councilor Delaney and the Loyalist Landing Society for a job well done! 22feb08 Timothy Gillespie
Shelburne aquaculture programme tanked... saying that there is no real need for a physical location for an aquaculture program, Nova Scotia Community College has terminated the aquaculture studies programme at the Shelburne campus, and auctioned the equipment as surplus and is converting the former hatchery space to workshops for the "rotational trades", such as plumbing, electrical and refrigeration.
"We are moving to a different educational mode," said NSCC academic chair Kevin Henderson. "The blended learning system will combine online studies with face-to-face classes. We really don't need physical space for the program." Enrolment in the program has dwindled, according to Henderson, and the changes were requested by the industry due to shifts in the employment needs over recent years.
Toby Balch, development manager for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture says that, during the peak industry growth in the 1990's, many thought staffing needs would continue to grow. The fluctuation of salmon prices, the consolidation of ownership and other factors, he added, create peaks and valleys of employment needs.
"The industry is poised to grow again," says Balch. "We have 350 aquaculture licenses in the province, with 12 active salmon and trout farms and new applications waiting approval." Cooke Aquaculture, who describe themselves as the largest integrated salmon farming company in North America, is reported to be considering a substantial increase to their operation in Shelburne Harbour. sct5mar08
Bowood mortgage increases to $836,000... according to documents recently filed with the Nova Scotia registrar of deeds, CVN Holdings has increased its mortgage on the former Shelburne Youth Centre property by more than $200,000 and extended the interest-only payment schedule until the end of 2008.
CVN, which is controlled by Halifax financier Besim Halef, financed the $550,000 purchase of the property in 2007 by Ralston MacDonnell. MacDonnell, his wife Charlene MacDonnell and Bowood Corporation are listed as mortgagees on the loan.
The security training centre, seniors day care and conference centre planned for the site site have yet to materialize and the condominium units recently put on the market for sale are now being advertised as rentals.
A concert of the very popular Simon and Garfunkle review played at the new performance space there last week to a small group of paid audience and local officials, who were guests of the promoter, hired by Bowood to produce entertainment shows there. Steve Antle has ambitious plans for the site, including shows in the 150-seat theatre, 800 seat former gym and 5,000-person outdoor square off Commission Street.
Bruce Guthro, Lennie Gallant, Jill Barber have been named as possible acts and tentative plans are underway to have a Francophone/Acadian-flavoured event, featuring big-name regional performers..
According to the registrar filings, the $8,158 monthly payments cover the 12% interest only and the full amount of $836,000 is due and payable on November 1, 2008. sct5mar08
Pushed and pulled at Sandy Point... new U.S. buyers for soundstage property... in one of Shelburne's most long-lasting business melodramas, Australian film maker Steve Gilmour says he and his Atlantic Films Studios have been "pushed out" of the deal he spent five months crafting to purchase the Shelburne Film Studios at the former navel base at sandy Point near Shelburne from the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA).
The new buyers, according to Gilmour and Shelburne Municipal warden Paulette Scott, are Jim Kendrick and Mary Barstow of Vermont.
"I am sickened by this trickery," Gilmour told SCT, " and, besides the loss of five months time, we've lost over $100,000 trying to put this together." Gilmour told the The Herald Thursday that former partners Kendrick and Barstow were to have transferred funds to his account to cover a deposit check, but failed to do so.
SWSDA board members were told Wednesday that Gilmour's check had bounced and that he had sent a letter to SWSDA's attorneys removing himself from the deal. "Absolutely not," says Gilmour. "Our intention was to sever our ties with Kendrick and Barstow, but stay in control of the offer and sale agreement which we worked months to create." Gilmour told The Herald that he had the money to complete the deal.
The SWSDA board voted to continue the deal with Kendrick at least until February 29, when he is required to prove that he has the resources to complete the deal. The Board also voted that, should Kendrick not meet the deadline, CEO Frank Anderson could proceed with another offer in the wings, reportedly from a U.S.-based film company.
Fergus Ford, who was the attorney representing the recent "mystery buyer" of the former Boys School (now Bowood, owned by Ralston MacDonnell), apparently has a client interested in the project and SCT has been told that MacDonnell himself may be forming an investment group interested in the base and studio.
"We have all of our financing in place and, as far as we are concerned, this deal is going to happen," Kendrick told SCT. "Frank Anderson, the SWSDA board and Shelburne Municipality have all been extremely welcoming and gracious to us." The U.S.-based pair are currently in Shelburne for meetings about the project and to secure office space and staffing. The municipality has allowed them use of the Council chambers for some meetings.
Kendrick and Barstow toured the property three years ago and were apparently told by Frank Anderson that the selling price was $11 million. The former publisher, who owns an entertainment firm and construction company, among others, was introduced to the property by a local real estate broker, who also let them know recently that there might be a place for him in Gilmour's deal. The current price on the property is $2.75 million.
The Herald reported that a radio station and candle factory were planned for the site and Kendrick says he has plans for many uses at the property. Mary Barstow has a custom candle manufacturing form which will relocate to the site. "Of course," says the self-described entrepreneur, "film production will be top on the list. We are meeting with Anne MacKenzie of Film Nova Scotia on Tuesday to discuss that."
Kendrick described a current "three-pronged plan", which also includes the creation of "Shelburne Enterprise Park", which he hopes will attract partnerships with local and other firms to build additional business enterprises in the area. "If this sort of thing was easy, everybody would be doing it," Kendrick added. "We want to work with others in creating the next 'right' thing for the area."
Kendrick's Seacoast Entertainment firm specializes in multi-media, including web design and music production and distribution. Citing a strong interest in the educational community, he has been is discussions with Nova Scotia Community College about utilizing the aquaculture facilities which are included in the base purchase.
Steve Gilmour plans to continue producing films in Nova Scotia - including the Clare Bourke Jones-penned Moon Harvest slated for a start March 1 - but says he has grave concerns that "the only working film studio in Nova Scotia will be plowed under." sct22feb08
SWSDA makes pitch for Shelburne County tourism role... at a meeting Thursday convened by the Discover Shelburne County Tourism Association, local political leaders heard a lengthy presentation about the recent successes of the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Destination by manager Larry Peach.
South West Shore Development Authority CEO Frank Anderson told the assembled group that SWSDA would be able and willing to use its expertise gained in developing the Yarmouth destination group to oversee the administrative functions of a tourism plan in Shelburne County.
The meeting ended without any commitments to a future plan by local politicians. sct22feb08
More court time for eBay land sellers... lawyers for Carmen & Kevin Blinn and Jon and Sadie Smith faced off in Supreme Court Friday at a hearing before Justice Susan Hood about who was representing the mysterious Mr. Blinn in the proceedings.
The Smiths have sued the Blinns and a numbered company for fraudulent and deceptive sales practices in at least three eBay land deals in Yarmouth and Cape Breton.
The Blinns lawyer, Stephanie Atkinson of Burchell MacDougall, says she no longer represents Kevin Blinn and will file documents with the court to that effect. The Smith's lawyer, Michelle Kelley of Cox Palmer, says she now hopes that the case might go to trial in the fall. The suits began in late 2006.
Another Burchell MacDougall lawyer, Gary Richard, is on record as representing Kevin Blinn in a series of one year-old defamation allegations and suits relating to the couple's eBay real estate sales in Port Clyde. Richard has not filed any notice with the court that he no longer represents Mr. Blinn in those actions.
None of allegations in any of the cases has been proven in court. sct16feb08
eBay land sales team buys back foreclosed lot... Wednesday's Sherrif's auction in Shelburne saw Carmen Blinn buy back a foreclosed lot from her Seaside Breezes development in Port Clyde for close to $2,900. Blinn's numbered company had foreclosed on Stephen Rowe from the USA after he explained to them that he could no longer meet the payments.
Prior to the auction, Blinn argued in the courtroom with the Sheriff about who was the rightful owner of the land, with the Sheriff saying the numbered company and Blinn saying the mortgager. In the end, it was disclosed that the the mortgager is the same numbered company.
Blinn's attorney Stephanie Atkinson wrote to the Sheriff claiming that there was no HST due on the sale. According to provincial records, the numbered company is headquartered in Burchell MacDougall law offices in Truro.
The 2.3 acre lot originally sold for $10,000, with $15,000 now being sought for similar lots on the Blinn's web site. The numbered company and Carmen Blinn are plaintiffs in two defamation suits and, with husband Kevin Blinn, are defendants in two defamation and one consolidated fraud suit regarding sales practices over eBay for the Port Clyde land and other properties. sct14feb08
Base instincts.... The purchase and sale agreement has been signed, money has changed hands and producer Steve Gilmour is set to begin production on Moon Harvest there in March... Gilmour and Jim Hendrick of New Hampshire met with SWSDA execs today to discuss the timelines involved in the $2.75 million real estate transaction and, from all reports, it was a veritable lovefest.
Gilmour, head of Atlantic Film Studios, is eager to begin production on the film written by Clare Bourke-Jones. "We're off to the races now," Gilmour added, "and we expect smooth sailing after some earlier bumps in the road." sct11feb08
Councilor and warden rants hallmark (again) of Municipal Council meeting... During a discussion of the proposed move by the Muni offices to Ralston MacDonnell's charming wooded glen of Bowood, councilor Rayond Davis raged that it was "those crazy meetings" that made him agree not to consider the move until fiscal 2008-2009 budget discussions.
Davis was reminded by former deputy warden John Roscoe that councilors had promised rate-payers to hold off on any move votes until this spring. "I will be voting against it," said Roscoe. Davis is on record as having made previous votes just to "shut up" certain councilors.
The move to Bowood is the brainchild of out-going CAO Reg Ridgely, who, some months ago, had invited MacDonnell to an unagended and unannounced visit with the Council to give his latest slide show pitch about the move. Ridgely's presentation last week was mostly an amalgam of MacDonnell's slides, with a smattering of largely unreadable and not-too-very-relevant-to-the-circumstances-here news clippings tossed in. Middle school book report grade = C-.
In a common tableau reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinners long past, and as is often the case at council meetings, Davis was being gently (and sometimes covertly) nudged into some semblance of public self-control by Ridgely and tablemates.
The Council requested staff to re-visit the issue and prepare a solid report. The previous report more than a year ago by a staff committee had the decaying buildings falling in on themselves and suffering the ignoble fortune of being razed by dozers if the Munis did not move into the site immediately.
Not to be outdone and apparently being incensed by the lack of respect afforded her in her role as warden, Paulette Scott took her council to the collective woodshed. Citing behaviour at Council and elsewhere, warden Scott had at 'em.
In what would be reserved for a more private and guarded down-dressing of her wards and colleagues by a more politic and statesmanlike headmistress, Scott openly criticized the real or imagined transgressions of her councilmates. Given the consistently egregious behaviour of Davis, it came as a surprise to many in the room that the usually-composed and decidedly civil Sherm Embree was singled out for the dastardly crime of "eye-rolling" during one of Davis' oratorial expostulations.
The public attending, nor her fellow councilors (with possibly two exceptions) were not amused. (story based on Coast Guard reports and interviews with attendees).sct5feb08