Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Frank Coleman's Potential Conflict of Interest

Frank Coleman, a successful businessman in Newfoundland and Labrador, has made it official that he's a candidate for the PC Party leadership, and therefore Premier. His campaign kicked off today at a golf course, after a week holiday in the sun. Rumors abound that he is a reluctant candidate. The Telegram interviewed him, and quoted Coleman as saying:

" The Danny Question?

'Danny and I are friends going way back,' he said. 'We've been friends for many years and I discuss my potential candidacy with him and he gave me his advice on what to expect and told me to do what was right for me and my family and for the party.'

Of course that follows Williams' comments on Bill Barry's, of Barry Group, candidacy for the same job:

" Bill Barry would definitely not have my support. Absolutely not... If I see someone like Bill Barry, who I obviously have issues with his policies and the way he handles himself, I'll state that. Otherwise I'm keeping my powder dry for now." He told reporters.

It seems quite clear that Williams, who seems to have a bit of a God complex (my opinion) wasn't quite able to take his own advice of 2007:

"I find it sad when former premiers comment on current administrations...I pray to God that I never do that when I finish politics...I certainly hope that I can make a commitment to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that I won't provide gratuitous comments or opinions on someone who succeeds you - different times, different circumstances." He said.

Well, so much for Williams taking his own advice, as all he's done since leaving office is offer opinions etc on his successors or potential successors. Be that as it may, he certainly became involved in one way or another with the Coleman candidacy.

However, Coleman has a bigger problem than that. Whether he realizes it or not, or whether he cares or not, Frank Coleman is entering the world of politics, and in politics you have no private life. What you do and have done goes under the microscope, and that's where Coleman is today. In Newfoundland it's a very, very small goldfish bowl.

Frank Coleman heads the Coleman Group of Companies. It's a big organization within the province employing about 750 people. The primary core business for Coleman's is grocery. It also owns companies like Humber Valley Paving (HVP).  Its primary company for running the business part of the Group is Coleman Management Services Ltd headquartered out of Corner Brook. Coleman is also involved in real estate, and sits on the boards of a number of companies - most notably Emera Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. ( a company formed for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project).

As I see it, there are a number of issues with Mr. Coleman running to be premier of this province. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, his company HVP has an active bid in for the camp services contract for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. Now some erstwhile social media types have indicated a blind trust would solve this potential conflict of interest. They may be right. That would depend on who was in charge of the trust, and all those "devil's in the detail" type of stuff. Let's say everything being equal, the blind trust was sufficient to remove him from the business aspects of his company. The question remains, as it did for Williams and his offshore service companies, can he be truly unmoved by his known interest, and make a decision on the Lower Churchill project which would damage his business? That is known as a conflict of interest. Right now he is in a potential conflict of interest, because he hasn't won the PC leadership, and thereby the premiership, yet.

Then there is his directorship on the board of Emera NL. One would assume he has already reigned fro that position, but as yet I have seen nothing that would indicate that. Given Emera NL's relationship with the Muskrat Falls project this is an obvious potential conflict of interest.

Then there are the massive paving contracts Coleman has with the provincial government. His company, HVP, secured nearly $60 million in paving contracts in Labrador with the provincial government over the last 2 years - not including 2014. Is a man this deeply involved with business interests in the government able to appear to be impartial in the decision making process for highways and the like? Is he too close? Again, at this time there is certainly a potential conflict of interest.

Finally, there is a somewhat troubling issue for me. Coleman, through his company Coleman Management Services Ltd, and HVP, has been a big donor to the PC Party. It breaks down like this:

2003 - PC Party        - $5000.00     (election year)
           Tom Marshall  - $5000.00

2007 - Danny Williams - $2500.00   (election year)
           Tom Marshall    - $7500.00

2009 - PC Party NL    - $5000.00

2010 - PC Party NL    - $5000.00

2011 - Tom Marshall   - $7500.00   (election year)

2012 - PC Party         - $5000.00

You will note there are large donations to current interim premier Tom Marshall. Marshall other than a year or so from 2006 on, was finance minister for the province. He was in charge of the budget for all departments, including highways. During this period, Marshall and the PC Party accepted large donations while Coleman made large donations. What are the optics of this? What are the legalities of this? Is this the same ol same ol business as usual? Is this what we can expect from Frank Coleman as premier? It's interesting that so far, and I admit it's early, the media here has not cast any light on this at all. A man with an active bid on a Muskrat Falls contract wants to be in charge of the organisation that will make it? Etc, etc. Nothing surprises me when it comes to the cesspool of the PC Party here. However, I thought a man with Frank Coleman's experience would know when and when not to walk into this minefield. My advice to him - back out.














2 comments:

  1. Interesting that he and Barry also gave money to the liberals. Wasn't there a post last week that he stepped down from the Emera board?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes he gave some money to the Liberals, but nothing remotely close to the money mentioned above.He was on Emera's website as a director yesterday, and I have no information he resigned.

    ReplyDelete

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