6/07/2007

A second, full-time job...Pt. 5

I previously wrote about requests for information from the City of Great Falls. I received two responses this morning from the City Clerk. The first one is a little difficult to follow because she responded in the body of the email. Like she did, I will color my email blue, and her responses red:

Hi Peggy,

Thanks for your help on this.

Regarding the documentation for the contributions, I am not necessarily looking for what we attached to the wire transfer form. I am looking for information provided by SME to substantiate the request for payment of additional capital. For example, if you consider the March 14, 2006, contribution, we initially received a "Project Draw Request" from SME. This document contained information supporting SME's need for funds.

I am assuming that someone from SME did not simply call the City and say "we need $213,357.20," and "we need $250,000.00." Someone must have provided some documentation to support the City's contributions of over $400,000.00. I am seeking copies of that. Thanks for the clarification. I have the additional information to send you or if you want you can pick up. Please let me know your preference. After checking with Coleen on this, she noted it is likely that she received the information directly from Tim Gregori when each of the members was presented with their share of the draw request during one of the SME Board meetings and therefore no
transmittal letter exists.

Can I assume that the rules of operation and schedules of rates, charges and classifications are being refused under the City's claimed exception for preliminary drafts? Was this work in progress at the time of our inquiry, or was it started in response thereto? As you're aware, the Board is directed to consider and recommend rules from time to time. The rules of operation have been a work in progress and have yet to be compiled into a single document and formally adopted by the ECPI Board and the City Commission. The schedule of rates, while they exist in Resolution 9500 and 9648 as well as all the purchase power agreements, were not compiled into one single sheet labeled "schedule of rates." What we do have is attached. (The attachment can be found here.)

Finally, it does seem that we are getting close to completely satisfying my requests, with two exceptions. First, since I have not been through all of the materials you have provided yet, I cannot affirm they are complete. Since I know the volume of information you have, I can only imagine this is a time consuming task.

Second, I am not convinced I have been provided with a complete copy of all correspondence, emails, etc., regarding the project. Since this information is maintained by the individual departments, and since you are provided access to it only as determined by the department heads (in this case, Mr. Lawton and Ms. Balzarini), I am not sure you have the ability to produce the information in light of the department heads' failure or refusal to provide it to you. I am presently considering alternative avenues of obtaining this correspondence since it seems you and I have reached a dead end. I do not blame you for that, but neither do I believe this impasse represents a good faith effort to comply with the letter or spirit of the law by certain City officials.

Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from
you.

I responded as follows:
Hi Peggy,

Thank you for your responses. A little follow up.

First, regarding the documentation to support the City's contributions, you believe that Ms. Balzarini received the information to support the draw requests during an SME board meeting. If it was in writing, I would like copies of it. If Ms. Balzarini took notes, I would like copies of them. I am assuming that the City did not make capital contributions of over $400,000.00 without any written documentation of what those funds were used for by SME. (Editor's Note: I re-read this, and I read it incorrectly the first time. They apparently do have written documentation, and I have sent someone over to pick it up.)

Second, I asked about the rules of operation and schedules of rates, charges and classifications. You state that the Rules of Operation have been a "work in progress." Was this work in progress at the time of our inquiry, or was it started in response thereto? Also, I appreciate your reference to Resolution 9500, but I don't think the City is representing that that is its "schedule of rates, charges, and classifications" is it? As you know, such a schedule is required by state law. The reason that Resolution 9500 does not appear to be such a schedule is that it discusses one rate and is silent about classifications. Further, the rate set forth on the schedule do not match up with the exhibit you forwarded me with your email. So, it appears that we still do not have such a schedule but one will be proposed to the ECP Board very soon. Was the preparation of the schedule commenced in response to our inquiry?

Thanks for everything

I also received this response from Ms. Bourne:
I delayed responding to you until after you attended the ECPI Board meeting on Monday, and hoped you found Mr. Gregori's and Mr. Lawton's explanation of the nature of the City's ownership share of Highwood useful I am wondering if you still need for this information and if you do, if you want to modify it in any way. I will provide anything that meets the definition of public record in MCA 2-6-202 and is a City record. Your request does include documents specifically excluded in subsection C. Those items will not be provided. I look forward to any additional direction you can provide.

Peggy"

She also helpfully enclosed the language of MCA 2-6-202. I responded to her this morning as follows:
Hello Peggy,

Thank you for your response. I did find Mr. Lawton's and Mr. Gregori's presentation helpful. It raised a couple additional questions, though.

They said that the City's share of the power will be whatever is left over after the cooperatives get theirs. They also said that any City contribution for development costs over the City's eventual share (percentage-wise) will be refunded or credited to the City's account. I would like copies of any writings that evidence those two statements or relate to them. In other words, what creates the right to a share of the power, whatever it is, and what creates the right to a refund of overpaid development contracts. I am assuming we have some sort of contractual right to power and a refund, not just verbal discussions. In addition to contracts or memos creating the rights, I would like any other documents that discuss or relate to these
issues.

As far as the items that the City maintains are not public because they are "for reference purposes only, a preliminary draft, a telephone messaging slip, a routing slip, part of a stock of publications or of preprinted forms, or a superseded publication," I understand you are refusing to produce them. Can you at least identify them for me?

Thank you
Do you see why this is like a full-time job?

13 comments:

a-fire-fly said...

I wonder if there is going to be a set point in time when our "share" is decided, or if this is going to be a continually changing "share" for the next 35+ years.

Anonymous said...

Full time job.... yeah.

And how much are you paying yourself again?

Nice paper trail btw. Oh, not legal advice but I hope someone is taping that Gregori guy.

Has anyone researched his background or anything about his schooling, work background, clubs or organizations?

a-fire-fly said...

He is a member of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center Foundation.
http://www.preservingthetrails.org/?p=aboutus

He was appointed to the Governors 18 member Climate Change Advisory Counsel in 2006. http://www.deq.state.mt.us/press/pressDetail.asp?id=287

He can do a powerpoint display.
http://energyfuture.mt.gov/presentations/Tim%20Gregori%20-%20MT%20Symposium%2010-19-05.pdf

He is not always right. http://www.littlehorn.com/Crow_Court/Decisions/Big%20Horn%20Electric%20Opinion.htm

If you want more, go find it. The fact remains though, Mr. G is doing his job. He has the paper he needs. He got the contract he needed more than anything else... Did the City?

WolfPack said...

Good point Fire-fly. You don't hate the other teams quarterback because your defense sucks!!

Anonymous said...

"Heads I win, Tails you lose," is what I believe one person allegedly remarked.

Want taxpayers to have the same odds?

Anonymous said...

A fascinating character in this equation...If Tim Gregori wins no matter how disasterous this is for the defenseless taxpayers, then why promote this good deal?

Quarterback is the wrong analogy if one has grave concerns for defenseless taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

a-fire-fly....

Rhetorical questions. That's my point. There appears to be little definitive background on the man.

Was this whole debaucle made in good faith based upon information between friends and associations?

Evidently several people attending meetings have been trying to warn the city officials about this Enonlike scandal so how does Mr. Gregori fit into this win-win situation and who in his circle benefits from losing like Great Falls?

Did anyone jump ship?

a-fire-fly said...

Oh, come on anon. There is plenty of background on him.
My point, if I had one, would be that it isn't SME, or Tim Gregori, that is failing in any duty to the taxpayers of this City. What does a contract mean to them? Does not having a contract hurt SME in any way? All SME needed from the City was it's water. They got it. They do not need our money, though I'm sure it's nice to be able to spend it, with only a possibility of paying it back. Interest free.
SME has done this deal perfectly. They got what they wanted, have no binding contract for anything they don't need, don't have to share their power if they don't want to, but they still get to sell it to us, and apparently, their lawyers wrote our contracts, and we may have paid them for it. How could it be any sweeter?
SME's ass is covered, it's our City running around looking for their pants. (and I think Lawton already packed them in his suitcase.)

Anonymous said...

Dear a-fire-fly,

Yes, you are so right on your points but let me rephrase because maybe I am too subtle (or maybe you don't care).

Tim Gregori and Brian Schweitzer seem to have a lot in common. It's as though nothing sticks to them. The words they use to get what they want are packaged in a slick manner.

Crossing every t and dotting every i does not honest representation make. Verbal deals often differ in writing, hence the need for astute legal reviewers and attorneys.

Is it possible that sophistry of information presented to and perceived by the commissioners might be an issue?

How can we help the commissioners get off the defensive if they feel horrifically embarrassed being lead down a primrose path by a trusted friend?

Perhaps some compassion for those possibly duped by slick packaging is warranted because like you said, "he got the contract he needed" and "he is not always right."

a-fire-fly said...

I think I got the sublety that time.
1. agree, to the extent I have an opinion on character.
2. Agree. So where is our legal representation.
3. "sophistry of information" should not be an issue at this point. This project has been developing for what, 5 years? How many consultants have been paid to disect and disseminate relevant issues.
4. This is a potentially 70 to 120 million dollar business deal, which could affect our city for 35+ years. There is no room for embarrassment. There is no such thing as a "trusted friend".
5. No compassion. No excuses. I will refer you to a quote from our Mayor "we ARE the ones making the decisions, popular or not."
The Mayor, the City Commission, they made the decision to run for office, they cast the votes, they spend the money, they take responsibility. They have had plenty of time to voice any concerns, get more information, change their minds.

In case you get the feeling I am cold and heartless, you're probably right. They lost me when they changed the law to exclude the utility from a public vote. They had enough information to make that decision. They have represented this as a "no risk" investment for several years. They had enough information to make that statement, repeatedly.
Etc.

Thanks for the discussion, I enjoyed it. You may even inspire me to write about a couple of your points in greater depth. :)

a-fire-fly said...

And just to give some credit to GeeGuys work, and turn this away from Gregori a bit, this blog has consistently given any who read it succinct, legal, and factual information on the risks, issues, and concerns expressed by several lawyers, and assorted other business folks. It is a fact that people from the City read this blog.

Anonymous said...

roflol...cold and heartless ~ No, we all have our hobby horses. Mine is getting to the orignal source.

As you noted and where I agree:

1) Where is and who has been our legal representation?
2) How many consultants have been paid to disect and disseminate relevant issues.
3) "Sophistry" is the issue because...This project has been developing for what, 5 years?

A pilot flying off his charted course by one or two degrees will miss his final destination by miles.

Who provided the coordinates from the beginning? The pilot or the person who may have masked the destination?

Looking forward to your expose'! and p.s. ~ Geeguy's work is impeccable! Love his forum for sensible discussions!

GFgirl said...

In response to a-fire-fly post:

5. "No compassion. No excuses. I will refer you to a quote from our Mayor "we ARE the ones making the decisions, popular or not."
The Mayor, the City Commission, they made the decision to run for office, they cast the votes, they spend the money, they take responsibility. They have had plenty of time to voice any concerns, get more information, change their minds".

I agree. The City Commission has had plenty of time to ask questions and become better informed of the facts.

I took GeeGuy up on his homework assignment and reviewed the Commission minutes from 2005 through what was available for 2007. Unless I inadvertently missed or misread something, every item concerning the coal plant or Electric City Power originated with city staff only. With the exception of Commissioner Hinz, the other Commissioners and the Mayor never asked any questions about the issue or asked for clarification, etc.

How many of you would like a paying job where you can tell your boss(es) what you want to do, and perhaps already are doing, and not worry about being questioned or giving justification for your actions?

Whatever happened to accountability?