No Contract

I have long lamented the fact that we have no contract to protect the City of Great Falls' interests in this coal plant matter.

To me, as a lawyer, the reasons why we need a written contract are obvious. To a layperson, though, such reasons might be less obvious.

Here's an example: In a City Commission meeting on December 19, 2006, Commissioner Sandy Hinz asked staff to explain their request to spend $78,000.00 on a consultant to study the Highwood Generating Station Coal Plant. In response, the City Manager stated that, "in order for the City to secure 25 percent of the Highwood Generating Station’s output, the City was required to finance 25 percent of the costs to construct the facility."

Secure. Interesting choice of words. (By the way, our City Manager did not object to the characterization of his statement in the next meeting's minutes.) Secure means assured, or free from risk.

If we are paying 25% of SME's development costs in order to "secure" or assure that we end up with 25% of the power, that would make sense, wouldn't it? You see, in a contract situation, one gives up something, consideration, in exchange for the other person's consideration. Often it is something as simple as my making a promise to do or not do something in exchange for you making a promise to do or not do something.

For example, the City of Great Falls will pay 25% of SME's development costs in exchange for SME's promise that we will get 25% of the power from the Highwood Generating Station. It makes sense, right? No one gets something for nothing, right? Tit for tat...and all that.

Wait a minute, though. What's that? Now we don't get 25%, we get 15%? (Or here, or here.)

Buh...buh...buh...buh...but...but. But why does one side get to just change their promise, and the other side gets nothing in return?

Why would the City of Great Falls agree to tie up $1,400,000.00 in "security" for SME's benefit when it has no legal obligation to do so? And, we get nothing in exchange. Are we secretly indebted to SME, to these co-ops from elsewhere in Montana?

"The city has very significant leverage points in dealing with SME," according to the City Manager. Are we negotiating with SME as though we have leverage points with them?

What the heck is going on here? Isn't there one single person who will look out for the City's interests?

The City can still go forward with the coal plant, if the Commission thinks it's a good thing. But when these issues come up, why must our elected officials and hired administrators simply roll over? Some of these people have been in business before, or still are. Would they not sharpen their pencils a bit if it was their own business, their own money?

I guess I am just a crackpot.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the SME's share of the money is not as much of a 'done deal' really was a done deal.

The Stebbins/Lawton commission must have some agreement because the tune of over $1.5 MILLION dollars includes:

1)The Stebbins/Lawton commission agreeing to pay $78,000.00 on a consultant

2) The Stebbins/Lawton commission agreeing to pay 25 percent for the moving target costs to construct the facility

3) The Sebbins/Lawton commission agreeing to pay an additional give of 1.4 MILLION dollars

...all for a plant that was but a twinkle in the eye of and a flashing (pinging sound effect here) smile from Tim Gregori.

Anonymous said...

Contracts, we don't need no stinking contracts.

Badges, we don't need no stinking badges.

Trust us.

Anonymous said...

Find out if Lawton will be working for the coal industry, SME, or some related area after he retires as City Manager. There's the link in why this is happening. SOMEBODY'S interests are being taken care of, just not the people of Great Falls.

Anonymous said...

Somebody's pocketing taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

We have a ship of fools crewing this city...PERIOD! The whole Silly Hall stinks and the Tribune refuses to follow its nose to the source....Lawton and the cowardly Commissioners and Mayor. The only one (Commissioner) that has ever even bothered to question anything is Commissioner Sandy Hines and she is leaving the sinking ship ASAP. Watch now the sneaky, dirty politics come into play to get a Lawton clone established before January 1st when a new (hopefully-pay attention here voters) Commissioner(s) and Mayor majority takes over.