City Manager to Refer Results of Shipyard Internal Investigation to Outside Auditor, Suslovic Says; Recommends Repayment Plan

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,084)

The controvery surrounding the erroneous billing of Shipyward Brewery Co. has taken a temporary break while the city concludes an internal investigation of the matter which could come by tomorrow. It was discovered last year that Shipyard had not been billed for a yet to be determined amount of money. It has not yet been determined whether others were charged higher sewer bills or it was lost revenue to the city. The sewer water was treated by the city.

City councilor Ed Suslovic called for an out-of-house investigation of the situation saying that institutions often do not investigate themselves very well. Earlier this afternoon in a telephone interview, Suslovic stated: “I am not alleging or suggesting that there were any improper acts by Shipyard, the city, or the Portland Water District.

“I’m pleased that the city manager has informed the city council that the results of the city’s internal investigation will be then handed over to an outside auditor for review and verification,” said councilor Suslovic. Additionally, he believes that the city should seek the maximum reimbursement by law for the sewage treatment that the city provided to Shipyard. “I’m not a lawyer, but my sense is that the state statute tells us how many years back we can go to collect that money.” In this instance, the erroneous billing lasted from 1996 – 20ll – fifteen years. It was discovered last year and not reported to the city council until December.

Suslovic went on to suggest a reasonable payment plan for that unbilled amount would go as follows – Shipyard should be given a year for every year it is found the billing was in error – i.e. fifteen years to repay the outstanding amount if that is how long the mistake continued. “If someone doesn’t pay what they are supposed to pay, the burden falls onto those who do pay. It’s impossible for us to say at this point whether or not it was an accident or not.”

Suslovic said he has received an unusually high number of telephpone calls and emails – all of them supporting his call for an external audit of the matter.

Fred Forsley, president, of Shipyard Brewery Co., said he would wait to hear the results of the internal investigation before commenting. Nicole Clegg, city spokesperson, said the same in an email to mhn.com