Bentley calls biodigester law suit “publicity stunt”

By Mike Williscraft
NewsNow

It has been a long time since anyone heard an iota about the Town of Grimsby’s civil suit filed against former biodigester management, but former mayor Bob Bentley said on the weekend that should change.

In a social media discussion with Grimsby resident Ursula Pelissero about the current state of Grimsby council, Pelissero noted problems did not start with the current incarnation around the council table.

“Town council certainly has its problems, exacerbated by (CAO Harry) Schlange. (But the past town council also had its blemishes, particularly the millions lost due to the Biodigester decision.),” noted Pelissero.

Bentley said he was eager to correct the public record.

“When the publicity stunt lawsuit is done, you will see the town did not lose any money in that project as the taxpayers did not invest any so save your uninformed opinion and I will speak publicly once it is over,” said Bentley.

While Pelissero said, “I will look forward to that,” Bentley went a step further suggesting a phone conversation so he could enlighten her regarding details of a forensic audit conducted on the biodigester which racked up about $18 million in debt and operating losses before being sold off to recoup some deficit.

“Give me a call anytime as the details of the forensic audit and sale of digester should be public as a town owned facility. A directed snow job from people with an agenda that will definitely cost the town. Ask your reps. They know they have no case and were fooled into launching it by misinformation,” claimed Bentley.

The tactic of claiming taxpayers had not lost anything in the biodigester debacle is not new.

The hydro utiity is a town-owned asset, but is an independently run entity which operates under
private business guidelines. That is the reason much of the dealings and financial implications of the
biodigester went on for so many years unchecked.

Research after the 2018 election showed the entire $3.5 million budgeted for the Kemp Road facility’s construction had already been spent before a shovel was in the ground to build it – among a lengthy series of other financial issues.

Along the road of its operations, hydro officials sold off its share in a fibre optics company to raise
capital to float the ongoing biodigester losses. This other company was also a private entity, now lost as a Town asset, but the sales price about $8.5 million is gone.

In the suit filed in July 2019 in Ontario Superior Court by the Town of Grimsby, Niagara Power Inc. (NPI), Grimsby Energy Inc. (GEI), Grimsby Hydro Inc. (GHI), and 1938427 Ontario Inc. (HoldCo. 2), three claims are made citing former mayor Bob Bentley, James Detenbeck and Joe Panetta (the latter two were part of the management team) as defendants.

The claims, in part, allege Bentley, Detenbeck and Panetta were negligent, breached their duty of care and breached their fiduciary duty through their dealings regarding a “failed waste-to-energy project”.

Town of Grimsby, HoldCo. 2 and Grimsby Energy Inc. claim $18 million in damages from the trio. Parts of that claim include:

• Grimsby Hydro Inc. seeks $7 million in damages from Detenbeck, and;
• Niagara Power Inc. seeks $3 million in damages from the trio.

With the lawsuit still pending, Mayor Jeff Jordan would not comment on Bentley’s claim or apparent interest in discussing the forensic audit.

“Given this is an ongoing case involving Bentley, I would consider all information regarding this case to be confidential,” said Jordan.

“Gary Graham is the counsel on the case so it may be beneficial to contact him directly. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about an open litigation involving the town of Grimsby.”

A follow up email to Graham was not replied to by NewsNow’s press deadline.

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