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How Glynn lost his lease

Niagara Falls Repoerter

February 28, 2012

From the publisher Frank Parlato Jr.

It began in January 2008, when Tim Parker, general manager of Ripley Entertainment, expressed an interest to then-NPC Chairman Jim Williams in bidding on the Canadian boat lease called the Maid of the Mist.

Williams, claiming confidentiality, refused to tell Parker anything. Parker filed a freedom of information request. He was told he would receive it on April 19, 2008.

John Kernahan, general manager for the NPC, suddenly started drafting a new lease (and term sheet) for James V. Glynn, longtime operator of the boat tours, more than a year and a half before it was due.

Williams and Kernahan scheduled a vote to renew Glynn's lease without the required due diligence meeting.

One commissioner, Bob Gale, sensed something was wrong. The day before the board was to vote, Gale sent e-mails to other board members, telling them, "We're rushing the Glynn renewal way ahead of schedule. Why?"

Later that morning, Ripley's Tim Parker called Gale and asked if he was aware of his interest in bidding on the lease.

"Bingo," said Gale. "Now I knew why they were rushing the Glynn lease."

Gale asked the board to wait for the next meeting to allow Ripley's a chance to compete.

Kernahan said a delay might cost the NPC a lawsuit or a disruption of boat service. Williams became enraged. On April 18, 2008, the commissioners -- with many of them not knowing the real terms or seeing the actual lease -- voted to renew Glynn's lease for 25 years.

Gale filed a disclosure of wrongdoing with the Integrity Commission of Ontario and told the press it was a "dirty deal."

The Ontario Parliament held back on approving Glynn's lease while the investigation of the Integrity Commission was conducted.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Falls Reporter exposed details of the hidden machinations of the NPC. Soon after, Bill Windsor, an Atlanta businessman, sued the Canadian government because he, like Ripley's, had tried to bid on the boat tours but was rebuffed.

The Reporter's stories got attention.

The powerful citizens group Preserve Our Parks called for the lease to be sent back for bidding. They regularly distributed the Reporter in Ontario.

Member of Parliament Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls) went on record to say the lease should go to bid.

The Niagara Falls city council passed a resolution supporting the same.

Since 2004, when Williams took over as chairman, the NPC went from a $3.7 million profit to a $4.3 million loss in 2008. The NPC laid off a third of its union workforce and cut back hours of workers who remained.

The president of the Parks Union (OPSEU Local 217), Bill Rudd, called for an open bid. The Niagara Parks employees marched en masse to the falls to protest the NPC.

Then, in a striking move, after posting the Reporter's articles on the home page of union websites, the mammoth Ontario Public Service Employees Union, led by Warren "Smokey" Thomas, called upon the minister of Tourism to dissolve the NPC.

The Toronto Globe & Mail started covering the story. Other papers followed.

Then the bombshell hit.

The Reporter discovered that not only did the NPC refuse to allow other bidders, but actually dropped Glynn's rent from a flat 15 percent to a "sliding scale" that bottomed out at 5.5 percent.

Damian Alksnis, a forensic accountant for the Globe, concluded the NPC is "under the new lease agreement exponentially worse off." In the first year alone, $626,700 worse off.

The NPC was laying off park workers, while they reduced Glynn's rent, while Ripley's and Windsor both promised to pay more. Windsor alone promised to pay $100 million more than Glynn.

In the light of the national scandal, Tourism Minister Monique Smith had no other choice but to order Glynn's Maid of the Mist lease canceled.

Shortly afterward, following an investigation, all the NPC members who secretly aided Glynn were fired or resigned. The NPC house-cleaning included chairman Jim Williams, general manager John Kernahan, vice chairman Archie Katzman, NPC business development director Joel Noden, and three other commissioners.

With one fell swoop, the financial problems of the NPC are over. The NPC was losing $4 million per year.

The increase in rent Hornblower is paying over Glynn is more than $10 million per year.



  Copyright © 2008 Frank Parlato Jr.