Cole­man com­pa­nies in tran­si­tion

In­com­ing pre­mier promis­ing by-the-book con­duct


In ac­cept­ing the man­tle of pre­mier of New­found­land and Labrador, Frank Cole­man has agreed to no longer be a busi­ness­man - at least not the same busi­ness­man he has been to this point.

Un­der the stand­ing con­flict-of-in­ter­est rules, ac­cord­ing to the House of As­sem­bly Act, he will give up lead­er­ship roles at the com­pa­nies he has fos­tered and man­aged for years, in­clud­ing the Cole­man Group of Cos., Hum­ber Val­ley Pav­ing and Hum­ber Val­ley Ag­gre­gates and As­phalt.

Mr. Cole­man has al­ready be­gun the tran­si­tion, The Tele­gram has con­firmed, mak­ing changes in the pri­vate busi­ness world and pre­par­ing to be­gin pub­lic ser­vice.

Ac­cord­ing to records on file with the prov­ince’s registry of com­pa­nies, Mr. Cole­man stepped down from the boards of di­rec­tors for both Hum­ber Val­ley Pav­ing and Hum­ber Val­ley Ag­gre­gates and As­phalt ef­fec­tive Mar. 10.

In terms of his new role, any in­ter­est in Hum­ber Val­ley Pav­ing would be of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est for the pub­lic, given that com­pany’s steady suc­cess in com­pe­ti­tion for govern­ment con­tracts in re­cent years.

Since 2007, Hum­ber Val­ley Pav­ing has com­pleted $151 mil­lion in road work for the provin­cial govern­ment, in­clud­ing $86 mil­lion for work on the Trans-Labrador High­way, awarded through pub­lic ten­ders.

It is far from the ma­jor­ity of the to­tal of $1.2 bil­lion spent for road im­prove­ments in the same pe­riod, but not an in­signif­i­cant haul.

“The Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works has had a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with Hum­ber Val­ley Pav­ing that dates back to 1996. In 2007, the com­pany changed own­er­ship and was pur­chased by a num­ber of in­vestors, which in­cluded Mr. Frank Cole­man,” noted a spokesman for the depart­ment, in re­sponse to ques­tions Tues­day.

“It is our un­der­stand­ing that Mr. Cole­man has re­cently sold his shares and is no longer a share­holder.”

Un­like other MHAs with well-known busi­ness in­ter­ests who have moved into the world of provin­cial pol­i­tics in re­cent years - namely Lib­eral MHA Cathy Ben­nett and Lib­eral leader Dwight Ball – Mr. Cole­man will step di­rectly into a min­is­te­rial role. This places additional re­stric­tions on his pri­vate busi­ness in­ter­ests, to pro­tect against po­ten­tial con­flicts.

The law does not dic­tate he must give up any or all of his busi­ness in­ter­ests.

While the rules state a min­is­ter shall not “carry on busi­ness” or “hold an of­fice or di­rec­tor­ship other than in a so­cial club, ser­vice club, re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion or po­lit­i­cal party,” there is also an ex­cep­tion when the busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties are not likely to run afoul of the min­is­ter’s du­ties and de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

The golden rule is Mr. Cole­man will not be able to is­sue or­ders while in of­fice re­sult­ing in di­rect and per­sonal fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit.

As al­ways, the devil can be in the de­tails. In con­sid­er­a­tion of this, at the end of a PC lead­er­ship con­ven­tion July 4-5, Mr. Cole­man will have 60 days to file a de­tailed dis­clo­sure state­ment to Vic Pow­ers, the prov­ince’s com­mis­sioner for leg­isla­tive stan­dards.

Ac­cord­ing to the act, the de­tailed dis­clo­sure state­ment in­cludes an au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ment for any cor­po­ra­tion or part­ner­ship in which the new mem­ber or mem­ber’s fam­ily - de­fined as es­sen­tially their spouse, child, or de­pen­dent rel­a­tive - holds 10 per cent or more of shares.

A pub­lic ver­sion of the state­ment is cre­ated and, while not in­clud­ing ex­act fig­ures on shares for pri­vacy rea­sons, can state the level of in­ter­est held in a com­pany as “nom­i­nal,” “sig­nif­i­cant” or “con­trol­ling.”

From there, Mr. Pow­ers said, he re­views the de­tailed dis­clo­sure and can make rec­om­men­da­tions on any fur­ther mea­sures to be taken, such as the plac­ing of busi­ness and property in­ter­ests in trust.

“There’s no re­quire­ment un­der the act for any­one to put any­thing in a trust, but I can rec­om­mend it, depend­ing on the cir­cum­stances,” he said, speak­ing about the ap­proach taken for any new provin­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Hav­ing been more than a name on a list of di­rec­tors, Mr. Cole­man has more work to do in the in­terim. While not avail­able for an in­ter­view Tues­day, Carmel Turpin, spokes­woman for his lead­er­ship cam­paign, said the work in plac­ing his pri­vate af­fairs in or­der is con­tin­u­ing.

“There was a pe­riod of time that he would have had and still has be­fore he be­comes pre­mier. He will cer­tainly abide by all that is re­quired of him when he be­comes pre­mier.”

St. John’s Tele­gram

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