March 1 The outside investigator is being hired to determine why Shipyard Brewing was not properly billed as much as $1.5 million for sewer usage.
by Tom Bell Staff Writer
PORTLAND — Portland City Manager Mark Rees is hiring attorney Bryan Dench to help the city investigate why the Shipyard Brewing co. was billed for only a fraction of its sewer usage from 1996 to 2011, an apparent oversight that has cost the city of Portland as much as $1.5 million in lost revenue.
Dench, a lawyer with Skelton Taintor & Abbott in Auburn, was hired in 2007 by the Portland School Committee to investigate financial and administrative mismanagement in the school district. his report lead to the resignation of former superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor and Finance Director Richard Paulson. It’s unclear exactly what Dench’s job will be in the Shipyard matter.
City spokesperson Nicole Clegg on Wednesday declined to comment on Dench’s role in the investigation, explaining that she did not know what it will be and that she did not know if his contract has been finalized.
"I am waiting for the paperwork to be done so I can’t answer your questions," she said.
The focus of any investigation will not involve the Shipyard Brewing co., but rather sewer billing procedures and processes at the city and the Portland Water District, which bills for sewer services on the city’s behalf, said Shipyard spokesperson Tami Kennedy.
City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who has called for independent investigation, said he is "relieved" that the city has hired Dench and that he hopes that Dench will be given as much freedom as possible during his investigation.
"I certainly hope that through an outside investigation we will get to the bottom of what went wrong, what we need to do to fix it, and what are the options for recovering lost revenue" Suslovic said.
Shipyard has been paying its full sewer bill since last March. the additional charges since then have ranged from $17,000 to $41,000 a month, according to Portland Water District records provided in response to a Freedom of Access request by the Portland Press Herald.
Shipyard bottles more than 3 million gallons of beer annually. Breweries typically discharge two to six gallons of water into the sewer system for every gallon of beer produced, according to the Brewers Association, a national trade group.
The company used 201 million gallons of water through a second line added at the Newbury Street brewery in 1996, for which a sewer account was never established.
Company officials said they were never aware of the billing error until it was discovered by city workers a year ago.
Dench could not be reached for comment.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at