Last week Lawrence Reichard wrote a difficult piece that suggests that I was given direction by Nordic Aqua Farms to hire a consultant in Norway who was supposedly predisposed to give a positive report about them. This is not true and the implications are hollow.

The city considered sending city staff or the city attorney to Norway — or even hiring relatives of Belfast residents living in Norway — to see if they could detect offensive smells, observe excessive traffic, experience noisy operations, etc. We soon realized the public was asking for more global information in two main areas: Does Nordic Aquafarms have the ability to raise the large amount of capital needed to construct the proposed facility and, secondly, is the technology that they’re hoping to utilize viable for this project? I told Eric Heim, Nordic’s CEO, that we were going to look to hire someone independent in Norway that could help us answer these questions and that he should expect to be interviewed.

Here is how we came to hire Deloitte.

I went on the internet to look for a consultant in Oslo, Norway, who spoke the language and had access to business data and a firm knowledge of Aquaculture. I found Deloitte had an office there. I have been familiar with the international firm for 35 years. They have 270,000 employees with offices in 150 countries. I could not call them at the time because our computerized phone system at City Hall did not allow me to make phone calls overseas.

In one of our many meetings with Erik Heim I asked him if he knew anyone at Deloitte that I could contact. He told me that he could get a name because Deloitte had done some work for his company years earlier. To this day I do not really know what that work was. As long as their work had nothing to do with the Belfast project, I saw no conflict, and in fact I was excited about the possibility of hiring a financial and technical consultant who knew something about Nordic Aquafarms and the technology in the aquaculture field which is not specific or unique to Nordic at all. I considered it an asset to the inquiry to hire a consultant who knew who this small company was (I recall 17 to 20 employees at that time).

I received a name from Erik Heim and wrote to that person at Deloitte and openly recited in the letter that I had received his name from Erik Heim.

The gentleman from Deloitte responded to me by phone. We discussed the nature of the city’s inquiry and the fact that Deloitte had done unrelated work for them two to three years back. They had done no work for them since and had nothing to do with the Belfast proposal. Nordic was a former client, not a present one.

Our conversation went for some time and I was really excited because it was clear from that phone call that Deloitte had excellent in-house resources that could help us get a better handle on the technology and financial capacity. This call left me convinced that these people knew their stuff and their initial response sounded positive based upon their knowledge to date.

Deloitte’s prior representation was also recited on the contract I signed — anyone is welcome to see it. Deloitte themselves cleared the consultation as not being a conflict for them.

The City Council has asked the public to read the Deloitte Report for themselves to see if they find it slanted. I appreciated the honesty of the critic who felt we bought a conflict-laden report and then she went on to state that the report went on to support many of the concerns that opponents to the project had been raising all along.

Please keep in mind that we still have not seen Nordic's specific proposal, as the engineering is still being worked on. Hence, it is impossible to do an independent review of the specifics until they are identified in a filed application. The credibility of that application will be heavily scrutinized by all of us. As with any application, the city will have an opportunity to request funds from Nordic to pay for such items as hiring an independent hydrological consultant.

Somebody had access to part of the communications and drew the conclusion that we were told to hire Deloitte to get a sweetheart report for Nordic. No amount of conjecture will ever make that true.


Joe Slocum

Belfast City Manager

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