ASHLAND Officials around the region reacted to a report published over the weekend about ex-Braidy CEO Craig Bouchard’s tenure prior to being removed by the company’s board of directors.
Over the weekend, The Daily Independent released the findings of a report that alleged Bouchard misled the company’s board of directors, potential investors and the public about the fiscal health of the company. The report also painted a picture of Bouchard running the company in a heavy-handed fashion, at one point informing employees he would fire anyone who disagreed with his vision.
The report came to light as a part of the court case Bouchard filed against the company and four board members for his Jan. 28 ouster making its way through the Delaware Chancery Court.
Braidy, like many companies in the United States, is incorporated in Delaware. The Chancery is a non-jury court that specializes in corporate litigation.
Bouchard declined to comment Monday through a spokesperson.
The report was the product of interviews with 26 current and former employees and 17,000 documents.
As of 7 p.m. Monday, a Braidy spokesperson had not submitted a statement from the company. She did, however, clarify that the report stating Braidy Industries had $11 million cash on hand in January had no bearing on testimony before the Kentucky Senate Appropriations Committee Braidy executives gave in which they said the company had $65 million cash on hand.
Kaylee Price, the spokesperson, said the cash on hand referred to in the report was for the Braidy holding company. When executives went before the committee, they were testifying about Braidy Atlas, the company that is in charge of the mill.
The office of Congressman Hal Rogers (R-5th District) declined to comment on the allegations but offered the following statement: “It is always disheartening to learn about unexpected delays that stall job creation and community growth in eastern Kentucky. With every federal investment that we make to improve job opportunities in our region, it is made in good faith, as companies meet necessary requirements and certifications for assistance. It is my hope that this project can continue, because have the best workforce in the country with plenty of room for growth and opportunity.'
For officials that spoke on the record with The Daily Independent, a wait-and-see approach coated in “cautious optimism” seems to be the general consensus.
Former House Democratic Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, who voted in favor of the $15 million investment, said the report is the product of a lawsuit “being played out somewhat publicly.” Declining to comment on the allegations contained against Bouchard, Adkins said his “support has not wavered in this project.”
“I’m hopeful that once this is all settled, we will move forward and get this done,” he said. “I’ve tasted job loss before, I know what it’s like. Our people have been taking it on the chin for years.”
Conceding the investment was brought up at short notice at the end of the 2017 legislative session, Adkins said the $15 million shot in the arm to Braidy fell in line with similar votes he made over his 30-plus years in law-making for companies such as Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and UPS.
“This is a big investment project like any other we’ve seen come to the Commonwealth,” he said. “I hope we can continue to be positive, because in a lawsuit filings are made on both sides to give clients an advantage. I want to put the focus on the project, because at the end of the day it is about the hope and opportunity that it presents for people in northeastern Kentucky to live their dreams.”
Adkins added that similar investments, such as the one for Toyota in the 1980s, also fell under criticism. He said history has shown they turned out to “give Kentucky a competitive advantage in manufacturing.”
Kentucky State Senator Robin Webb (D-Grayson) represents portions of Carter, Greenup and Boyd counties. A practicing attorney in corporate law, Webb said she did not want to weigh in on the allegations contained in the report.
“I’m not their lawyer and if I was their lawyer I wouldn’t be publicly commenting on it,” she said. “There’s always two sides to a story, so we will have to see what the court in Delaware decides.”