A paving company that until February was headed by Newfoundland and Labrador's next premier is having trouble paying its bills, CBC has learned.
However, Frank Coleman says he cannot talk about it because he has since sold the company in question, Humber Valley Paving.
The company had a contract to build a work camp and provide 100,000 tonnes of crushed stone as part of road-widening work in southern Labrador — the first step toward paving that section of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
The company also needed a large building to store its equipment in the area, and ended up renting space at a marine centre used to repair boats and owned by Riteway Construction,
The owner of that company told CBC News that Humber Valley Paving rented his building.for $35,000, with an agreement to pay up when they moved in. But he said they're still waiting for payment. What's more, all of Humber Valley's equipment is still in the building, even though it was supposed to be out by April 15.
Riteway's owner wouldn't consent to an interview because the company is exploring legal options to settle the matter.
Others owed money
But they're not alone.
A local fuel distributor is waiting for $21,000 to cover the diesel and gas bills racked up by Humber Valley Paving. There are also two other gas stations that are owed thousands of dollars for filling up vehicles.
A couple of other companies contacted said they have been paid, but note it took months of lobbying to settle the debts.
Coleman was the president and CEO of Humber Valley Paving until the middle of February, when he resigned and his family sold the company. Contacted by CBC News, Coleman said he cannot talk about the business because it's no longer his. That's despite the fact Coleman was at the helm while the unpaid bills were piling up.
"It's been a fantastic company," Coleman said. "I have great confidence in the future of the company."
It was Premier Tom Marshall who recently said Coleman's solid business acumen would be a key asset in his role as the next premier.
"He's a leader, he's been very successful at business, he's very smart," Marshall said.
Unpaid bills hurting suppliers
Meanwhile, the companies still on the hook are small businesses that say it's been a struggle to operate and pay their own bills while they wait for overdue payments from Humber Valley. At least two of those companies say they're working with lawyers to settle the accounts.
They also say Humber Valley left the area without completing their contract, although CBC has been unable to confirm that with Humber Valley Paving.
It's also unclear how the alleged unfinished work may be affecting timelines around completing that section of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
Peter Byrne, on behalf of the new owners of Humber Valley Paving, did issue a statement saying the company is having "confidential conversations with stakeholders" regarding the financial issues.
He also said they have $10 million worth of contracts to complete this construction year.
In 2007, Humber Valley Paving was criticized for delays in completing road work in Corner Brook.
The company ended up placing a half-page ad in The Western Star, blaming the city for delays in providing a new asphalt formula, which it needed before it could begin repairs.