BREWER, Maine — The Brewer Housing Authority board of commissioners held a special closed-door meeting early Friday morning to discuss the city’s investigation into whether laws were broken when the housing authority purchased land from a former board chairman.
The city hired James Cohen of the Portland law firm Verrill Dana in October to investigate whether any laws — particularly the state’s conflict of interest law — were broken when BHA purchased land Oct. 7, 2009, from Calvin Bubar, who resigned as board chairman in July.
Cohen has asked to interview Gordon Stitham, the housing authority’s executive director, and other board members, and Friday’s meeting was held to discuss what to do, said Ed Gould, who represents BHA.
After leaving an executive session, “the board voted to authorize Gordon to sit down with them with me present,” Gould said.
The board also approved interviews with other board members, again with Gould present, the attorney said.
Cohen has not identified which board members he would like to interview, and no dates for any meetings have been scheduled, Gould said.
Bubar was chairman of the housing authority’s board of commissioners while discussions were held about the local agency buying his land at 258 Chamberlain St., according to minutes of the board’s meetings. The 4.16-acre parcel is valued by the city for property taxes at $88,000. The $280,000 purchase price was more than three times the assessed value and more than twice what Bubar paid for it in 2007.
The housing authority, in partnership with the social services agency Penquis of Bangor, plans to build a $5.12 million, 32-unit elderly housing project on the land. The housing authority would own the land and operate the facility, which would be built by Penquis.
The project requires a zoning change from medium density to high-residential. It gained planning board approval in December, but has been stalled at the City Council level with some councilors demanding the investigation be finished before the project moves forward.
Any violation of the state’s conflict of interest law is a Class E crime, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.