AG’s Office won’t pursue charges in Brewer Housing Authority land purchase

Posted Dec. 30, 2011, at 5:57 p.m.
Calvin Bubar
BDN
Calvin Bubar

BREWER, Maine — The Maine Attorney General’s Office does not intend to pursue charges after reviewing an investigative report that says former Brewer Housing Authority board chairman Calvin Bubar violated state laws back in 2009.

“This office does not plan to initiate any criminal proceedings,” states the Dec. 21 letter from Chief Deputy Attorney General Linda Pistner to City Manager Stephen Bost.

At their Oct. 13, 2009, meeting, City Council members voted to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review a possible conflict of interest involving Bubar, who has maintained all along that he did nothing wrong. Bubar could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.

Pistner told the city in 2009 that any possible legal violation involving the land sale did not rise to the level of crime that the agency typically investigates. But she said the Attorney General’s Office “would be happy” to review the results of an independent investigation.

Pistner’s letter said staff members reviewed the substantial investigative report and found a conflict of interest occurred in 2009 when Bubar resigned from the board shortly before selling his land on Chamberlain Street to the housing authority.

The applicable conflict of interest statutes, however, “do not provide for any remedy that this office has the authority to pursue,” the letter said.

“The only available remedy under these particular circumstances is an action seeking to void the purchase of the property, brought by an appropriate party,” Pistner’s letter added.

Bost said Friday that a lot of time and effort — and around $100,000 in expenses — could have been saved if city councilors had known from the start that the attorney general’s hands would be tied by statutory constraints.

“Had the council been told initially … I think the council’s approach would have been different,” the city manager said.

The housing authority is partnering with the Penquis agency to build a $5.14 million, 32-unit senior housing project at 258 Chamberlain St. and recently was awarding the funding through Maine State Housing, the housing authority’s executive director, Gordon Stitham, said Friday.

“We’re putting the 32-unit elderly project on the front part of the property and we’re going to put the community center project … on the back portion of the property,” he said.

People will get to the new community center, which will be paid for by a $2.4 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, by way of Cutler Drive, Stitham said.

The housing authority also recently applied for another $3.2 million HUD loan to convert all of its 154 rental units from oil and electric heat to natural gas, along with a couple of other small projects, Stitham said.

HUD officials also decided in 2009 to review the housing authority’s books to see whether federal funds were used when the authority bought Bubar’s land. HUD’s November 2009 review revealed no federal conflict-of-interest violation, but it did find that the price paid for the land was questionable and that state laws probably were violated.

HUD required a number of corrective actions, and the housing authority agreed to hold procurement policy training and educate board members about their roles and responsibilities and about conflict-of-interest laws and regulations.

Bubar, along with his wife, Nancy, purchased the Chamberlain Street land for $120,000 in mid-September 2007, and he was appointed to the housing authority’s board the next month. In January 2008 Bubar was made chairman and he resigned from the board in July 2009, the day before a purchase and sales agreement for his 4.16-acre Chamberlain Street parcel was signed. The housing authority bought the land for $280,000.

The city hired attorney James Cohen of the Portland law firm Verrill Dana to investigate whether a conflict of interest had occurred. The report, which indicated Bubar had violated the housing authority’s and state’s conflict-of-interest laws, was finished in the spring of 2010 and city councilors sent a copy to the Attorney General’s Office in May of that year.

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