May 26, 2018
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After loan controversy, Brunswick development group finalizing stricter conflict-of-interest, ethics rules

By Dylan Martin, The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick Development Corp. is set to adopt modified bylaws and new ethics policies in early December, several months after some residents and town officials criticized the agency for questionable practices.

BDC’s policies and board of directors, which includes two town councilors and two town staff members, came under scrutiny after the board in July approved an unusual loan to a business owned by the husband of a former councilor and BDC board member.

On Wednesday, the board reached consensus on several changes to the nonprofit’s bylaws, along with new ethics and conflict-of-interest policies.

The board began reviewing its bylaws and policies in September after news of the unusual loan emerged the previous month.

The board will vote on adopting the modified bylaws and new policies at a separate meeting, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4. It will provide advance notice of the meeting, along with copies of the proposed changes, at Town Hall, 28 Federal St.

Edgar Catlin III, an attorney who has assisted the BDC with negotiating the sale of two municipal buildings to Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises, was present Wednesday to consult the board on how to best word the new changes.

One of the most significant changes is a new bylaw that will require all directors to sign a conflict-of-interest and code-of-ethics policy every year.

Board member and Councilor John Richardson said the policies are modeled after ones used by the Freeport Economic Development Corp.

The bylaw also states that no BDC board member, councilor or elected state official should receive grants or loans from BDC while in office and for a period of one year after leaving their position.

Among other changes is a proposal to remove the town’s finance director — currently John Eldridge, who is BDC’s longest-serving director — from the board. That position would be filled by another citizen representative, bringing the total number of citizen members to four.

It will also give citizen members a majority on the board, which also includes two town councilors and the town manager, who serves as an ex-officio member.

Another change will limit councilors to six one-year terms, and citizen members to three consecutive two-year terms. Previously, there were no term limits.

Other changes will require BDC to provide advance notice of its meetings — a requirement that previously appeared to be optional — and prevent board members, except for the town manager, from serving on other economic development boards.

Another change clarifies that no director will ever be compensated.

BDC was incorporated by the town in 1994, which has caused some confusion about the relationship between the two entities.

Scott Wiley of Tarratine Drive, who has attended the past few BDC meetings, expressed frustration with the relationship.

“If you were to take a poll of the residents of Brunswick,” he said, “and you ask them, ‘Is the BDC just an arm of the Town Council?,’ I would guess a majority of them would say, ‘Yes.'”

Richardson said he understood Wiley’s frustration, and added that’s why the BDC is taking steps to make these changes.

“To your point, we’re trying to have greater independence,” he said, “and trying to [put more citizen members on the board], but remember it is as described … a municipal corporation. There is some nexus and connection to the town.”

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