BRUNSWICK, Maine — Residents and town councilors had questions and comments Tuesday after last week’s report about an unusual loan by the Brunswick Development Corp. to a business owned by the husband of a former councilor and corporation director.
Last week, Councilors John Perreault and Benet Pols criticized Brunswick Development’s forgivable $247,000 loan to Brunswick Taxi, which is owned by the husband of former councilor Joanne King. They said there is too much potential for conflict of interest because the Brunswick Development board includes town councilors and administrators.
At the council’s Tuesday night meeting, Chairwoman Suzan Wilson initially skirted any questions about Brunswick Development from the public and suggested residents direct questions and concerns to Brunswick Development President Larissa Darcy or at the corporation’s monthly meetings.
“The BDC is a separate entity from the Town Council,” said Wilson, who is also a Brunswick Development board member. “Its funding is separate from the town. We have no authority as a council over the BDC, including their loans or their business.”
The corporation’s board — which includes Wilson, Councilor John Richardson, Town Manager Gary Brown, and Finance Director John Eldridge — is next scheduled to meet at noon Sept. 18 on the first floor of the McLellan Building on Union Street.
Vincent DiCara, a local financial consultant, avoided direct discussion of Brunswick Development and its loan activities. But he told the council how two similar organizations for which he consults — the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Portland Development Corp. — operate when lending money to small businesses.
“I want to talk in general terms of how these funds operate,” DiCara said, “and hopefully it will benefit those of you in the council who are interested in lending money to businesses in this community.”
DiCara said lending programs at the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Portland Development are designed to fill financing gaps “when conventional financing is not available to meet the business needs of businesses in a particular community.”
“So in other words, these funds don’t lend money to businesses unless those businesses can’t find financing somewhere else,” he said.
DiCara also said organizations such as those usually lend money in partnership with a local bank, credit union or lending institution.
The financial consultant also noted that the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Portland Development’s loan committee does not contain any appointed or elected officials. Instead, it contains members who are appointed by an executive committee, which is made up of appointed and elected officials from Cumberland County.
For Portland Development, DiCara said there are only two city officials — the mayor and the city manager — out of the 11 total members on the corporation’s loan committee.
“Hopefully this information will be useful to you moving forward,” he said in closing.
After two residents spoke, Wilson fielded questions from other councilors about Brunswick Development’s bylaws and how members are appointed.
Wilson said the Brunswick Development’s bylaws are in flux and said residents and others are free to weigh in on possible changes at future Brunswick Development meetings.
The chairwoman clarified after the council meeting that the Brunswick Development’s review of its bylaws have been part of an ongoing discussion and is not a reaction to the recent publicity.
She said although changes to the bylaws are not imminent, a regular review of bylaws is a good practice for organizations such as Brunswick Development.