Verrill Dana Tapped to Conduct Independent Investigation of Municipal Land Deal

In 2009, the Chair of the Housing Authority in Brewer, Maine sold a parcel of land to the Brewer Housing Authority, netting more than double what he paid for the land two years earlier. Following substantial local scrutiny, the Brewer City Council decided to conduct an independent investigation of the land sale. Verrill Dana was retained to perform the investigation, and Jim Cohen and Alexia Pappas served as lead investigators. Over the next few months, they worked with City officials to develop a plan for the investigation, interviewed 19 witnesses, examined thousands of records, and meeting tapes, and prepared a thorough report to the City of Brewer. The investigation was conducted with careful consideration of Maine’s Freedom of Access Laws, attorney-client privilege, rules of civil procedure and evidence, and applicable laws governing the conduct of government officials.

On May 6, 2010, Jim Cohen presented the final Report to the City Council, the public, and the local media. The Report concluded that the land deal may have violated Maine’s misuse of information statute and otherwise violated certain conflict of interest standards in the Authority’s by-laws and at law. The final Report included specific details regarding how the Housing Authority – and other public agencies – could improve their processes to reduce the risk of a potential conflict of interest in the future. The delivery of the Report was extensively covered in the local paper and on television.