City To Consider Negotiations With Ocean Properties And Waxman Defends Herself Against Conflict of Interest Questions

By Carol McCracken

“Option 1” was adopted yesterday afternoon for consideration by the city council on January 5, 2009. Option 1 recommends that the “City Council authorizes the City Manager to enter into negotiations with Ocean Properties for redevelopment of the Maine State Pier, “ according to a memo prepared by Joe Gray, city manager, at the request of Mayor Jill Duson.

Negotiations with Olympia Cos. were terminated last month by a full council vote in compliance with a recommendation by the Community Development Committee, chaired by Councilor Cheryl Leeman to do so. Olympia Cos. backed out of the negotiations because the issue of the title of the submerged sea beds around the Maine State Pier had not been determined. The State of Maine claims to have title to the sea bed while the City of Portland claims otherwise – that it has title to the property around the MSP. Olympia did not want to proceed without knowing who had clear title to the disputed property. In the past city attorney Gary Wood had vowed to sue the city to resolve the matter, although a member of his staff recently told MHN that there is currently no lawsuit in the works.

At the outset of the workshop newly elected Councilor Dory Waxman read a prepared statement. Waxman said that recently the media has been reporting (not herein) that council members have requested that she recuse herself from deliberations about the Maine State Pier because of conflict of interest concerns. Formerly, she was a contract employee of Ocean Properties. “For the record”, Waxman said, she has only had one conversation about recusing herself and that was with Councilor David Marshall. Marshall supported Olympia Cos. She also said that she has received legal advice that deliberating on the matter is not a conflict of interest, although some believe that just an appearance of a conflict of interest are grounds for her to recuse herself. Waxman said she had received legal guidance from city attorney Gary Wood as well as a private attorney, although she would not reveal the name of that individual.

Waxman narrowly defeated former Mayor Ed Suslovic in last months election. Suslovic supported Olympia Cos. Both are Democrats and some feel that Suslovic was being punished for his independent thinking and support of Olympia Cos.