AUBURN — An appointment to the Auburn Housing Authority was tabled for the second week in a row because the nomination of Mayor Jonathan LaBonte for the role raised conflict-of-interest questions. 

The City Council voted to table the item once again after city attorney Mike Malloy said Monday that LaBonte serving on the Auburn Housing Authority would raise conflict questions with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

There were four applicants for the open seat on the Auburn Housing Authority, and Malloy said three of the four raised conflict questions, based on their current involvement in the city. One of the applicants was Fire Chief Geoffrey Low.

Malloy said if LaBonte or Low were chosen to serve, the appointment would require an explanation and waiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he said prohibits elected and public officials from entering into contracts or arrangements related to the Section 8 voucher program. 

Malloy said he reviewed a recent opinion from HUD on a similar situation in Sanford, in which HUD called the mayor’s appointment to the local housing authority “an impermissible conflict.” 

“It’s our opinion at this early stage that appointing either the mayor or fire chief would require a waiver from HUD,” he said, but added that there isn’t a lot of case law on the subject. 

Councilor James Pross had made a motion to appoint LaBonte, saying that the mayor’s work with developers and familiarity with federal housing programs and funding made him the best candidate for the role. 

The council tabled the motion and directed Malloy to receive further clarification from HUD and the Auburn Housing Authority. 

“I think you’re the best applicant on this list,” Pross said to LaBonte. “I think it’s worthwhile to take our time to explore this.”

Acting City Manager Denis D’Auteuil said city administration conducted a review of the possible conflicts. 

Malloy said an example of a conflict would be if the city were selling real estate to the housing authority or entering into any development deals. 

LaBonte asked why none of the information presented Monday was provided to the City Council last week. Malloy said it was provided to him after the meeting, and prior to when D’Auteuil finished the review. 

Malloy said if HUD maintains its conflict questions, and LaBonte was eventually appointed after obtaining a waiver, he would be expected to recuse himself from certain votes.

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