AUBURN — Told that their vote could jeopardize not only funds for Museum LA, but also Androscoggin County’s $10.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, two commissioners who serve on the museum’s board of directors reluctantly abstained when the county commissioners approved ARPA funding for the museum Wednesday night.

Commissioners Roland Poirier and Edouard Plourde, both of Lewiston, fervent supporters of Museum LA’s $2.5 million request for its HVAC system, disagreed when told their vote on the museum’s proposal represented a conflict of interest. According to the museum’s website, both serve as officers on the board.

Discussion on the topic lasted nearly an hour as commissioners and Museum LA Executive Director Rachel Ferrante went back and forth about funding and whether the two commissioners should vote or not.

County Treasurer Clarice Proctor, who oversees ARPA funding for the county, told the two commissioners they should not vote on funding because of a conflict of interest due to serving on the museum’s board. Proctor cited the opinion by the compliance auditor she works with, who reports the county’s ARPA spending to the government.

Poirier countered that his interpretation of state law allowed the pair to vote as long as they did not benefit monetarily, despite being on the board.

Proctor and some commissioners weren’t convinced, wondering if a state law could take precedence over federal guidelines.


The treasurer added that the conflict of interest would likely nullify the award to the museum, forcing the county to return those funds to the federal government. She added that violating the guidelines could force the county to forfeit its entire $10.5 million in federal funds expected within the next couple of months.

That caught the attention of Commissioners John Michael of Auburn and Garrett Mason of Lisbon, who both asked Poirier and Plourde to refrain from voting. Michael added that if the pair voted, he would vote no on funding the museum.

Clearly upset, Plourde said he believed his right to vote could be defended legally.

“By not voting, I’m cutting my own throat,” Plourde said. “I have no representation at all. That’s not fair. I really have a problem with this. I’d like to challenge that.”

Timing was an issue for the county and the museum. Commissioners had set an April 15 deadline before awarding ARPA grants to organizations with worthwhile projects in the county. But facing a Congressional deadline Friday for submitting an application for additional funds, Museum LA asked the county for the $2.5 million now to help show broad support from the region for the project. Lewiston and Auburn had already awarded the museum $2 million apiece for their new home, Ferrante said.

The Friday deadline left no time for Plourde to seek legal advice before the vote.


Further complicating things were dozens of funding requests received by the county, totaling more than $6.4 million above the amount of ARPA money available to the county. Commissioners were reluctant to fully fund the museum’s request until it could consider all projects. Michael and Mason both suggested $300,000, with the promise to consider more funding when the board considers all the requests at a later date.

“We have to protect the integrity of all of our funds, we need to make sure that we show support to Congress for this project, and we need to make sure that we retain the amount of money we currently have to consider other projects,” Mason said before making his motion to give $300,000 to the museum. He said he thought Plourde and Poirier should recuse themselves out of an abundance of caution.

With Plourde and Poirier finally agreeing to abstain, the $300,000 grant was approved by a 5-0-2 vote. County officials will include a letter of support to accompany the museum’s application for funding.

Voting in favor were Michael, Mason, Brian Ames of Lewiston, Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls and Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner.

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