Dan Devereaux and Doug Diven’s (Mere Point Oyster Co.) proposal to expand their Maquoit Bay oyster farm to approximately 40-acres has drawn significant opposition, but not for the right reasons. I generally support aquaculture and do not have concerns with a 40-acre oyster farm in Maquoit Bay. In fact, I encourage it. However, Devereux’s apparent conflict of interest has been glossed over and should not be ignored. It threatens both Brunswick’s commitment to fair law enforcement and the integrity of a budding aquaculture industry.

Devereaux is currently both Brunswick’s Marine Warden and Harbormaster. At the same time, he holds a commercial aquaculture lease for an oyster farm in Brunswick and is looking to expand it. Officer Devereaux apparently acknowledges that the situation could create the appearance of a conflict of interest and has recused himself from the application process. Otherwise, as Marine Warden and Harbormaster he would have to sign off on his own permit, an obvious conflict of interest.

While this is a step in the right direction, it does not cure the ongoing conflict of interest that exists outside of the application process itself. For example, Officer Devereaux is responsible for enforcing state and municipal shellfish laws.  In fact, he is the primary person that the State and the Town rely on to do so in Brunswick given that he is the only law enforcement official routinely patrolling Brunswick’s mudflats and coastal waters. Consequently, Officer Devereaux is in a position where he is the person in charge of enforcing the on-going compliance of his own lease.

If Mere Point Oyster Co. does not fully comply with the terms of its lease or with municipal and state laws, is Officer Devereaux really going to, for example, cite himself for not locating his lease in the right area, with not marking it correctly, with not limiting the bags of oysters in his leased areas in conformance with his permit? Also, Officer Devereaux is in a position where he could for example, report and/or charge a competing Brunswick oyster farmer with illegally relaying oysters out of a leased area with water quality issues, thereby harming his competitors and benefiting of Officer Devereaux’s own commercial interest, or he could harass competing oyster farmers in other ways by finding compliance issues related their leases where no issues exist.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that Officer Devereaux has done any of these things or that he plans to do any of these things. However, the fact that he simultaneously holds these positions is a conflict of interest between his law enforcement obligations and his own personal commercial interest. That conflict threatens Brunswick’s commitment to fair law enforcement as well as a budding aquaculture industry that needs a level playing field to grow and develop.

Officer Devereaux has explained that all he is looking for is a “fair shake” with respect to his lease application. Let’s give the industry a fair shake by properly addressing this conflict of interest and requiring Devereaux to choose between his law enforcement role and his own commercial interests. That is the only way to remove any actual conflict of interest as well as the appearance of any conflict of interest. Is this issue is of concern to you, one way to raise the issue is by attending the public hearing on the project on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. at Brunswick Town Hall. Written comments will also be accepted by the Town until 5 p.m. on Oct. 17.

Chad Coffin is the president of the Maine Clammers Association. He lives in Freeport.

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