A new member of Portland’s Rent Board has boosted the numbers of an appointed body that has struggled to fill seats, though one of the city’s largest landlords has raised concerns about the new representative.

The City Council appointed Matt Walker last week, despite objections from Port Property, which pointed to past social media posts and comments by Walker, including a comment in which he said he had a “vendetta” against the company.

The board, established in 2020 with the passage of rent control, is charged with mediating disputes between tenants and landlords and considering requests for rent increases beyond those automatically allowed in the ordinance.

Board Chair Elliott Simpson said there is one vacancy on the seven-member board, plus two seats being filled by board members whose terms recently expired but who are allowed to continue serving until replacements are named.

Simpson said there has been “a good amount of turnover” and that it’s been hard to attract new members.

“We have meetings, but the amount of material you need to review to be prepared is quite a bit for a lot of folks, and I think they don’t see it as worth it,” he said.



As a renter in the city and member of the Trelawny Tenants Union in the building where he lives, Walker said that although being on the board is a lot of work, it interests him.

“I signed up because it looked like no one was doing it,” he said. “There were two open seats and two more were about to expire. … If I’m going to go to the board and offer comments on what I think should go down and what my interpretations of the ordinance are, but I’m not going to step up and serve, I think it’s kind of hypocritical.”

Walker was confirmed Monday by the City Council despite the concerns Port Property voiced about his appointment. David Bergeron, who wrote to the council on behalf of Port Property, said he frequently appears before the board and that their meetings are “invariably sidetracked by input from Mr. Walker.”

“He seizes the opportunity to be in the spotlight bashing the ‘big corporate landlord,’ ” Bergeron said. “His comments are accusatory and often border on slander. I cannot speak to what motivates him to crusade against our company, but I can say without a doubt that he has not shown himself to be impartial or informed.”

Bergeron shared a screenshot of a comment Walker posted on Reddit two months ago in which Walker said he has a “vendetta” against the company because they evicted him during the pandemic because he complained about a lack of trash removal that led to a rat infestation.


“Given the circumstances, we were surprised to see Matt Walker’s nomination and appointment to Portland’s Rent Board,” said John Laliberte, Port Property’s head of acquisition and development for southern Maine, in a statement Friday. “We’ll continue to seek to work together constructively with the body to achieve a balanced and fair implementation of Portland’s rent control policy. However, we’re concerned that this work will not be productive.”

Walker said he will not have a problem being objective and that a lot of the work is procedural, without room for interpretation. He said “vendetta” was perhaps too strong of a word.

“Maybe ‘bone to pick’ would be a little nicer,” he said. “I do use strong language sometimes … but the experiences I had with Port Property were good, bad and some very bad. It opened my eyes to some of the struggles facing tenants.”


Prior to the unanimous vote, Councilor April Fournier, a member of the council’s Legislative & Nominating Committee which recommends these kinds of appointments, addressed the Port Property concerns.

“We’ve all served in various capacities, and in our lives outside our elected or appointed roles, we are humans who have opinions, who have beliefs and biases,” Fournier said. She said that doesn’t necessarily make someone unqualified to serve on a board or committee and be objective.


“I appreciate the public comment that came forward and the concern, but I also feel that as our committee members take their oath to fulfill that office, they’re going to do that, and we should trust them to do that until they give us cause not to,” Fournier said.

Mayor Kate Snyder, who chairs the committee, said the city has many vacancies on boards and commissions, and needs more people to volunteer.

“Once you take that oath and are in that role, you’re performing a function for the community, and while we all come with our opinions and biases, we also set aside some of our own personal agenda and perform the work,” Snyder said.

She declined Friday to comment further on the issue.

A city spokesperson said that an outside attorney is advising the rent board and will be holding an executive session this week “regarding the board’s legal rights and duties to address conflicts of interest and comply with the public meetings law.”

Simpson, the board chair, said he was aware of the concerns but added Thursday that he hasn’t yet had a chance to talk to Walker.

“As chair, I am very much intending to uphold standards that would not create the appearance of any conflict of interest,” he said.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.