The board that oversees Amtrak’s Downeaster service on Monday brushed aside accusations that one of its members has violated a state ethics law and should resign.

Rail advocates say Robert McEvoy, who in April was appointed to the rail authority’s board of directors by Gov. Paul LePage, should resign because he violated Maine’s conflict of interest statute when he wrote a personal letter in August to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that was critical of the authority’s plan to build a train layover shed in Brunswick.

If constructed, the facility, which would be large enough to hold three trains, would be about 240 feet from McEvoy’s property line. The letter to the DEP become public in October.

Emily Boochever, a Brunswick resident who supports the facility, questioned McEvoy’s loyalty to the rail authority’s board of directors and called for his resignation at its board meeting on Monday.

“Why do you serve on the board when it appears you do not have even a minimal allegiance to it or the organization it oversees?” she asked McEvoy, who did not respond.

State ethics law stipulates that a board member cannot participate in any decision if he has direct or indirect financial interest in an issue before it. McEvoy has an interest because the proposed facility could affect the value of his home at 40 Bouchard Drive, said Bruce Sleeper, an attorney for Maine’s largest rail advocacy group, TrainRiders/Northeast. The group argued against McEvoy’s appointment before the Legislature last spring.


Moreover, Sleeper said, McEvoy has supported the efforts of a neighborhood group that is opposed to the layover facility. According to common law, McEvoy’s loyalties to the neighborhood group are incompatible with the duties of public office, he said.

“He can be a board member or a member of the public,” Sleeper said. “He can’t act as both.”

But Martin Eisenstein, chairman of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority board of directors, said that McEvoy made it clear in his letter to the DEP that he was speaking as an abutter of the project and not as a board member.

“That is his right as a citizen,” Eisenstein, who is also an attorney, said.

Also, any decision regarding a recusal of McEvoy from matters involving the layover facility must be made by McEvoy and not the board, said Eisenstein. He said state law does not give the board any authority over McEvoy to enforce conflict-of-interest matters.

He also said that McEvoy hasn’t voted on the layover facility since he joined the board in April and that everyone on the board is already aware of McEvoy’s stance on the facility.


McEvoy didn’t say much at the meeting, but he did say that he had disclosed his conflict when he submitted a questionnaire to the governor’s office as part of the process to be considered for the board appointment.

When asked by a reporter if he would recuse himself if the board were to discuss the layover facility in executive session, McEvoy said he would make that decision when the time comes.

Critics of McEvoy’s actions could file a complaint with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, but that’s not a step they are ready to make, said Wayne Davis, who heads TrainRiders/Northeast.

The fact that McEvoy has a conflict of interest seems obvious, Davis said.

“It’s rather surprising that it didn’t seem to bother anybody,” he said. “We still have to digest that.”

The Brunswick layover facility has been contentious for a number of years. The rail authority has said it needs the facility to expand service and to make more efficient use of its trains. Opponents say a layover shed is inappropriate near a residential neighborhood.


Local zoning rules do not apply to rail projects, and the Federal Railroad Administration has already approved the facility.

Opponents are trying to persuade the state to reject the rail authority’s storm water permit application, which they see as the last opportunity to stop the project.

The DEP will hold a public hearing on that application but has yet to set a date.

The move is unusual. Since the law that governs storm water permits when into effect in 1997, no storm water permit application has ever before been sent to a public hearing.

Since 1997, the state has received 1,880 applications for storm water permits.

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