It remains hard to believe the extent to which Mike McLaughlin duped all of us who believed in him.
I believed in him. I had no reason to suspect him of stealing from the people of this city. I had no idea how he was using the Chelsea Housing Authority Board of Directors to do his dirty work for him. I had no idea an accountant at the CHA would write checks for his boss amounting to more than $200,000 after Mike was shown to be a fraud.
City Manager Jay Ash has been the butt of an enormous amount of bad talk about Chelsea because he didn’t know what Mike was doing – that is – paying himself $360,000 a year and laughing at all our stupidity for believing in him, extolling the good work he was doing, and deluding ourselves that he was a great guy for the people of this city.
I didn’t know. Jay didn’t know. Virtually none of us knew how he was bilking this city. HUD didn’t know. The state of Massachusetts didn’t know. The federal government had no idea.
The CHA Board must have had an inkling. Its accountant certainly knew.
For the most part, Mike operated as a loner. He convinced people locally of his righteousness with the power of his personality. He bilked the authority abusing laws and rules to his advantage.
Last week, after he was revealed and his game was up, Mike was given the choice by Governor Deval Patrick to either resign immediately or be removed.
Sensing the end was near, he resigned.
But he wasn’t done.
He had a bit more business to do before leaving Chelsea.
The following day he pushed for the CHA Board to approve payment to him of more than $200,000 supposedly due him.
That was done with unsurpassable ease.
With that OK, the CHA accountant pulled the trigger. He wrote checks to Mike amounting to $200,000. Then they got in a car together and drove off with six boxes of Mike’s personal belongings.
A bit down the road, Mike probably said: “Stop at this bank.”
The accountant pulled into the parking lot.
Mike went inside the bank.
A few minutes later, Mike returned to the car.
He had cashed an $80,000 check.
Fast forward to the end of this week.
The CHA accountant who wrote Mike those checks is still at his job. Perhaps he ought to be asked to step aside for a while.
All five of the CHA board members have resigned – and now some of them are seeking legal advice as it appears investigators may be coming after them.
Mike McLaughlin has gone from all around good guy and everybody’s friend locally to pariah.
We all remain shocked and in awe at the level of his treachery which, in the end, was all about two things – money and greed.