We call for an immediate indictment on perjury charges against all five members of the Chelsea Housing Authority for aiding in the filing of false financial records that showed former Executive Director Michael McLaughlin’s salary to be $160,000 instead of $360,000. To do any less than an indictment, would be to condone the actions of this board or any board to submit falsehoods on official state and federal forms that are the basis of the government’s oversight.
McLaughlin’s well thought out scam that has fleeced the public housing residents of this city as well as the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal Government is an embarrassment, a humiliation and in the simplest of terms, is one of the most egregious thefts of public money in this city in its long history.
And he did not do it on his own.
McLaughlin’s more than $360,000 a year salary, and $25,000 a year in accrued sick time and vacation pay – all approved by his board – stands as a stunning example to us about the level of greed that he showed with regard to enhancing his own pay.
As taxpayers, we are outraged that our money has been taken from the most needy residents in our state and country to line the pockets of some old political hack.
But what is more disturbing is that many people are now using this sole example as proof that Chelsea has returned to its former corrupt self.
And they are wrong.
For the record, McLaughlin pulled off this scam like Bernie Madoff pulled off his scam — he had fooled everyone for years.
No one ever believed that anything was amiss at the Chelsea Housing Authority.
City councilors praised McLaughlin’s running of the Housing Authority. Federal and state awards were given on a regular basis for the work at the Housing Authority.
City councilors voted unanimously for the reappointments of all the Chelsea Housing Authority board members even as recently as October 4, 2011 when they voted to reappoint James Haggerty.
Less than four weeks ago – everything and everyone at the agency was fine according to the city councilors and state and federal officials.
However, there lies the rub.
Things were not alright.
If McLaughlin had not been so greedy and taken an outrageous salary of say $200,000 then this would have been a tempest in a teacup.
However, McLaughlin was greedy.
His multi-million dollar scam was coming to its ugly conclusion.
McLaughlin was let into the city, like a rat finding a comfortable home in a well stocked deli – to start hatching his nefarious multi-million-dollar scam while Guy Santagate was City Manager in early 2000.
Santagate did not want McLaughlin.
Santagate went public with his call not to hire him.
Yet, McLaughlin got the job.
The City Manager cannot interfere in the workings of the independent Housing Authority.
So whom do we blame?
Should we blame City Manager Jay Ash and the Chelsea City Government.
The answer has to be no.
If someone in private business or state government spends large amounts of time thinking how to beat the system – they will succeed for a time.
McLaughlin succeeded for a time.
We are proud of the new Chelsea that seeks to solve a problem and make sure that it cannot happen again.
In the fiscal areas that our city leaders have supervised for more than 20 years, there has not been a hint of wrongdoing or taxpayer fleecing.
For those of us from Chelsea, the words of Shakespeare ring true:
“The evil that men do live after them,
while the good is interred with their bones.”
The past is prologue and we should remember that as we go forward.