The governor has called for the Chelsea Housing Authority to be placed in receivership as an antidote to the spate of nearly obscene actions taken by former CHA director Michael McLaughlin, the CHA board, and the CHA accountant.
News that Attorney General Martha Coakley is presenting legal documents to the Supreme Judicial Court in order to secure the receivership being asked for by the state hardly came as a surprise to those of us utterly amazed and dismayed at the same time by the goings on at the CHA.
City Manager Jay Ash said that he approves of the governor’s action and will support it. Interim CHA director Albert Ewing said the same but for him it won’t matter much as should be out of a job as soon as the receivership takes effect.
It is anyone’s guess who will be named receiver.
However, it is estimated the receiver will report back to the SJC after 90 days.
By that time, it should become apparent exactly what was fraudulent about McLaughlin’s $360,000 salary and estimated $280,000 pension and what was not.
It will also be apparent by that time whether or not the CHA accountant committed a crime by writing out $200,000 in checks for vacation time and sick time that McLaughlin ordered him to write before he walked out the door.
The complicity in all of this by the CHA Board will also have been weighed and measured – and even though the entire board has resigned, there may still be culpability for what they participated in and for what they overlooked.
It is our belief the CHA is not as corrupt as it is being made out to be.
McLaughlin has turned out to be a moral fraud and a plunderer but that doesn’t make him a thief.
City Manager Ash has been the recipient of unnecessary criticism for not knowing what McLaughlin was up to.
But who did?
The city of Chelsea has nothing whatsoever to do with the running and the management of the CHA.
For Ash and for all of us who consider ourselves watchdogs for this community, this incident is a wake-up call.
We applaud the four members of the city council who asked for receivership – and two others who run prominent agencies in the city dedicated to organizing voters and campaigns against waste and fraud in government.
But we ask those very same people – where were you for the past ten years without so much as a single effort to make an official request or resolution requiring CHA minutes?
After the fact grandstanding is just that – after the fact grandstanding bare and naked.
All of us involved with this city need to admit that we were led astray by the mercurial McLaughlin.
All of us need to agree we will never be fooled again.
Failure to do our due diligence has no place among those of us who value this city’s reputation.
Too much is at stake – as we have found out.