A Better Board is in Charge

One thing is certain – the new Chelsea Housing Authority Board of Directors are not to be told what to do.

The days when disgraced former executive chair of the authority Mike McLaughlin told the old board how it was going to vote are gone, thankfully.

Now there is a board in place that has spine, intelligence, know-how and which feels a demand to be much better than what came before.

One of the first battles the new board is having concerns the contract awarded for the present executive director of the authority, Al Ewing.

Ewing worked under McLaughlin, as everyone presently at the authority worked under him.

But I believe Ewing had no knowledge of McLaughlin’s perfidy.

I am like him in that respect.

I knew McLaughlin for a long time. I had come to respect what he had done with the authority, with its buildings, its residents and its employees. McLaughlin turned the place around. In the end, of course, he turned it upside down and brought upon it humiliation and questions enough causing it to go into receivership – and causing him to be persona non grata here there and everywhere in the state of Massachusetts.

As well as I thought I knew Mike, it turns out I didn’t know him and so, like nearly everyone else in this city, I was fooled by him.

I was fooled by his likeable, affable, city smart manner, by his oft repeated soliloquies about loyalty and of the importance about doing the right thing,

Mike loved politics. He loved talking about politics and he was able to tell a good tale.

He seemed to know everyone important and to have something to say about all of them.

In the end, Mike reduced himself in all our eyes to the essence of a greedy, disloyal, dishonest, over the top thief.

He was above all, a sneaky thief without boundaries who abused trust here worse than anyone who came before which is saying a lot when you consider the history of this city and the pervasive municipal corruption that forced it into receivership in the early 1990’s.

So he fooled me and I had no idea. He fooled everyone. He even fooled Jay Ash.

His thievery amazed everyone, except the members of the old board, who must have had an idea what he was doing as they tended to vote for whatever he asked nearly everytime.

Mainly, he’d ask the board to up his salary and there was never a no in a  decade of votes.

When Mike resigned, he was making $360,000 a year.

Enter the new board.

Like survivors of a disaster who have sworn never to suffer their fate again, they have been questioning Ewing, his contract and nearly everything about his leadership.

To what end?

I’m not sure.

Ewing got an OK from the receiver who took over after McLaughlin. His contract was OK’d by all the responsible parties in Boston.

Yet his presence appears to be a stumbling block for the new board.

His presence and the salary he’s paid and whether or not his contract was proper in the first place has been a heated matter of discussion among the new board members.

Ex post facto decisions on something as iron clad as the contract Ewing has are not going to happen.

The new board can argue as much as they like about Ewing’s contract but it appears it is a legal document and the Chelsea Housing Authority’s board of directors will likely have to honor it.

Even if they don’t, they’re collective interest should be in judging Ewing by his work ethic and results.

Does he know what he’s doing? Does he have the respect of his co-workers and command staff? Is the authority well-off with his brand of leadership or does the authority need someone new?

This is what ought to be discussed and in part it is what is being discussed.

Al Ewing appears to me a good fit and an honest man – but I’m not on the new board.

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