CHA Says It Cooperated Fully with Retirement Board

Officials at the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) said last week that they did respond quickly to a letter from the Retirement Board requesting information on the salary of former Director Michael McLaughlin.

“We have responded to them and any rumor that we were one of the ones that did not respond is untrue,” said CHA Executive Director Al Ewing. “They might not have liked our response, but I can only give them what I have. We have been responsive to their requests and many others.”

Ewing’s statements are backed up by public records that were requested by the Record and released by the Retirement Board last week.

The local Retirement Board has been charged by the state Pension Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) with conducting an investigation and gathering information into the salary claims of McLaughlin. Specifically, they are trying to find out if his erroneous salary reporting to the state was intentional or unintentional.

On March 27th, the Retirement Board sent out nine letters to various organizations requesting information. Most did not respond, with only four organizations sending letters back to the Board as of two weeks ago.

It was rumored that one of those organizations was the CHA, but public records indicate that it did send a communication on April 18th. However, that letter simply alluded to an ongoing investigation and was not accompanied by any records – as the Board had hoped to get.

“I can report that this matter is currently under investigation by both federal and state investigative agencies whose role will be to determine the ‘intentional’ aspect of this situation,” read the letter.

“The question of ‘intentional’ concealment or ‘intentional’ misreporting requires additional evidence dependent upon further investigation which is presently being pursued by the appropriate investigative agencies,” continued the letter.

Those that did not respond were the state Inspector General, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and two departments in the state Attorney General’s office.

Those that responded to date were the CHA, the City of Chelsea, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Washington office of U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

However, the only letter that contained any substance was that of DHCD, which was written by Deborah Goddard – general counsel for the agency and the source who indicated two weeks ago that DHCD has not and would not approve the current contract of Ewing.

In her letter, she indirectly seemed to be alluding to the fact that her organization believed McLaughlin had been intentionally misreporting his salary to the state.

“DHCD’s Accounting Manual for Public Housing Authorities requires that salaries shown on the annual operating budgets submitted by CHA to DHCD for review and approval reflect ‘gross salary,'” the letter read. “…As executive director of the CHA, Mr. McLaughlin is charged with knowing and understanding DHCD regulations and requirements. Furthermore, as secretary to the CHA board, Mr. McLaughlin signs the annual ‘Budget Certification’ in which the members certify that ‘The Authority has complied with…all rules, regulations and requirements that may apply to the Administration of State-Aided Public Housing programs as set forth by DHCD.’ I believe this information should be helpful to your investigation.”

The Retirement Board’s investigation is wholly separate from the ongoing criminal investigation being undertaken by the FBI and the state Attorney General’s Office. If it can be proven that McLaughlin intentionally misrepresented his salary, then there is reason to consider not granting him the pension for which he applied last fall. If it was unintentional, then there is reason to believe that he will be granted a pension. However, all of that is still up in the air at the moment.

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