Having to follow protocol, the Chelsea Retirement Board granted a full retirement to the long-time Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director of Modernization and Procurement, James Fitzpatrick, at a meeting last week.
Fitzpatrick was the director of modernization and procurement during the tenure of disgraced former Executive Director Michael McLaughlin. It has been uncovered now that during that time, and during Fitzpatrick’s oversight, that there was no modernization done and procurement rules were routinely ignored – as allegedly directed by McLaughlin.
Fitzpatrick was awarded a retirement as of March 20th, and will apparently get 80 percent of his highest three years of pay – which comes out to $91,060. That figures out to be an annual pension of around $70,000.
While Fitzpatrick is not seen as a major player in the McLaughlin saga, most believe that there is no way he couldn’t have known that things were awry in a major way. That’s due to the fact that he was tasked with spending federal funds on projects to update and “modernize” the CHA’s units. Investigators from federal housing agencies have stated they can find no evidence of any projects done with those federal funds under the watch of McLaughlin and Fitzpatrick.
In fact, federal housing officials are demanding that the CHA repay those allegedly misused funds.
However, unlike McLaughlin, Fitzpatrick, 62, has not been charged with any wrongdoing as of now and could not have his retirement restricted or held up – as McLaughlin’s has been.
“There’s nothing pending against him now and no charges are pending against him,” said Chair Joe Siewko. “We could revisit if need be.”
An attorney for the Board said they had to proceed to grant Fitzpatrick’s retirement because he is presumed innocent. Were there a conviction, he said, a retirement could be revisited and a pension could be taken away.
As for McLaughlin, despite his recent guilty plea, Retirement Board officials did not taken any action at the Feb. 28th meeting. Instead, they indicated they had to wail until after McLaughlin’s sentencing in May before taking action on his pension. State retirement officials have indicated that it will be rather standard fare to strip McLaughlin of his pension, returning to him only what he contributed.