The Corcoran Development team and the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) are ready to kick-off discussion on their new plan to re-develop the Innes Housing Development into a 330-unit, mixed-income development in two phases.
The plan has been tried before, but was derailed early on, and now with a new financing plan, and some new additions to the old plan, the team believes they have something that the existing residents and the community will be proud of.
The 96 public housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to reduce relocation of residents – with none believed to have to leave Chelsea or any CHA properties.
There will be 226 parking spaces on site, and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking.
“The whole reason we’re here is they need new housing for existing residents, but it’s a great opportunity to also develop market rate units alongside it and take advantage of the Silver Line,” said Ronnie Slamin of Corcoran. “It is privately funded. That helps us speed up the process so we don’t have to go through the process of applying for tax credits…We’re also going to be providing amenities and services to the existing residents to improve their schooling. We want to provide services for them to be able to go from public housing to middle income housing to a market rate unit. That’s the goal. We’re planning services like financial literacy, job training, and local hiring events.”
Resident Jean Fulco said tenants are very excited at Innes.
“There is no place to play for the kids now,” she said. “We need bigger rooms. The rooms are too small and bigger cabinets and everything up to date.”
Added resident Melissa Booth, “It would be great to get new apartments and get a new playground. I have two young children and there isn’t a lot of places for them to play here. It’s cramped at the existing playground. The new plan has a bigger playground and it will be a great place for everyone to come and play. It will become a place that kids want to come back to if they want to stay in the area.”
Each of the units will be identical, she said, and no one unit – whether public housing or market rate – will be different.
“There’s not going to be a rich door and a poor door here,” she said.
CHA Director Al Ewing said the lease will be for 99 years with Corcoran, which is the maximum allowed by law. While other such deals are 15 to 35 years, he said they have chosen to go for the maximum.
“It’s important we have this public private partnership so we can have a new development,” he said. “You can’t improve this. You have to replace it. It’s like when you have an old car. At some point, it doesn’t make financial sense to fix it anymore. You have to go and get a new car. That’s where we’re at.”
And Ewing also said there is a sense of urgency, as state monies dedicated to the project could go away soon if there isn’t movement on the project. That is why they’ve scheduled a meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m.
“As state financing goes, when you set it aside money they want to see it spent in a timeframe or they will want to re-allocate,” he said. “They want to see this project show some movement forward or they will re-allocate that money.”
Meanwhile, to fix the previous problems, the project will be asking for a 15-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) deal that will allow them to pay a percentage of the taxes in three five-year periods.
The first five years, they would pay 20 percent; the second five years they would pay 40 percent; and the final five years they would pay 50 percent. After that, they would pay the full property taxes due.
Joe Corcoran and Ewing stressed that the City would not be losing any money. Right now, as part of a PILOT program, the City would get $51,000 for Innes over the same 15-year period. Meanwhile, with the TIF in place, they said the City would receive $3.4 million in new revenues.
“Even with the TIF in place, you’re still getting $3.4 million in new revenues because the City would only get $51,000 if things stayed as they are,” he said.
The TIF will be the deal-breaker to close the financing gap and allow the project to pay a prevailing wage – which was what derailed the first project attempt.
On the matter of relocation, Ewing and Slamin said they would be building the project in two phases, with the western 48 units coming down first.
Ewing said they have enough space to house residents in Fitzpatrick and Prattville Developments during relocation in the first phase.
“We believe we will be able to house those relocated in other state family developments in Chelsea,” he said.
Slamin said the developer would pay for all moving and relocation costs for residents displaced in the first phase.
Another harsh New England winter has thankfully come to an end. As the colder time of year comes to a close, allergy season is right around the corner. Itchy and watery eyes, runny noses, coughing and sneezing, and pollen make for a difficult few months for many as we all try to enjoy the outdoors and warmer weather.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. In order to prepare for seasonal allergies, CHA ENT physician Ayesha Khalid, MD, FACS and Jaime Silva, PA-C, at CHA Cambridge Hospital, provide an update on what to expect this season by answering several common questions.
Are allergies the same for everyone?
People’s pollen allergies can vary between seasons. However, some allergies can last throughout the year if they are allergic to dust mites, animal dander, and molds.
What is the difference between allergies and a cold?
Allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, and nose are triggered by histamine. A cold is a viral infection.
How are allergies treated?
Allergies are usually treated with medications known as antihistamines. Some symptoms can be treated with nasal steroids or pseudoephedrine. If allergy symptoms are not well controlled with medication or if symptoms last throughout the year allergy shots or allergy drops can be considered.
What other strategies can people use?
Studies show effective measures of controlling dust or pet dander allergy symptoms include eliminating carpets and rugs in the bedroom, dust covers for pillow cases, and a HEPA filter near the bed.
What else can people do to survive allergy season? Are there home remedies?
Rinsing the allergens out of your nasal passages and sinuses with a saline rinse that can be purchased over the counter can be helpful. This also helps moisturize your nasal passages if you are using a nasal spray for allergies.
If your symptoms tend to be harsh or worsen please consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor today. Also, here are a few additional resources provided by the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services.
About Cambridge Health Alliance
Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health system committed to providing high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston’s metro-north communities. CHA has expertise in primary care, specialty care and mental health/substance use services, as well as caring for diverse and complex populations. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA patients have seamless access to advanced care through the system’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine. For more information, visit www.challiance.org.
Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health-system serving Everett and Boston’s metro-north region, is teaming up with the North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA) to help get individuals struggling with addiction connected to treatment by piloting a new recovery-coach program at CHA Everett Hospital. Two coaches from NSMHA are now available to patients who struggle with addiction or present with mental health issues in the Emergency Department, inpatient psychiatry and CHA’s med-surg units.
The total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts, through the first nine months of 2017, was over 1,400 – a 10-percent reduction from the same period in 2016. At the same time, from 2012 – 2016, over 70 people in Everett died from opioid misuse.
The pilot program places recovery coaches in direct contact with patients, on a voluntary basis, following an overdose reversal with naloxone, the lifesaving anti-opioid medication. The aim is to link individuals to treatment and recovery services locally. Other patients may present with medical conditions related to substance use and the recovery coach can use this opportunity to engage the patient in treatment.
“A recovery coach is a person who helps remove personal and environmental obstacles to recovery, noted Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at the North Suffolk Mental Health Association.”
“Coaches serve as personal guides and mentors supporting individual and family recovery where support networks are limited. NSMHA has incorporated this model throughout the addiction division since 2013. We are thrilled to partner with CHA sharing each of our expertise to build a continuum of support which begins at the most vulnerable time – entrance into the emergency department”
CHA’s chief of emergency medicine, Benjamin Milligan, MD, and a group of providers in the Emergency Department, including Josh Mularella, DO, Emily Adams, PA, and Christine Trotta, PA, ran the Boston Marathon last year and dollars raised through their efforts helped to fund the pilot initiative.
NSMHA’s recovery coaches are trained and certified professionals who guide or mentor patients seeking recovery support from alcohol and other drug addictions. Recovery coaches do not provide clinical services, instead they offer the critical support or link to the services and resources that a person needs to achieve and sustain recovery.
“We are excited to have recovery coaches embedded at CHA Everett Hospital and believe they will strengthen the hospital’s role as a link in patient’s long-term ‘chain of recovery,’” commented Melisa Lai- Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett Hospital. “The ability to partner a patient immediately with a peer who is able to help them navigate to the next link in the chain is invaluable. We are optimistic that the program will have a lasting impact and we may expand the initiative in the future providing a model for a potential statewide network of peer recovery coaches.”
Immediate support when a crisis occurs is vital for effective engagement in recovery and treatment. When a patient arrives at the CHA Everett Hospital Emergency Department he/she is offered a NSMHA recovery coach during peak hours (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
In 2011, the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) was in total disarray, and Chelsea resident Tom Standish had a long history of putting things back together.
As the chair of the CHA since 2011, putting things back together is exactly what Standish, the other Board members and the staff at CHA did in the wake of the Michael McLaughlin corruption scandal.
Now, with his work seemingly done and the CHA now a high-performer in the public housing world, Standish has stepped aside from his long-time role as chair of an organization that was quite literally brought back from the grave.
“It was a clear case of corruption and the need to restore normalcy to the government,” said Standish recently from his home on the waterfront, a few weeks after stepping down as chair. “Really, it was transparent that someone was controlling the situation and had everyone in line. There needed to be five people who had the strength of character and expertise to guide the CHA back to normalcy. As it turned out, we guided it to high performance.”
After the McLaughlin scandal, few thought that the CHA would ever be put back given the tangled web of accounting fraud and the money not expended on facilities for so long.
Tenants were angry.
The public was angry.
The federal government was angry.
Those five board members, led by Standish, helped restore the confidence.
Standish said he saw a posting about the City looking for talented people to serve on the new board – as the old board had been removed quickly on suspicion of corruption with McLaughlin. With a deep resume as a regulator in the Connecticut government and in other endeavors, he was chosen right off. At the first meeting, his other four colleagues quickly elected him as the chair when he voiced concern over the minutes from the previous meetings – challenging the Board’s attorney.
From there, the rebuilding took place, including the hiring of current CHA Executive Director Al Ewing – who had served previously in the CHA administration.
“It was our task to establish a route that would bring us to restoration of faith in the performance of the duties,” said Standish. “We went on the war path. We got the support of Al Ewing and he did a fabulous job of brining a fee accountant in and an accountant from outside to do an audit…That gave us a lot of confidence in Al. You can change a lot with a big organization if you can get competent, honest people. For me personally, that was a turning point in the organization.”
Another turning point, he said, was when they were able to get the full services of the Nixon Peabody law firm and Attorney Jeff Sacks to help them guide the case against McLaughlin on behalf of the CHA. That was also assisted by Charlestown attorney Susan Whalen, whom the CHA hired.
Standish said, through a mutual friend, he had heard that Nixon Peabody was looking for a case to work on pro bono that would make a difference. As it happened, that case was the CHA’s.
“They were going to pay for it 100 percent,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those where they said they would help us for 75 cents on the dollar. It was 100 percent…Susan Whalen in conjunction with Nixon Peabody were able to move the case forward and were able to get a decision.”
While the matter of McLaughlin’s $200,000 pension is still outstanding, and the McLaughlin matter still appears as a potential Executive Session item on every CHA meeting agenda – for the most part justice was done.
Standish said he was very relieved on the day McLaughlin was sentenced in Boston Federal Court, knowing that justice had been rendered for the tenants and the taxpayers. However, he said he was conflicted about the time and type of sentence – noting that he is glad he did not have to make a recommendation to the court.
“In the end, McLaughlin said he was just trying to keep up with his neighbors,” he said. “He said they all had nice cars and nice houses and he just wanted to keep up with them. It was a totally different McLaughlin than we had seen up to then.”
Overall, Standish said he would look back at his time on the CHA as something of a gift – a way he could give back, and in turn, be given to.
“I was energized by it,” he said. “There are a lot of people who run out and look to be fulfilled in life by making money, but try as they may, nothing is more fulfilling than giving to society…The thing that’s great for me is to see public housing work in Chelsea. I’ve come to realize that high-minded people make this world work. We have been a high-performer every single year since the first one. We worked very hard – many long hours and all uncompensated. It has been invigorating and exciting. I regard it as a gift to have had the opportunity.”
As Puerto Rican residents continue to trickle into Chelsea following the massive Hurricane Maria devastation, the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) announced they would extend the time visitors are allowed to stay with residents – and also consider extensions in some cases.
Director Al Ewing said they have been working close with the Chelsea Collaborative, the City of Chelsea and the state to formulate a plan to accommodate family members that need to live with CHA residents. By rule, CHA only allows visitors to stay in a public housing unit for 21 days. After that, penalties begin to accrue for the resident.
That has been a problem statewide as wary Puerto Ricans flock to the area to live with family members while their homes and their island are repaired from the once-in-a-lifetime storm damage. With nowhere else to turn, residents in public housing have opened their homes to family, but in fact trouble looms due to the 21-day rule.
“What we have done is extended the 21-day limit allowed for visitors to 45 days,” he said. “The key is residents need to notify us who is living in the unit. Obviously we want to work with the residents and this was a terrible disaster and a terrible situation…At the end of the 45-day period, if there is a need for an extension while family members look for permanent housing, we will work with them on a case-by-case basis.”
Ewing said they have encountered some folks from Puerto Rico and one woman from Houston – which both suffered severe storm damage – and he said they have lowered the documentation threshold for them. While there aren’t many units available, he said they are taking applications.
“We have reduced the documentation because people are obviously coming here without the ability to have documentation,” he said. “We just don’t have a lot of vacancies in public housing, especially at this time of year. That’s why we wanted to especially relax our regulations for visitor stays so that people can live with family until they can find a permanent situation.”
The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) chose an experienced public housing re-development firm this month to partner with in hopes of getting competitive state funds that would allow the CHA to completely re-build the Innes Development on Central Avenue.
The CHA voted to go with the Joseph Corcoran Company as it’s partner in seeking funding for the redevelopment of mixed-income housing at the site. The CHA did not choose a local partnership between The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and the Beacon Companies.
Corcoran is known for having redeveloped Columbia Point in Dorchester into mixed-income housing and was chosen last year by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to redevelop the Bunker Hill Housing Development in Charlestown into mixed-income housing.
“We’re fortunate to have had two good proposals,” said CHA Director Al Ewing. “You had TND with the Beacon Companies and the Corcoran Company. We could only go with one and we went with the one we felt best addressed the requirements of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. We chose Corcoran because we felt we had a proposal from them that had a very good chance of being funded by [the state].”
The key wording in all of that is a proposal funded by the state. So far, the CHA is in a very preliminary stage of the process and the whole effort could be for not if the state does not award them the nearly $5 million grant for the NOFA.
Earlier this year, the CHA announced that it planned to look at engaging in a public-private partnership with a developer to rebuild the Innes Development on Central Avenue into a brand new mixed-income development that would add market rate units and keep every unit of public housing.
By choosing Corcoran, Ewing said they have simply settled on a partner to seek funding with. If the state were to pass over the project, the idea would not be pursued any further.
“This is a good potential redevelopment project for our residents, but it is only a potential right now,” Ewing said. “Residents will be engaged immediately if we get the funding from the state. While we have preliminary ideas that were designed just for the purpose of entering the process, if we are funded, our first step will be to engage the residents, neighbors, and the greater community in regards to our plans.”
Corcoran has proposed a $100 million development of the Innes, most of which would be privately funded.
They would put a total of 318 units of mixed income housing, and would retain all 96 public housing units that currently exist – and they would be in their current configurations (42 two-bedrooms, 48 three-bedrooms, and 6 four-bedrooms) but would be brand new units in the overall development. The public housing units would be mixed in with the market rate units and now separated out.
There would be 222 market rate units.
The housing units would be situated in four, six-story buildings – all new construction – with surface and below-grade parking, a community clubhouse, a fitness center and retail space.
Corcoran said it would privately fund 80 percent of the project with private equity and mortgage debt. The $4.8 million DHCD funding and a $3 million MassWorks grant would supplement that.
Ewing said he would negotiate a 99-year ground lease to preserve the public housing if the state funds the CHA proposals. He said if the project is funded, residents would be relocated temporarily and would have the ability to return to the new units.
Ewing said such partnerships are the only way to find the capital to rebuild old public housing developments, as the state and federal government simply don’t have the money.
The Board of the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) and Executive Director Al Ewing have come to terms on a contract dispute that – though in the background as compared to the overall repairing of the agency – has been outstanding since 2011.
The contract was recently approved by the Board and state officials and is now in effect, retroactive from Nov. 1, 2014. The three-year contract will pay Ewing $122,000 per year – which was a point of contention when the dispute first went to court.
“It’s a nice thing to have happen,” said Board Chair Tom Standish. “It could have been an adversarial thing all this time and it hasn’t been. We’ve worked well together and will continue to do so.”
Ewing said this week that he is glad to get the contract situation worked out and to move on to rebuilding and reinvigorating the CHA.
“I’m pleased I will continue being executive director at least through October 2017,” he said. “That gives us the opportunity to build on the many victories we’ve had. We’ve done a number of things over the past three years and we want to continue providing these services to our residents.”
One of the most unique things about the contract dispute was that it really just faded away in late 2011 as the CHA and the Board began working on the larger issues of cleaning up after Michael McLaughlin and untangling the web of complexities that was left behind in what has now been exposed as a criminal enterprise.
Originally, the contract was disputed rather vocally, but once it was entered as a court case, nothing more came of it.
That’s when Ewing and the Board seemed to roll up their sleeves and work without any animosity whatsoever despite the ongoing matter.
Standish said it was particularly noteworthy that the relationship withstood
Ewing said he viewed it as separate from his job.
“I think my job here as executive director, no matter what my pay, is to serve the residents,” he said. “I continually try to focus on that. They are two separate things. There were issues and sometimes people can have differences of opinion and that’s why we have a legal system to turn to. One has nothing to do with the other, the way I see it.”
Ewing said he had been chosen as the new executive director before McLaughlin suddenly resigned in 2011 after a Globe story spotlighted the beginnings of his misdeeds at the CHA.
After several public hearings and an executive director search in anticipation of McLaughlin’s regular retirement, Ewing got the vote of the board. His contract was to be ratified at a regular meeting the day after McLaughlin resigned.
However, with the sudden resignation of McLaughlin, the Board agreed to quickly make Ewing the interim director that very night.
The contract that came with that appointment is what struck up some controversy when the new Board took over in 2012 and rebuilding efforts began.
Tally on another year to the incarceration bill of former Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Michael McLaughlin, as Federal Judge Doug Woodlock sentenced him to a fourth year in federal prison last Friday afternoon in Boston Federal Court.
McLaughlin – who is serving his time in Pennsylvania and has about one year under his jumpsuit belt already – appeared before the court in a far more humble manner on Friday than he did at the same time last year. His hair was far more grey and thin than it was last July and he appeared to have lost a lot of weight and to have acquired a bit of a hunch in the back.
In the interim, it was pointed out that his wife passed away and he was not allowed to attend the funeral, and that he has kept a positive attitude in prison – going so far as to help tutor convicts who are about to be released.
None of that, however, had much to do with the reason McLaughlin was in Federal Court on Friday, which was essentially to answer to additional corruption charges related to the fixing of federal housing inspections while he was the director of the CHA.
Woodlock has been no fan of McLaughlin’s during the entirety of the situation, actually deviating significantly from a plea deal last year that would have given McLaughlin six months to one year in prison. Instead, Woodlock rejected the agreement and re-opened the case completely. When the dust had settled, McLaughlin had three years in jail and a pretty severe tongue lashing from the judge.
This time, however, Woodlock didn’t see a need to change things up, staying with the plea agreement presented to him and giving McLaughlin one additional year in prison and a $3,000 fine.
“I looked at this agreement very, very carefully because it’s a form of plea bargain that takes the court out of it,” said Woodlock. “Looking over my past history, I see there are a large percentage of these [agreements] I haven’t accepted because I haven’t agreed with the outcomes negotiated by the other parties. This is not one of them…I’m satisfied this is a fair and reasonable sentence.”
There was a desire to understand why the housing inspection case wasn’t brought with the false salary declaration case from last summer, and federal prosecutors said it was because they had only learned of the scheme after sentencing was set in the other case.
“The information about these charges only came to light on March 25, 2013 as a result of the co-conspirator bringing the information forward for the first time,” said one federal prosecutor. “By then we were already on the path to get the other case finished and saw no reason to postpone that sentencing…It’s just the chronology of what happened here.”
With that, there began a flurry of federal sentencing guideline calculations by Woodlock, which ended up showing that an additional year – giving four years behind bars in total – would have been the result if both cases were bundled together last year.
McLaughlin said he was sorry that he participated in the scheme and that he had crossed a line that he should not have crossed.
“I’m just sorry I’m back here on another issue,” he said. “I wish it would have been addressed in the beginning…It’s an issue that never should have happened and I am sorry for it.”
Others, such as several long-time tenants from CHA were in attendance – though there was far less of a presence in the courtroom this year as compared to last year. They said afterward that they thought he should have gotten much more time for the inspection rigging. That, they said, probably affected more people negatively than the salary scam.
“I thought it was going to be more than one year because of the condition this crime left the apartments in, and the condition of the apartment I live in,” said Gloria Purdencia of Margolis Apartments, through a translator. “I thought the punishment and fine would have been more severe.”
Mildred Valentin, also of Margolis, has been outspoken during the whole case and was one of two residents hand-picked last summer to address the court prior to sentencing. She said she still wants to know where all the missing money went to that was supposed to fix up the apartments.
“We still are wondering where the money is he took so that they can fix up my apartment and the other apartments,” she said. “Working cabinets would be very nice. The money should be found somewhere and he should be punished.”
Other tenants, however, still live in fear and were hesitant to give their names for fear of retribution – as many loyal members of McLaughlin’s staff remain on the job at the CHA.
“I thought it would have only been fair to give him a lot more time,” said one anonymous tenant. “I was thinking somewhere around another three years.”
CHA Board Chair Tom Standish said he had no opinion on the sentencing, but just felt it pointed to the numerous conspiracies perpetrated by McLaughlin.
“I would only like to express concern that so much damage has been done to CHA and it’s mission of serving some of the poorest residents of our community,” he said. “It does highlight the fact that there were three disparate cases against him and they all fell into what was a web of corruption. It crippled the operation of our organization. Just unravelling the financial aspects of the aftermath has taken years and years of work and restoration.”
The crux of this case against McLaughlin centered around a conspiracy between McLaughlin and two other men to provide the CHA with an advance list of apartments that were to be randomly inspected by the feds.
Bernard Morosco, a retired housing inspector from Utica, NY who had become a consultant, allegedly had solicited McLaughlin and proposed the scheme.
The former director of modernization, James Fitzpatrick, was also allegedly party to the scheme.
Using the list provided by Morosco, McLaughlin would send out SWAT units to hurriedly fix and repair the apartments on the inspection list – leaving all the other apartments in terrible condition. When inspectors showed up and saw such nice conditions in the apartments supposedly looked at randomly, it led to rave reviews and awards for McLaughlin and his staff.
All of it, however, was accomplished by subverting the process and cheating on the random inspections.
“The [random housing inspection] program is a vital program and we think this sentence of imprisonment beyond what he is already serving will send a message that if you game the system, there will be a high price to pay,” said one prosecutor. “That goes not only for executive directors, but also consultants and inspectors too.”
Fitzpatrick and Morosco have not made any agreements with the government in the case, and their cases are still pending in federal court.
The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) met yesterday evening to discuss – among other things – the hiring of an auditor to sort out the financial web that is still tangling up the organization.
Chair Tom Standish said they are looking to get an auditor to do some forensic accounting and clear up how much the CHA actually owes to federal and state housing organizations – money that is still missing allegedly due to former Director Michael McLaughlin hiding and/or taking it.
The current talley is somewhere between $7 million and $9 million. All of it is money that was paid to the CHA during McLaughlin’s tenure by federal and state government agencies in order to fix up apartments and make improvements. However, and this is up for dispute, none of it appears to have been used for any improvements during many years of payments.
Eventually, the CHA will have to work out a payment plan to reimburse the agencies for the missing money. However, no one is still sure just how much is missing and just how much work was not done with the money.
The auditor hired by the CHA is expected to go through the painstaking process of sorting out the situation once and for all.
Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) officials fully expect a reversal of the Chelsea Retirement Board’s decision from last month not to confiscate former CHA Director Michael McLaughlin’s personal pension contributions.
“We’re very pleased that the state Board is going to look at the decision of the Chelsea Retirement Board,” said CHA Board Chair Tom Standish. “Our expectations are it will be given a fair hearing and will result in a reversal of the Retirement Board’s decision.”
Last month, after a careful review of the situation that lasted more than eight months, Retirement Board officials issued a decision concluding that they could not take McLaughlin’s personal pension contributions, totaling $252,000, and return it to the CHA for repairs and neglect caused by McLaughlin’s criminal acts while at the helm.
McLaughlin had accumulated the sum after 43 years of contributing. The status of his full pension – meaning the state’s matching contributions – is still up in the air at the Retirement Board.
The state retirement board – known as PERAC – reviewed the local decision earlier this month, and surprisingly took umbrage with a good many of the local Board’s conclusions.
Members of PERAC reportedly had many questions about the decision, and some of those questions were quite pointed.
That discussion and review set the stage for the calling of a full hearing on June 12 where the case will be discussed by all sides before PERAC.
“PERAC’s chair had requested additional information from us,” said Chelsea Retirement Board Chair Joe Siewko. “We’ve been invited to come back for the hearing and obviously we’ll go. Hopefully, on June 12, all the issues here will be resolved.”
The situation was discussed in depth at last Thursday’s Retirement Board meeting, mostly in executive session. All communications involving the situation were also privileged at the moment as well.
The June 12 hearing at PERAC is expected to be private as well, in an executive session.
Yesterday, May 28, the CHA also discussed the matter briefly at its monthly meeting.
McLaughlin was convicted last summer of lying about his income, and just this month pleaded guilty in Federal Court to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States – a charge stemming from the secret rigging of federal and state housing inspections.
James McNichols could be considered by many to be former CHA Director Michael McLaughlin’s chief henchman in most of his schemes during the 10-year tenure, but McNichols turned on McLaughlin after the house of cards came tumbling down – eventually being the key witness last summer whose testimony ensured McLaughlin would get more time in prison than expected.
Now, barring any indictment for his own actions in the CHA debacle, McNichols is $55,515 richer.
The Chelsea Retirement Board last Thursday was forced to approve a retirement contribution refund to McNichols despite some inconsistencies with his application request – complications that had held up the matter since March.
“There is no statutory right to withhold his deductions,” said Retirement Board Attorney Brian Monahan. “We have to return them.”
Given his role in the situation, Board members were cautious about rewarding the refund – as it was unknown (and still is) if McNichols is under investigation.
In a question on the application, it asked if he was the target of an investigation. While his answer said information about him had been requested by investigators, he was not considered a target.
“The Retirement Board must take action and cannot withhold deductions unless there is an indictment,” said Monahan. “We can monitor the situation, but beyond that, there is nothing the Retirement Board can do.”
If McNichols were indicted in the future, his refund award could be revisited.