More Housing Hijinks

James Shearer
Spare Change News

Back in early March, local housing authorities in Massachusetts gathered with local lawmakers. The reason? Well, basically the greedy housing barons were crying in their overpriced beers that the Governor was being unfair to them just because one bad apple did indeed try to steal the show.

You may remember one Michael McLaughlin, who was once the director of the Chelsea Housing Authority.

Yes, boys and girls, that Michael McLaughlin, who as director lied to state officials about how much money he was making, which was according to reports was far more than what the governor makes.

There was also some talk of diverted funds, bogus contracts, etc., and things got quite ugly. Once Mr. Mac was out of the way the Governor appointed a task force to look into the housing authority administration processes and see how they do business and come up with some recommendations.

Those recommendations did not exactly favor or please housing authority heads, the major one being regionalization, meaning that instead of authorities having individual control as they do now each (all 244 of them) would have to report to a regional director appointed by the state.

And of course the authority barons didn’t want that because the state would not only curtail the underhanded ethics of some of these places, but also make them actually do their jobs.

So while the housing barons saw that there was need for some oversight, they were hoping that a compromise could be reached and business could pretty much continue as usual.

Then came Medford. In late April, it seems another housing baron had got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I submit one Robert Covelle, director, or should I say suspended director of the Medford Housing Authority.

Seems our friend Robert hasn’t been playing by the rules. Allegedly Covelle has been engaged in some shady hiring practices and showing favoritism when it comes to handling contracts. There are also accusations of theft as well as a HUD audit that raised concerns, allegations from that audit include failing to inspect or reinspect units in its Housing Voucher Programs, which costs the agency thousands of dollars.

This should come as no surprise as there have been rumors and allegations from housing advocates for years about how housing authorities ignore inspections, which forces tenants to live in sub-standard conditions and are afraid to speak out, fearing they could lose their housing.

Also along with the non-inspections come more concerns over lack of control of employee credit cards and a little something called excessive allowances for employee travel.

This all adds up to one stinking pile of goo. And the worst part is that the Governor can’t fire these clowns. They are subject to review to a four-member state panel which the Governor has control over, and he has indeed fired one member of that panel who has supported the embattled Medford Housing Chief.

Let’s hope that is the first shot across the bow to let these agencies know that their continued hijinks will not be tolerated.

JAMES SHEARER is a co-founder and board president of Spare Change News.





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