YOU CAN’T turn around in Chelsea today without bumping into an auditor. But during much of the last decade, former Chelsea Housing Authority chief Michael E. McLaughlin disguised most of his obscenely high pay from state and federal housing officials and peeled off $40,000 in authority funds to pay off a sexual harassment claim. And no one was the wiser.
McLaughlin was a creature of a clueless — or worse — board that put him in office in 2000 over the strenuous objections of Guy Santagate, the former Chelsea city manager. Santagate beseeched the five-member board - the majority of whom he had appointed - to steer clear of McLaughlin. He had a slam dunk argument. Why would a small city with a history of City Hall and police corruption so great that it was just a few years removed from state receivership take a chance on McLaughlin - a shadowy former county commissioner who had been linked by wiretap to a convicted mobster?