Mayor Martin J. Walsh fired 14 employees at the Boston Redevelopment Authority on Friday, marking the most significant staffing shake-up of his new administration as he began to fulfill a campaign promise to remake the city’s planning and development agency.
The overhaul included the elimination of the entire division of business development, which was created last year. The move is part of a broader consolidation across the city that aims to combine business development efforts from several agencies, according to Brian Golden, acting director of the redevelopment authority known by the acronym BRA.
“I did not believe, nor did the mayor, that this economic development unit belonged in the BRA,” Golden said. “The BRA does development and planning, that’s our core mission. And we think we do it very well. We are going to focus on our core mission.”
Beyond the business development division, Golden declined to identify the other BRA positions that had been eliminated because he said not all employees had been notified. The firings were made public Friday afternoon, a time when public agencies traditionally release negative news.
Walsh’s administration, which has vowed a new era of transparency at City Hall, would not release the names of the fired employees. Word of the dismissals sparked a flood of rumors in City Hall about who had been let go.
The redevelopment authority did not immediately respond to a public records request Friday. Golden said the agency was not legally bound to release the names because employees had three weeks to accept severance packages, and so terminations were not final. The severance package is equal to six weeks’ pay and would require the employees to sign an agreement.
The firings came after Walsh hired an outside firm to conduct a wide-ranging operational audit of the redevelopment authority. The terminations were not a result of the audit, Golden said. In his campaign for mayor, Walsh vowed to dramatically overhaul the agency.
“I would say this is a little early to judge the restructuring of the whole BRA,” said David Begelfer, chief executive officer at the Commercial Real Estate Development Association of Massachusetts. “But it is clear that he is making a statement here. Removing the business development division is indicating that he wants to see that happen in some other place.”
The BRA’s business development division had been run by Randi Lathrop, who has worked for the redevelopment authority for at least 15 years. The division was created in February 2013 to attract and retain companies in Boston and to strengthen the city’s workforce, according to the BRA.
The redevelopment authority’s website listed nine other people in the department. At least three of the employees kept their jobs and will help shutter the business development division, Golden said.
“This was an extremely painful day for everybody involved,” Golden said. “These are painful decisions, but they are also the right decisions. It is unfortunate that it has to be that way.”
Seven of the fired employees worked directly for the BRA and seven others worked for an entity known as the Economic Development Industrial Corp., which is under the redevelopment authority’s umbrella.
The fired employees are eligible for payouts for unused vacation and, if they have 20 years of service, sick time, according to the BRA.
The seven employees from the Economic Development Industrial Corp. were removed from the payroll Friday. They will receive sick time and vacation payouts totaling an estimated $55,380.
The seven staffers from the BRA’s division of business development have the legal right to request a hearing before they are removed from the payroll. Any payout for sick and vacation time will be made after a final decision from the hearings, which will occur in the next week to 10 days, according to the BRA.