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editorial

Too late, HUD pressures Chelsea on wasted $7 million

Belatedly, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development is applying the kind of heat that the Chelsea Housing Authority needed to feel years ago. Between 2002 and 2009, the authority received $7 million in grants to modernize its low-income apartments. But the local agency seems not to have made many of the promised improvements; evidence suggests that, instead, now-deposed director Michael McLaughlin used much of the money to pay puffed-up salaries and expenses for himself and his top aides — right under the not-so-watchful eyes of the authority’s board, its auditors, the state, and HUD itself.

It was gratifying to learn, in a Globe story Monday, that HUD is considering whether to ask the Chelsea authority to repay the $7 million. The authority, in turn, revealed that it may seek money back from McLaughlin and from the auditors who reviewed the financial statements that his team submitted. The moves should make it clear that everyone in the public-housing funding chain — from HUD to state government to local authorities to their executives, board members, and auditors — bears some responsibility when money intended to assist low-income people instead helps facilitate a $360,000-a-year salary for a small city’s public housing director.

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