In the scandal over political fixer Michael McLaughlin’s stewardship of the Chelsea Housing Authority, one big mystery has been how the public housing agency managed to receive high inspection ratings from federal overseers even as it lost track of millions of dollars in federal modernization funds and paid McLaughlin an outrageous salary. A recent Globe story hinted at a disturbing possibility: that someone with inside information from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development tipped the Chelsea authority in advance about which of its units would be subject to surprise inspections.
Federal prosecutors, with good reason, are looking into that possibility, but the question of how to prevent future abuses in other communities remains. It’s not clear HUD officials understood just how much it could be worth to a local authority to perform well on the mandated inspections. For if they did understand, the department would surely have taken more aggressive steps to protect the integrity of the process.