Governor Deval Patrick said today the state government is “working real hard” to ensure former Chelsea Housing Authority chief Michael McLaughlin does not retire with a record state pension after admittedly misleading state and federal overseers about the true scope of his annual salary.
The Globe reported late last month that McLaughlin was in line for a $279,000 annual pension - which would be the highest paid by the state - after secretly earning up to $370,000 per year - perhaps the highest public housing authority salary in the country.
McLaughlin subsequently resigned as the authority’s executive director, but not before ordering checks issued to him for what he said was over $200,000 work of unused sick, vacation, and personal days.
He was able to cash one worth over $80,000 before authorities stopped payment on the rest of the money.
“We’re working real hard to make sure that isn’t the case, but there’s still some work to do before I can give a definitive answer,” Patrick said of the requested pension this morning during his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM.
Voice rising, he added: “But, look: Who could possibly support an outcome like that? Who could possibly support an outcome like that? I certainly don’t.”
The governor noted that both the state and federal governments are investigating the propriety of McLaughlin reporting a salary of $160,000 while his true pay was higher, as well as a succession of contract changes that gave him annual raises averaging about $25,000 for the past 11 years.
Patrick said such high pay was unjustified “when we’re having to hold the line on our support of the housing authorities at a time when there’s tremendous pressure for that housing. It’s an outrage.”
Patrick also repeated his criticism of the Globe for reporting about more than 80 phone calls during the past seven months between McLaughlin and his own No. 2, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray.
Murray told reporters last week that the two spoke about housing and political issues, but the lieutenant governor also acknowledged referring McLaughlin’s son for a state job. In addition, sources told the paper that McLaughlin and Murray spoke within hours after the newspaper began questioning the housing director about the hefty salary.
Patrick himself said he was “boiling” mad after first hearing the figure.
“For the whole public, including me, what McLaughlin did was a breach of the public trust. You add to that, in the lieutenant governor’s case, there was a breach of his personal trust, because they knew each other. And frankly, no one was as angry as the lieutenant governor,” said Patrick.
Recalling how he bristled last Friday as reporters asked him and Murray about the calls, Patrick said: “What I was reacting to, what I knew, is there’s a big part to this work that is about insinuation, it’s about, you know, this notion of guilt by association, that the lieutenant governor is somehow tainted because he knew the guy and talked to him is, I think one of the reasons why a whole lot of people don’t get into this business.”
When co-host Jim Braude asked Patrick whether he had encouraged Murray to sit down with reporters and answer questions about his recent serious car crash, as well as the McLaughlin calls, Patrick said: “I think he’s answered those questions over and over again, and I think if you have others, you need to direct them to him.”
And when Braude noted that Murray has spoken to reporters for only a few minutes about the McLaughlin contacts, Patrick said: “Like I said, if you have other questions, ask him. I think he’s been very, very forthcoming.”
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.