The board that oversees the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority will hire outside counsel to investigate the public agency’s finances, including three raises that the former director apparently granted himself.
Over a nearly three-year span when the five-member board had two vacancies and was almost entirely inactive, Joseph Tulimieri, the longtime head of the agency, increased his salary to $220,000 and received a lump sum of $400,000 when he retired last year, according to newly released documents.
In one instance, Tulimieri seemed to have given himself a $6,000 raise without any outside approval.
Tulimieri, who had continued to work for the agency part time after his retirement, resigned at the board’s request in late September after the raises came to light.
‘These are public funds. If this information is accurate, he needs to pay it back.’
A finance officer and ad- ministrative assistant have also resigned.
The unauthorized raises became public after the agency released minutes from several executive sessions since June. The raises and the $400,000 retirement payment were first reported in the Cambridge Chronicle.
The agency, which is not subject to City Council oversight, has been responsible for overseeing the redevelopment of Kendall Square for decades.
At a board meeting Wednesday, several residents questioned how Tulimieri was able to act with so little oversight for so long.
“I do think there is a real question about the decisions that were made during that period,” said James Williamson.
On Wednesday, the board also appointed Susan Glazer, the deputy director of the city’s community development department, as the agency’s interim director.
In addition to the $6,000 raise in July 2010, Tulimieri received two others that were “not properly authorized” because a vote on the raises was taken without a board quorum. At least three of five board members must be present for the vote to count.
From September 2009 to May 2012, the board took no valid votes, according to a report by the authority’s outside counsel. When the board was reconstituted this spring, it called for a review of the period of dormancy and any irregularities that occurred.
In disclosing Tulimieri’s resignation late last month, Kathleen Born, chairwoman of the board, said the report had raised concerns that “salary increases and benefit enhancements” Tulimieri received were not properly authorized.
“The authority is beginning the process of hiring independent counsel and a forensic audit firm to examine these concerns,” Born said in a statement. “The authority is committed to determining the full extent of these matters in a transparent fashion.”
The $400,000 Tulimieri received upon retirement included unused sick and vacation days.
City Manager Robert Healy said the agency is independent from direct city oversight, but that he appoints four board members who are subject to the approval of the City Council. He said that if Tulimieri’s raises were unauthorized, he should pay back the money and have his pension reduced in kind.
“These are public funds,” he said. “If this information is accurate, he needs to pay it back.”
Healy said he was aware the board had two vacancies during the time in question, but that he did not know the board was not meeting until last year.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “I knew there were two vacancies and should have moved to fill them.” Healy added that Tulimieri should have “been on my doorstep” to tell him the board had become inactive. Resident Stephen Kaiser said at Wednesday’s board meeting that the authority should determine how open seats on the board remained vacant for so long, giving Tulimieri free reign.
“There was a problem at City Hall in making those appointments,” Kaiser said.
The authority receives no city money, but runs off funds from land sales in the Kendall Square area, he said.
Tulimieri retired from the agency in January 2011, but continued to work for it part time, according to minutes of a June meeting. He is currently receiving full retirement benefits.
In minutes from the Sept. 27 meeting, Tulimieri said that “he always assumed” his raises would eventually be ratified. After the board unanimously voted that he resign, he did so.
According to an online biography, Tulimieri joined the agency in 1968 and became director in 1978.