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Auditors failed to bring housing chief’s pay to light

RE “AUDITORS noted, then ignored, McLaughlin pay’’ (Page A1, Feb. 12): I was mystified by the number of people whose job it was to detect the behavior of former Chelsea Housing Authority chief Michael E. McLaughlin and do something about it, but who did nothing. How is it that various certified public accountants and auditors - whose reason for being hired is to review financials and report discrepancies, and who have a professional and legal obligation to do so - either did not see or did not report the inaccurate accounting for McLaughlin’s bloated salary?

Add to this the laughable repeated statements by some of the people in question, such as “we did the work we were supposed to do’’ and “we had good people’’ doing the audits. Any student taking an introductory accounting course would look at the records and, as Robert Powilatis, a trusted aide to the former longtime state auditor, A. Joseph DeNucci, put it, “go in and pick that [salary discrepancy] up in five minutes.’’

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It appears, instead, that many people winked, shrugged, decided it’s not their job, or otherwise exhibited the ever-popular Massachusetts refrain: Close enough for government work.

If a number of people are not fired, starting with every auditor and audit firm that ever had a look at the books, then this will be seen as government business as usual.

This is also a test of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s competence and resolve. If her office, representing the public interest, does not prosecute those responsible for this McLaughlin fiasco, then that will be yet another layer added to this sordid mess.

John Herrold


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