In the Roxbury real estate community, Carl Hyman is described as a likable and helpful figure who has helped guide improvements in the neighborhood through his longtime position as a senior property manager in City Hall’s Department of Neighborhood Development.
Few know this: Since 1998, Hyman and a former city employee have led a real estate firm named Melbourne Street Partners, which has bought, developed, and sold properties near such hot spots as Highland Park and Dudley Square — areas Hyman’s agency helped nurture.
In 2000, the city agency also awarded the former city employee, architect Harold Raymond, about 100,000 square feet in discounted Roxbury public property. Hyman, who oversees unused city property as part of his job, never disclosed that Raymond was his business partner.
Neighborhood development officials say Hyman’s involvement in a real estate company while he works for the city does not constitute a conflict of interest under the city’s regulations. And, through the company’s lawyer, Jim Marano, Hyman denied any connection between his private business strategies and his public job.
“It’s never crossed paths as all,” Marano said. “It’s simply an investment entity that only owns a few properties.”
Recently, Melbourne Street Partners became entangled in the business dealings of a Roxbury family profiled in a recent Boston Globe series on alleged real estate fraud. Since the stories were published, Raymond has been the subject of an attorney general investigation that will, in part, look into the activities of the family, led by Rolando Pam.
In addition to his stake in Melbourne Street Partners, Raymond is a listed director of the Franklin Field South New Housing, a limited liability company that was awarded 100,047 square feet of vacant Roxbury land in November 2000. The LLC was given the land at a hugely discounted rate after winning approval from the Department of Neighborhood Development and the office of then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
For months, Hyman and Raymond have not responded to phone calls requesting their comment about Melbourne Street Partners, its business practices, or its several lawsuits against Rolando Pam and two of his sons, Tyler and Kyle.
Raymond and Hyman, records show, started Melbourne Street Partners in the late 1990s with developer Warren Fields after the two spent years working together in the Neighborhood Development department, which develops affordable housing, revitalizes business districts, and manages city-owned lots. Deed transfers show the company purchased one property on Tremont Street in 1999 for $600,000 but remained otherwise inactive until around 2004, just as Menino published his Roxbury Strategic Master Plan with the help of the department in which Hyman works.
Menino identified key areas of Roxbury for possible development: among them Bartlett Yard — the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s 374,300-square-foot bus depot.
By the end of 2004, Melbourne Street Partners owned three properties about a half-mile from the proposed project: a property on Highland Park Avenue, bought in October 2003; a vacant lot on Fort Avenue, bought in January 2004; and a three-decker on Beech Glen Avenue, purchased in August 2004, according to records.
In November 2004, records show, Hyman privately bought another three-decker, on Atherton Street, for $400,000. Hyman then transferred the property to Melbourne Street Partners for $1 in 2006, around the time MBTA and Boston Redevelopment Authority began to formally explore private development at Bartlett Yard. The Atherton Street property, near Egleston Square, is about one mile from Bartlett Yard.
A year later, Melbourne acquired its last property, a home on Marcella Street, for $1. The firm acquired the property from Raymond, who had purchased it in 2005 for $460,000. This home is also located about a half-mile from Bartlett Yard.
Records show the firm has reaped the benefits from rising home values in the area. For instance, Melbourne Street Partners purchased the Beech Glen Avenue property for $535,000, then renovated and sold it as three individual units years later for a total of about $900,000.
Last year, in a project more than a decade in the making, community developers began renovations at Bartlett Yard, which will become a mixed-use development space called “Bartlett Place,” with hundreds of housing units, an open-air market, and arts and entertainment venues. The project is being privately spearheaded by a local nonprofit, Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, and Windale Developers Inc., which jointly acquired the former MBTA yard and won development approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
If Hyman and Melbourne Street retain their current properties, they will almost certainly continue to grow in value.
Under state and city ethics guidelines, it is not inherently a problem if a public employee is involved in a real estate company — even if that employee stands to benefit from activity overseen by the development agency.
Yet, the arrangement could raise questions of a potential conflict. Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, the state ethics watchdog group, said private business relationships by government officials almost always require a closer examination.
“Anytime you have a private business and are working in government, there’s a potential for both the perception of conflict of interest and real conflict of interest,” Wilmot said.
Lisa Pollack, spokeswoman for the Department of Neighborhood Development, said department leaders were unaware of Hyman’s role in Melbourne Street Partners until the Globe contacted them for comment; she said Hyman never disclosed the company to superiors.
But Pollack also said disclosure requirements would kick in only during highly specific circumstances: if Hyman were a direct participant in the city’s work around Bartlett Yard, if he coordinated with colleagues who directly worked on the project, or if Melbourne Street Partners opposed city activity at a property directly adjacent to its own lot.
“There is no requirement under state ethics laws that we investigate our employees’ activities outside the workplace, especially when there is no reason to believe that there is a conflict,” Pollack said in an e-mail. “Should an employee be found to have violated these policies, it would result in rapid disciplinary action.”
Though Hyman never worked on the specific city team that oversaw the Bartlett Yard development process, land records indicate he, through Melbourne Street Partners, developed a property next to another city-owned lot. The Marcella Street property his company purchased and renovated is surrounded by public land, including a city-owned vacant lot directly next door, at 127 Marcella St.
However, since Hyman never interacted with the city property, meaning he did not oppose a zoning issue there as a private business person, Pollack said he was not required to disclose his company.
“There’s no connection in Carl Hyman’s role in the City of Boston and any decisions [Melbourne Street] has made,” said Marano, Hyman’s lawyer. “None.”
City payroll records show Hyman, a longtime employee of the agency’s real estate team, was hired in 1992, earned more than $88,000 in 2015, and now holds the title of senior project manager. Officials said Hyman is responsible for the management of city-owned parcels, which means coordinating property preservation, performing inspections, and overseeing demolitions at both public and private properties.
Recently, records show, Melbourne Street Partners has fallen into disarray after it became entangled with Pam and his two sons. The Pam family has been accused in civil litigation of trying to illegally obtain more than 20 properties worth at least $6 million.
In 2010, Melbourne Street Partners sold its properties on Highland Park and Fort Avenue to Tyler Pam for $300,000, then later claimed in court that Pam never paid the agreed-upon price.
In another lawsuit filed later in civil court, Hyman and Melbourne Street Partners claimed Rolando and Tyler Pam conspired to defraud the firm of millions of dollars in property. The lawsuit alleges that the Pams worked with Raymond to illegally acquire two of the firm’s properties, on Tremont and Marcella streets.
Previously, Rolando and Tyler Pam denied wrongdoing in these cases but refused to detail how long they have known Hyman and Raymond or the extent of their business relationship.
Through Marano, Hyman denied knowing the Pam family and asserted that the Pams’ relationship is strictly with Raymond. Marano portrayed Hyman and Fields — two-thirds of the Melbourne Street Partners — as innocent victims in another one of the Pam family’s controversial real estate activities.
“They just haven’t been able to get away with this one,” Marano said.
Raymond, who also sits on the board of Boston Renaissance Charter School, has not returned calls and a letter requesting comment.
The firm’s most recent lawsuit against the Pams is pending in Suffolk County civil court while lawyers provide discovery evidence. In total, Melbourne Street Partners has sued Rolando Pam and his sons over four separate properties, which constitute more than two-thirds of its total portfolio.