A photograph filed in federal court late Friday shows former City Hall employee John M. Lynch “grabbing thousands of dollars in cash as part of a corrupt bribe,” according to court records that called for Lynch to be sentenced to at least four years in prison.
“Figuratively speaking, the defendant got caught with his hand in the cookie jar,” Assistant US Attorney Dustin Chao said in court records, adding, “Lynch used his city position and official influence to aid a crooked developer so that he could line his own pockets with cash.”
Lynch, 66, a city employee for more than two decades until he resigned in August, is slated to be sentenced in federal court Jan. 24 for taking a $50,000 bribe to help a Boston real estate developer. The photograph provided a damning portrait of the crime as prosecutors seek to justify their recommended sentence.
Prosecutors say he took the $50,000 bribe in installments. In the photo, dated October 2018, he is shown leaning into the front seat of a car, the door open, and being handed a stack of bills said to total $5,000. The records do not identify who is handing him the money.
Lynch, who had been assistant director of real estate at the Economic Development Industrial Corporation, pleaded guilty to the bribery and to tax fraud, and faces 46 to 57 months under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors also asked that he forfeit $50,000, and pay $14,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
“The gravity of the offense cannot be overstated,” Chao said in court records. “This case has shown that development in Boston was not being played on a level playing field.”
The charges, which were first disclosed in a federal court filing in August, rippled throughout City Hall, leading to resignations on the staff of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Zoning Board of Appeal.
Lynch admitted to taking the $50,000 bribe to help a developer receive a favorable vote in May 2017 from a member of the Zoning Board of Appeal. The vote enabled the developer to sell a property at a $541,000 profit. Prosecutors did not identify the developer, but the Globe has reported that he is Steve Turner, a longtime friend of Lynch, and that the property in question was a multi-condo development on H Street in South Boston.
The court documents filed Friday shed no light on how authorities captured the image of Lynch being handed cash.
The charges led to the resignation of William “Buddy” Christopher, one of Walsh’s top aides. As the former head of the inspectional services department, Christopher’s staff oversaw the zoning board’s duties. Before he joined City Hall in 2014, Christopher had been the original architect for the H Street project, and his former architectural firm — now managed by his son — continued to manage the project at the time of the 2017 vote.
Prosecutors have not identified the zoning board member who resigned by name, referring to him as a real estate agent with ties to Lynch. In September, zoning board member Craig Galvin — a real estate agent who has done business with Lynch — resigned from the board amid questions about whether his dual roles constituted an inherent conflict of interest.
Galvin, who has not been accused of a crime, would only say at the time that his resignation was in his best professional interest, and would allow the zoning board to move forward.
City officials later said that prosecutors have requested documents from the city involving Galvin, though the nature of that request remains unclear.
The zoning board is the gatekeeper for countless development projects, big and small, that have forever altered the landscape of Boston in recent years, and the accusation of wrongdoing by a board member cast a cloud of scrutiny over the development permitting process in Boston.
Several city councilors called for the city to reform the zoning board, to provide for more oversight; Councilor Lydia Edwards called for a total overhaul of how the board is made up, to include more community members with no ties to the development industry.
Walsh’s office said it commissioned a review of the board’s policies and procedures. Laura Oggeri, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Friday that the review is nearly complete. She said the mayor has been in contact with city councilors and could recommend changes in a matter of weeks, with more technical recommendations sooner.