Whatever the cause, Massachusetts now has numerous public housing directors who apparently have considerable time on their hands: McLaughlin worked only 15 full days in the office in 2011, based on a Globe review of cellphone records. In Peabody, WHDH-TV filmed former director Splaine frequenting Champions Pub and the Italian American Club on five days in 2009 when he claimed to be working.
Splaine did not return telephone calls. A lawyer for McLaughlin declined to comment.
McLaughlin’s close friend Kenneth Martin, meanwhile, has time enough to be the full-time housing director in Methuen and part-time director in Ayer, jobs that require a combined 57.5 hours a week and allow him to get around the statewide $160,000 cap on director’s pay. The two authorities pay Martin a combined $184,000 and, under his contracts, neither can dismiss him without paying him several years’ salary.
Joseph Lally in Winchester claims to work even more than Martin: a stunning 69 hours a week over the last three years between his $73,000 job in Winchester and his $82,000 post representing low-income people in court for the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
Lally, 59, acknowledged in an interview that his schedule is exhausting, but he insisted he is “fulfilling my obligations” to both the housing agency and his clients.
And Lally’s board said it sees no reason to question Lally’s second job as a lawyer.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Laura Glynn, the Winchester board chairwoman. “I really don’t care what he does in his off hours so long as” the agency is well-run.
But the public defenders’ office apparently did not know that he was also a housing director, and officials there immediately began an investigation when they found out.
The Committee for Public Counsel Services “has withheld all payments and all new case assignments to Attorney Lally pending completion of our audit,” wrote William E. Shay, director of audits at the public defenders’ office in a statement to the Globe on Oct. 4.
That same day, Lally called Glynn to announce his retirement after 11 years on the job — effective Oct. 5.
Susan Horner’s nearly 20-year tenure as housing director in Easton came to a similarly abrupt end when her husband provided board members with the text of e-mails using the screen name “EastonHA.”
“She is using Easton’s e-mail address to meet men for sexual relations and is doing it during company time,” wrote Mark Horner in January 2010 to board member Downey. The couple has since divorced.
The e-mails, obtained by the Globe, cover the last few months of 2009, showing Horner engaged in extensive discussions of sex and dating with several men.
“I want to go someplace with you where I can touch you, talk to you and even steal a kiss, but can’t truly have you,” wrote Horner to one man on Oct. 2, 2009.
Horner quietly resigned in April 2010, admitting only that she had “misused” authority property.
“When we came in, the place was a total disaster,” said Michael Forbes, the Mansfield housing authority executive director who is now managing the Easton agency in addition to his own duties under a contract with Easton that pays him $20,000.
“The records were a mess, the housing in disrepair, employees demoralized, and tenants extremely unhappy,” said Forbes, noting that Easton recently was ordered to repay HUD $17,475 for Horner’s poor record-keeping.
Mark Horner suggests Susan Horner’s misdeeds may have been more serious than inattentiveness: He showed a reporter a tractor with a “property of Easton Housing Authority” sticker on it at the North Attleborough home the couple once shared.
Authority records show that it was purchased for $7,500 in 2001 and “disposed” later for a sale price of zero. Greg Horne, the housing agency’s maintenance director, said he had no idea what happened to the tractor, but Mark Horner said it had been at his house for years, used to cut the grass and clear snow. He said his ex-wife claimed it was surplus.
Forbes said HUD regulators should have stepped in long ago, based on regular reports by Horner herself. But Forbes said he understood why they did not take action.
“For an agency the size of HUD, this was a tiny agency, almost irrelevant to them,” he said.
HUD officials say they’ve changed their ways since the scandals surrounding Horner, Covelle in Medford, and McLaughlin in Chelsea.
“The way things were done before — well, we do things differently now,” said Rhonda Siciliano, a HUD spokeswoman, about Easton. “There is follow-up. We take very seriously the money Congress appropriates for public housing. We want to ensure that the money is being properly spent.”Continued...