September 10, 2019
City Council President Andrea Campbell has called for the creation of a full-time Inspector General position to “root out corruption” in city government as a still-unfolding federal bribery investigation has triggered the resignation of a key zoning board member and a leave of absence from one of the mayor’s closest advisors.
Craig Galvin, a Dorchester realtor, tendered his resignation as the real estate member of the Zoning Board of Appeal over the weekend.
In a statement, Galvin’s spokesperson— Dot Joyce— said that Galvin “has been honored to serve the neighborhoods of Boston where he was born, raised and has built a business.”
She added: “Due to the broad role of a zoning board member, the undefined nature as it relates to his full-time professional career, and as the board moves forward in their next chapter, Mr. Galvin felt it best to tender his resignation. It is with great optimism that the recently announced review of the board’s procedures will result in a stronger, more streamlined process for the future of the board,” the statement read.
The Boston Globe has reported that Galvin was the listing agent last year for a two-unit condo building on Ashland Street in Dorchester built by John Lynch, a former city housing official who agreed to plead guilty last week to federal bribery charges for taking $50,000 in payments from a developer to try to persuade a zoning board member to vote for an extension the developer needed on an 11-unit project on H Street in South Boston. That extension let the developer sell the project to another developer at a profit.
Universal Hub has reported that the board had initially approved the project in 2014, then granted the developer an extension after he was unable to start work before the approval ran out. Then, in 2017, the board considered granting him another extension - this time after the first extension had run out. Galvin was the only member to vote for the extension at a hearing at which the developer, named as Steven Turner, failed to appear, so the appeal failed.
At that hearing, the board's attorney told members that he had heard from John Lynch, at the time a mid-level manager at the BPDA with no direct involvement in zoning issues, in the hallway outside the eighth-flooring hearing room that Turner would not be attending the hearing.
Two weeks later, though, Galvin made a successful motion to grant Turner the extension after Turner did appear with his lawyer and his architect, James Christopher, wrote Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin.
Christopher took over the architect business he worked at from his father, William, after Mayor Walsh appointed the elder Christopher as ISD commissioner. William Christopher, who took a leave of absence on Friday from his current city job of heading up efforts to restore order in the Newmarket district, worked at the Department of Neighborhood Development with Turner and Lynch in the Menino administration, Universal Hub reported.
Walsh last week announced that he was hiring an outside law firm to review how developments get through the city zoning process in general, and a separate lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, to look at possible criminal wrongdoing spinning out of the Lynch charges. The US Attorney's office has said its investigation, which led to the charges against Lynch, is continuing.
Councillor Michelle Wu said last week that Mayor Walsh’s calls for a review “misses the point,” because it does not halt the ZBA from meeting and approving projects while, “the integrity of the board is compromised.”
On Tuesday, the Zoning Board met for the first time since the scandal erupted and it was, largely, business as usual. ZBA Chair Christine Araujo opened the hearing by noting Galvin’s departure. “Craig Galvin has resigned from the board,” she said, adding: “We thank him for his service. The board consists of five members today so [all of you] will need unanimous support for a motion [to be approved.]”
As the Zoning Board met, Council President Campbell issued her call for the creation of an Inspector General position, modeled on the permanent state position. The inspector, she said in a press release, should be hired by a “5 to 7 member advisory board that should consist of members of the community and relevant city employees.”
“Bostonians deserve a City government that is free of corruption and waste, grounded in transparency, and accountable to the people,” said Campbell. “Rather than bringing in costly outside counsel to address scandals as they arise, Boston needs an Inspector General to bring permanent, proactive, independent oversight of Boston’s city government.”
Campbell proposed that the board that appoints the inspector should include one member nominated by the mayor; one by the president of the City Council; and one by the chair of the City Council’s Committee on Ways and Means. Additionally, two members of the community “should be selected from a pool of applicants and nominated jointly by the mayor and a majority vote of the City Council.”
Campbell also said that the inspector general should serve up to two five year-terms that are “not aligned to a mayoral or City Council election.”
Currently, the city falls under the purview of the state’s Inspector General and is policed by the city’s Finance Commission, which reviews city contracts and probes complaints of wrongdoing.
"Mayor Walsh welcomes a conversation about additional oversight at the city of Boston, and that's why he has asked for an independent review of this incident and the entire ZBA,” said Samantha Ormsby, a Walsh spokesperson, in response to Campbell’s proposal.
“Mayor Walsh is going to take the action needed to get to the bottom of what happened here,” he added, “and he's fully committed to overhauling the Zoning Board of Appeal."
The ZBA-related scandal follows a month after two former aides to Mayor Walsh— Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan — were found guilty of conspiracy charges related to their role in a case involving city permits and efforts to intimidate a private business into hiring union members.
Material from WBUR, Universal Hub, and Dorchester Reporter staff Katie Trojano and Bill Forry contributed to this article. WBUR and Universal Hub share resources with the Reporter by arrangement.