Following the money through City Hall

Lots of questions, but few answers in bribery case

THERE ARE several loose threads spilling out from the case of John Lynch, who pled guilty in September and is currently scheduled to be sentenced in January for accepting bribes.

A longtime City Hall aide who worked at the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Lynch pocketed $50,000, allegedly from developer Steven Turner, to influence the vote of a Zoning Board of Appeal member Lynch knew so that zoning permits for a South Boston property would be extended, according to the Boston Globe.

Even the basic mechanics of the crime are puzzling, because as Mayor Marty Walsh pointed out during an appearance on Boston Public Radio earlier this month, those permit extensions are granted “99 percent of the time.”

“I can’t quite understand. It feels like there’s more to this story,” Walsh said.

He isn’t the only one to think there is more there. Reporters have scoured public records to look for other shady dealings, and have made some intriguing finds.

Callum Borchers at WBUR discovered that Lynch built his home in the Clam Point section of Dorchester on a patch of ground he had bought from a retired police officer who had earlier received an $11,600 loan at zero interest from the Department of Neighborhood Development where Lynch worked. It would seem pretty crooked if the city loan had anything to do with the sale.

Inquiries have also extended beyond the transactions in which Lynch had a direct role.

The hasty and unexplained resignation of Craig Galvin from the zoning board about a week after the charges against Lynch focused some curiosity on the Dorchester realtor.

Yesterday, WGBH reporter Isaiah Thompson turned up an interesting series of coincidences involving Galvin. On at least four occasions, after taking votes to grant lucrative zoning variances to properties, Galvin was later the real estate broker for the sale of those properties. There aren’t records indicating what Galvin got out of the deal, but as Thompson notes, brokers typically receive a commission on sales.

Galvin recused himself from votes on properties in which he had an actual and contemporary financial interest, and there don’t appear to be any rules expressly prohibiting him from having a future business relationship with someone who benefitted from a zoning board vote. Still, Greg Sullivan, the former state inspector general, says officials “should not be benefiting in any way remotely” from zoning board decisions.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling secured Lynch’s guilty plea, and one of the big, enduring questions is how much more corruption the federal prosecutor will find, and how much will he be able to root out. It’s hard to imagine the story ends with Lynch.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Eight years ago, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was convicted of a bribery scheme where he took $65,000 in direct payment. To many, that seemed like a measly sum for a once-heralded and powerful Democrat to risk his freedom and reputation.

With Lynch, the $50,000 bribe appears out of balance in the other direction. Why would anyone pay so much to a City Hall aide to steer a board towards a vote it would presumably be inclined to make anyway?

You might call that the $64 million question.