Walsh to audit Menino’s BRA

Alleged personal tensions between Marty Walsh and Tom Menino made for great tabloid fodder during last fall’s mayoral election. The Herald painted the Walsh and Menino clans as Hatfields and McCoys in triple-deckers, and chalked up the supposed bad blood to everything from playground battles to patronage contests. On Sunday, the Herald outlined a much more likely source of tension between Boston’s new mayor and its former leader: Walsh wants to conduct a top-down audit of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Walsh ran on a promise of tearing down the BRA, and during last week’s inaugural address, Walsh committed to overhauling the powerful development agency, and restructuring Boston’s economic development bureaucracy. The first step in that process appears to be a very deep, very public examination of the way things worked under Menino — how decisions happened, who benefitted, who got punished, and whether any of it followed any sort of predictable rules.

The Globe provided a taste of what Walsh’s auditors are sure to find late last month, when a months-long investigation by Sean Murphy found the BRA mismanaging affordable housing funds, cutting deals with the Menino administration’s favored developers, and slipping millions of dollars worth of financial favors past a board that seldom bothers to cast an inquisitive eye on the projects it greenlights. Murphy’s report showed the BRA acting in a way that confirmed the suspicions of the agency’s most acerbic critics. And now the agency is facing a deep forensic audit of its finances and decision-making.

We’ve seen this play before. Three years ago, when Suzanne Bump took over the state auditor’s office, her first act was to audit the department she was inheriting. That audit proved ruinous for Bump’s predecessor, longtime auditor Joe DeNucci, because it cast serious doubts over the competency of the agency that DeNucci ran. Several of DeNucci’s former staffers were either fired or forced to resign. And it all fell back on DeNucci himself.

On its face, Walsh’s BRA audit doesn’t look personally aimed at Menino, but when one guy has been calling the shots for the past 20 years, and when the shot-caller in question is a notorious micromanager, whatever Walsh’s auditors find at the BRA is bound to reflect poorly on Menino. The former mayor, more than anyone else, surely knows this.



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