Milton board backs Joyce

Vows to reassess senator's home, but says he did nothing wrong

THE THREE MEMBERS of the Milton Board of Assessors said on Tuesday that they will review and probably reassess state Sen. Brian Joyce’s home, but they indicated the lawmaker had done nothing wrong.

The hearing was held in the wake of a Boston Globe story last week that charged that Joyce’s home was vastly undervalued because of upgrades he did without the required permits. The Globe’s analysis was based on a realtor’s listing that showed the house having more living space, bedrooms, and bathrooms than listed in town records. The story quoted anonymous town officials as saying the $11,000 tax bill Joyce and his wife paid should have been closer to $27,000, a hike that would have brought the home’s value to nearly $2 million

James Henderson, the vice chairman of the board, lambasted the Globe for “singling [Joyce and his family] out for undue scrutiny.”

“If the reporter had contacted the assessor’s office, it is my belief the article would have been very different, if it was written at all,” Henderson read from a written statement. “I doubt any taxpayer in Milton would want to go through what this taxpayer is going through. It’s just not fair.”

Another member of the board, William Bennett, who was quoted in the Globe story as expressing concern about the home’s value, continued to press to have the home reassessed because of information in the realtor’s listing. Bennett said during the meeting that some of the renovations listed by the realtor could have been performed under prior permits. Henderson and the town’s chief assessor Robert Bushway said that if the house was not accurately valued, it was not because of anything Joyce did.

After the meeting, Bennett insisted his push for reassessing the house was based on his 32 years experience as an appraiser in the banking industry and had nothing to do with politics. Bennett is a member of Milton’s Republican Town Committee and Joyce is a Democrat.

“I was simply asked as an assessor and an appraiser to give my opinion,” he said.

Michael Joyce, the senator’s son, spoke at the Board of Assessors meeting and later at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen. He said he was appearing on behalf of his parents because they were dealing with a family medical emergency. Joyce offered a file of documents indicating all the work on the house had been documented by permits on file at Town Hall.

Michael Joyce said one of the discrepancies the Globe cited – that the realtor indicated the house had six bedrooms while town records said there were only five – was nothing more than the family using a “sewing room,” listed on records since 1923, as a bedroom for his younger brother Jimmy.

Bennett and Bushway said the number of bedrooms in a realtor’s listing is irrelevant. “What we might call a bedroom, someone else might call it a den,” said Bushway.

Michael Joyce also called the story part of a long line of “character assassination” by the Globe against his father. Sen. Joyce is reportedly under investigation by federal officials for mixing his law firm business with his official duties and has been admonished by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance for issues with his campaign account and has been the subject of inquiries by the state Ethics Commission, though never found in violation of the state ethics laws.

The three members of the assessors board seemed to agree there was nothing to show that Joyce intentionally misled town officials about his home value or performed work without telling anyone.

Henderson said the reassessment likely will produce a small bump up in the assessed value of the home, hiking the tax bill by a small amount. To suggest the home’s value is $2 million is “ludicrous,” Henderson said. He said after the meeting that the Globe story and his colleague got it wrong.

“There’s no reason to believe the work wasn’t done back in 2002, 2003,” he said. “We found there was not proof the work wasn’t properly permitted. There was no reason to believe the permitting was not properly drawn out. There was a lot of assumptions made and I don’t believe the assumptions were correct. We didn’t find anything to suggest that [Joyce] did anything wrong.”

Bushway told the board that the realtor’s listing was for marketing purposes and had little to do with assessment value. The Globe based its story on the asking price for the home of $1.725 million versus the assessed value of $867,500.

“The brokers very often will embellish because they’re trying to get the highest price,” Bushway said. “You can ask whatever you want for a house, but that doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll get.”

The Globe reported that town assessors had not been in the Joyce house since it was purchased in 2003, suggesting inspectors were kept in the dark about what the house looked like inside. But Bushway said because inspections are performed during weekday work hours, it’s more common than not for assessors to fail to gain entry on inspections when no one is home.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

“To be fair here, 60 percent of the time we don’t get in and it says right on our website, homeowners are not required to let our inspectors in,” said Henderson.

The Milton Board of Selectmen planned to take up the issue at their 7 p.m. meeting, but Town Administrator Annemarie Fagan said “an extensive investigation” into the Joyce issue had not been completed in time.