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In Wake of Scandals, More Scrutiny for Medford Housing Authority Board Appointment

Heather Merchant was approved by a 5-2 vote Tuesday.

As the Medford Housing Authority recovers from recent scandals, city councilors took more caution in approving a new member for the authority's board Tuesday.

Heather Merchant, of 15 Light Guard Drive was approved as the newest appointee to the Medford Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners by a 5-2 vote by the council Tuesday night. Merchant, a resident of federal housing development LaPrise Village, will be one of the board's resident representatives.

Merchant is a paraprofessional in Medford Public Schools and was selected by Mayor Michael McGlynn out of four applicants for the spot on the board. The approval is contingent on clearance by the State's Ethics Commission, since Merchant was appointed by McGlynn, who serves at the School Committee's chairman.

The housing authority's board is made up of five members and meets monthly to review the authority's budget and other administrative matters. The position Merchant will fill has been vacant for over a year. The applicants were reviewed by a three-person panel, which recommended Merchant to McGlynn.

Robert Penta and Breanna Lungo-Koehn, the two councilors who voted against the approval, wanted a closer review of the selection process in light of recent scandals at the housing authority. Penta wanted to wait until the council heard back from the ethics commission before voting on the appointment.

"We’ve had enough examples of what’s happened over at the housing authority," Penta said. "I just don’t want to add to it."

Luongo-Koehn said she wanted to review the applications of all four candidates before voting on a selection.

But, since the council is on a once-per-month meeting schedule for the summer, that would have meant waiting until August to review Merchant's appointment again.

The housing authority is in the process of picking a new board of directors, and not having the voice of a resident in that process would be "detrimental," City Councilor Paul Camuso said. He also commended Merchant for going for the job, despite the authority's recent scrutiny.

"I think its admirable of you," Camuso said. "Especially considering some of the recent news media."

Robert Covelle, the authority's former executive director, following that raised issues over projects being handed out without being put out to bid first, and

Councilor Rick Caraviello said he wanted to get approval from the ethics commission to prevent further issues.

"I don’t want to see Heather get thrown into something she doesn’t need to be,” he said.

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Public Access Producer July 11, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Excellent reporting, Jarret. I was at the Council meeting last night, but still have a few questions: 1)How long has Heather F. Merchant lived at LaPrise Village? 2)Why is her Facebook page "Heather.Janvrin Merchant" 3)Eugene McGillicuddy is married to Mayor Michael J. McGlynn's aunt. Does McGlynn's aunt, Uncle Gene's wife, work for the Medford High School where Heather Merchant works? 4)The important question: how close is Heather Merchant to the McGillicuddy family? City Solicitor Mark E. Rumley has called the Medford Housing Authority a "separate body politic." With the Mayor's aunt's husband removed by the Governor, I just wonder about someone who works for the school department when the Mayor is the Chairman of the School Committee. Way too cozy for comfort.
Richie M July 11, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Joe way to cozy for comfort is an understatement. Something stinks. As the Cicero of Alden Chambers Paul "The Candy Man" Camuso said last night: "this isn't rocket scientists here".
Public Access Producer July 11, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Richie M, it is hard to figure out which faux pas had more impact. Dello Russo's declaration that it was "decimation" when he meant to say "dissemination" (Clarence Thomas Speaks! Or why Clarence Thomas rarely speaks) or Camuso's "this isn't rocket scientists." Nor Christian Scientists...nor the Boston Museum of Science-tists...
Public Access Producer July 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
If Paul Camuso had a rock band it would be Paul C & The Rocket Scientologists!
Abe July 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Are the comments in the Tufts paper true?
Arthur DeLuca July 11, 2012 at 06:47 PM
The chairman of the School Committee does not have jurisdiction over the school system teachers; he merely chairs the School Committee meetings. Any influence the School Committee might have over any employees of the City would only be as a group; individually they have none. Roy Belson would have far more influence and even his hands are tied by union contracts.; plus the Teachers Union is very skillful in protecting its members from any political influence - where would a conflict of interest come in? Anyone picked by the mayor has a connection to the Mayor by virtue of the fact that he picked them. Sounds almost like some of the City Council are ready to pooh-pooh any and all appointments by the Mayor (big surprise, huh)? What value is there in that? I do agree that the City Council does seem to be increasing the frequency of the mis-spoken faux-pas. The name Norm Crosby came to mind when I watched last night. Can Foster Brooks' malaprops be far behind?
Jeanne Martin July 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Dear Neighbors, My comments are not personal, I do not know this woman at all, but I do know human nature. Ms. Merchant (even if just sub-consciously) may not be able to pipe up on an issue that effects all or any of the other residents in public housing for two reasons. One she is only one voice, I think there should be room for three (one from Walkling and South Medford); Two, she works for the school department and all her decisions are going to be filtered through - how it effects her paid job. I know if I were in public housing I would feel better knowing that the only board member that represented me did not also work for the Mayor of Medford. Her paid job will make her advocacy job all the harder. I hope she is willing to try and get a job as an aid in another school system close by like Somerville or Arlington. It is natural to protect yourself and your family above all others. So I recommend three resident voting reps on the Medford Housing Authority and that Ms. Merchant leave her paid job in the Medford Public Schools. I sure then, she could do a fine job representing the other tenants without undo influence. Respectfully, Jeanne Martin
Public Access Producer July 12, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Ms. Martin, your perspective is way too logical for this Administration. The Mayor wants to control this "separate body politic" and call it separate from Medford City Hall when it is not. If you argue to the City Council that it is not separate, the City Solicitor defends the Mayor's indefensible position. Notice that on April 18th I brought a video camera to the Housing Authority and the Solicitor attempted to interrupt me. Most people would be intimidated, I told Mark Rumley to sit down and asked Gene McGillicuddy the question everyone wanted me to ask Gene McGillicuddy...everyone except Mike McGlynn and Mark Rumley, that is. So when the Mayor and the Solicitor try to sell you that they are separate from the Medford Housing Authority, just keep pointing out two things: a)McGlynn's appointments that shape the board and allow him to get his own "Executive Director" in b)Mark Rumley protesting too much --- on camera. The citizens are outraged and McGlynn just keeps doing business that satisfies himself, not the residents of this city. Ms. Merchant is allowing herself to be the puppet that McGlynn can control. And let's face it, if she doesn't comply with the Chairman of the School Committee she can now lose her job. Lose her job if she doesn't vote the way the Mayor wants her to vote; the way he demands she vote.

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