Mayor Michael McGlynn has asked the Executive Director of the Medford Housing Authority to resign.
McGlynn's request follows the footsteps of Gov. Deval Patrick, who asked for Robert Covelle's resignation last week. Covelle has been under scrutiny since a federal audit report released in April raised issues with the authority's financial practices. Shortly after the audit, reports surfaced that Covelle allegedly hired close friends and family for jobs and contracts.
Covelle agreed to a request from the housing authority's board of commissioners to take a two week, unpaid leave of absence starting Monday. McGlynn sent a letter to Covelle Wednesday asking he resign.
"I strongly believe that it is in the best interest of the Medford Housing Authority and the citizens of Medford that you resign," McGlynn wrote. "To do anything less could be detrimental in the relationship between MHA and the state and federal government."
The city government is autonomous from the housing authority, but four of the appointments on its board of commissioners are recommended by McGlynn and approved by the Medford City Council. The fifth member is appointed by the governor.
The audit report, conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and submitted to the authority in late March, found the authority frequently agreed to contracts without putting projects out to bid, and it did not follow federal guidelines in doling out about $8 million in federal funds in 2010 and 2011.
After learning of the audit in early April, McGlynn wrote a letter to Covelle asking for changes in procedure at the authority and the hiring of a procurement officer. He called the audit "significant and severe," but fell short of asking for Covelle's resignation.
Since then, a Boston Globe report alleged that Covelle made room for a job for close friend Sam Pirri by demoting another authority employee, and suspended an employee who questioned the use of politically-connected contractors. The scrutiny of Covelle also spread to McGlynn, who Covelle allegedly once called his consultant, the Globe report said.
In a recent meeting, authority commission members said they had been questioned by State Police and subpoenaed by a grand jury, though the details of the investigation are undisclosed. John Lonergan, the authority's director of operations, is on paid leave after admitting he sold copper pipes belonging to the authority to a scrap yard, and held the money for about a year.
Covelle, the brother-in-law of , was hired as the authority's director in 2009. He has not admitted to any wrong-doing, insisting that many of the practices at the authority have carried over from the previous administration. He had created an action plan that included hiring a procurement officer and several consultants to address the issues in the audit. It is unclear whether the authority will continue with those plans.
Two weeks ago, the Medford City Council passed a no confidence vote against Covelle by a 4-3 margin, with Robert Penta bringing the resolution forward. Tuesday night, the Penta called for the council to ask for Covelle's firing, but the vote failed, 3-4.
That vote factored into McGlynn's decision to ask for his resignation, he wrote.
"Our city council has approved a vote of no confidence in your administration; the same council that has to approve our federal appropriations," he wrote.
Covelle could not be immediately reached Wednesday night.
Patrick asked Covelle to resign through a letter from Aaron Gornstein, his housing undersecretary, on Thursday, citing the findings of the federal audit. Patrick also replaced his appointment to the authority's commission Eugene McGillicuddy with Sean Caron. McGillicuddy is related to McGlynn through marriage, he said during a housing meeting in April after being asked about his relationship to McGlynn by Medford resident and videographer Joseph Viglione.