CRA chairwoman replies to article, noting board’s intent for legal review in question
We would like to take this opportunity to clarify some of the points raised by Marc Levy in the Sept. 12, 2013, article, “One year later, agency hasn’t said a word about investigation or law firm’s ‘conflict.’”
First of all, as background, the current board of directors of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority held its first meeting on May 21, 2012, soon after the appointment of four of the members by the city manager and confirmation of those appointments by vote of the City Council.
One of the first tasks the new board set for itself when it began meeting was to review the business of the CRA that was transacted during the preceding several years when it appeared that a quorum of the previous board was not meeting, at least not on a regular basis.
The purpose of the new board’s review, which it delegated to Foley Hoag (the law firm which had acted as outside legal counsel to the authority for nearly 50 years), was to determine whether any of these transactions, which included complex real estate transactions as well as extensions of and amendments to the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Plan, needed to be reconsidered and re-voted by the new board. As a result the new board took votes to “ratify” several important actions including the extension of the Urban Renewal Plan, which constitutes the basis of the CRA’s programmatic functions.
The purpose of the review was never to determine why the previous board was unable to meet for more than two years due to an apparent lack of a quorum. We realize that this question continues to perplex Mr. Levy, as does the CRA’s decision to engage Foley Hoag to determine which transactions could be considered invalid due to lack of board authorization. We suggest that perhaps there is some misunderstanding of the difference between the role of outside on-call legal counsel and that of in-house general counsel. We also commend Mr. Levy’s journalistic integrity in reporting a conversation with a highly respected member of the local bar association who did not see a legal conflict in the CRA’s use of Foley Hoag for this task.
At any rate, the current board decided to direct its main focus on the future and continues to do so. The board of the CRA has sought, in the last year since its appointment, to restore confidence in the CRA’s ability to function as a valuable asset to the City of Cambridge government as it seeks to shape the future of our city. The “new” Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is committed to conducting its business in a transparent way and to encouraging public input into all of its endeavors. We are diligent about fulfilling the CRA by-law requirements for regular public meetings. We are equally diligent about ensuring that the conduct of these meetings meets and, in many cases, exceeds all of the requirements of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. We are appreciative of the supportive and constructive input we have received from many discerning members of the public who regularly attend our monthly board meetings.
Cambridge Day asks why the board has not commented or further deliberated on one of the most widely reported aspects of the review, the apparent overpayment of certain salary and benefits to the former executive director. When the overpayments became clear through the initial review by Foley Hoag, the Board referred the matter to the law firm of Donnelly, Gelhaar & Conroy, which has expertise in such matters. The CRA’s subsequent demand for repayment has been posted on the CRA website and is a matter of public information. Because this matter is the subject of potential litigation, and because the CRA’s counsel’s investigation is ongoing, prudence dictates that the CRA Board respectfully decline to make any further public discussion or speculation at this time concerning this matter.
We appreciate the contribution of journalists committed to the full and fair reporting of the actions of public bodies and hope that this letter can add to the public understanding of the issues discussed by Mr. Levy in his article.
Kathleen Leahy Born, chairwoman of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
D. Margaret Drury, vice-chairwoman, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
Editor’s note: The authority officials seem not to have read the article very closely. Cambridge Day has made clear in it “the difference between the role of outside on-call legal counsel and that of in-house general counsel,” an explanation the board could have given at any time but has never bothered to until now, following Cambridge Day.
Also, nowhere in the article does it ask “why the board has not commented or further deliberated on one of the most widely reported aspects of the review, the apparent overpayment of certain salary and benefits to the former executive director.” Paragraph 9 of the story makes it clear that the questions being investigated and, to the best of the author’s ability, answered are: “Why the 32-month period without meetings went on unchallenged and … why was the law firm asked or allowed to investigate a period in which its own actions – or lack of same – could be considered responsible for a costly and disturbing outcome.”