Saturday, December 27, 2008

Springfield, Massachusetts Towing Scandal Threatens City Government

Image Contributed By "Way Cool 311 Jim"

I wouldn't want to close the greasy books on 2008 without one more post about the Springfield Towing Alliance, the subject of so much interesting ongoing scandal in Springfield, Massachusetts. I've blogged about this messy, almost-darkly-comic situation quite a bit already, click here, and also here.

But now things in Springfield have REALLY taken a serious turn...

The municipal government's functions are imperiled by spin-off from the scandal. How this came about is complicated and a bit hard to follow, but explained pretty well by two excellent articles in The Republican. Click here for the article by Dan Ring, and then click here for a subsequent article by Jack Flynn. (A reporter's name if I ever heard one)

This much I gather from the articles: Springfield has a $52 million dollar loan from the state. They're asking for additional time to pay back the loan, described as a "bail out." According to Flynn's article, the state "imposed a five-member Finance Control Board and stripped city officials of authority over municipal finances." OUCH!!!!!

The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, is willing to work with the city, but he's being opposed by two legislators. One of the legislators, Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, seems to be involved in legitimate political horse-trading, asking for stuff like requiring a residence requirement for new city employees. The really inexplicable opposition comes from a legislator named Benjamin Swan. He's apparently willing to let city functions come to a screeching halt because, oh gee, some report hasn't been released yet about the Towing Alliance scandal, and how well the city handled that matter.

Well, guess who owns Swan? The Springfield Towing Alliance. From the sound of things, they have clear title to Swan's soul. The president of STA, Robert L. Jones, has contributed money to Swan and Swan has rented property to Jones. And yet Swan has the nerve to say he wants the city to be "fair and objective" in the awarding of contracts.

Swan claims he is "waiting for the state Inspector General's office to complete a review" of the situation with the Towing Alliance, and their loss of the contract for, well, massive malfeasance. (Well, Swan didn't say that LAST part. He is keeping an open mind, it appears, even though the Towing Alliance lost in court, so what is there to review?)

Though you wouldn't think two legislators could impact the fate of a bill so completely, apparently that's the way the votes stack up. While Swan "couldn't be reached for comment" (Dude, check the impound lot) the situation is being described as a "perfect storm" which will cause layoffs and service cutbacks if loan relief doesn't pass.

Ah, Springfield. I'm sure when it's spring, I'll still be writing about Springfield.

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