Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to send now former BPDA middle manager John Lynch to prison for four years for accepting a $50,000 bribe from a developer to arrange a successful zoning-board vote on a South Boston condo project.
In a sentencing memorandum filed yesterday in advance of Lynch's sentencing this Friday, assistant US Attorney Dustin Chao argues that not only should Lynch, who spent most of his adult life working for the city, have known better, but:
The gravity of the offense cannot be overstated. This case has shown that development in Boston was not being played on a level playing field. That a mere $50,000 bribe could move the gears of government to favor a multi million condominium project undermines the public's confidence in its essential government institutions and erodes the public's faith in its public stewards. The public is the victim in this case.
Lynch's attorney, Hank Brennan, however, says US District Court Judge Patti Saris should not sentence Lynch to more than 30 months. He said Lynch's guilty plea to a bribery charge last September shows Lynch's remorse. Also, he has no prior record, he suffers a variety of health problems and he has the backing of numerous community leaders who wrote letters of support.
In pleading guilty, Lynch acknowledged his role in a Zoning Board of Appeals vote in 2017 to give developer Steven Turner more time to build 11-unit residential building on H Street in South Boston. The board at first rejected his request, because he'd already run out of time on a two-year extension the board had earlier granted him and he failed to appear before the board for his scheduled hearing, but then, two weeks later, voted, with no discussion, to grant him another extension.
In his role at the BPDA's Economic Development Industrial Corporation, Lynch would normally have little, if any, reason to deal with the zoning board, because its main duties involve overseeing and leasing commercial space at the BPDA's Raymond Flynn Marine Industrial Park in South Boston and the Charlestown Navy Yard.
In fallout from Lynch's case, zoning-board member and real-estate broker Craig Galvin - who voted for the extension in the first 2017 meeting and then moved, this time successfully, to award it two weeks later - resigned. Top mayoral aide and former ISD Commissioner Buddy Christopher, an architect who initially represented Turner and whose son James represented Turner at the two 2017 hearings, has taken a leave of absence.
In his sentencing recommendation, Chao writes Turner and Lynch already knew each other from their days working at the city Public Facilities Department, and that Lynch and Galvin had known each other for years as well, which led to the second of the two zoning-board votes in 2017:
The government learned that, in or about 2017, the Developer sought a buyer for a significant parcel of real estate in Boston. However, pivotal to the sale of the property was the Developer's ability to obtain ZBA approval for an extension of a permit that would allow his property to be developed into multiple residential units. In order to obtain this permit extension, the Developer entered into an agreement with Lynch whereby Lynch agreed to use his official position to advise the ZBA Member to vote in favor of a permit extension for the property in exchange for a cash bribe.
Lynch and the Developer had agreed that the Developer would pay Lynch the bribe in the form of a silent broker's fee of $50,000 after the property sale had closed. In May 2017, the ZBA Member, as per Lynch's instruction and advice, voted in favor to grant the permit extension to the Developer. After obtaining the permit extension, the Developer was able to sell his property at a substantial profit (approximately $541,000) – a profit that he would not have been able to realize without Lynch's official assistance.
Chao writes federal investigators learned of the vote deal in 2018. Based on the surveillance photo of Lynch taking cash - similar to photos taken of City Councilor Chuck Turner and state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson - they learned of the agreement before money passed hands and so were able to station agents to photograph at least one money exchange. Chao writes that the developer made several payments to Lynch between February and November, 2018, starting with a blank $25,000 check - which Lynch used to pay a contractor at a Dorchester two-family condo building he was rehabbing and which Galvin would advise him on - and finishing up with four cash payments over several months.
Chao referenced Turner specifically in arguing for a 4-year sentence:
Although Massachusetts recorded no bribery sentences for fiscal 2018, the public was reminded of an earlier corruption case when former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner passed away late last year. After being convicted of accepting a $1,000 cash bribe in return for aiding a nightclub obtain a liquor license, Mr. Turner received a 3-year prison sentence in this District on January 25, 2011. This District is thus no stranger to meting significant sentences in corruption cases.
Lynch's attorney argued a case could actually be made for no sentence at all, because Lynch's quick admission of guilt, health issues and community-leader support mean he is unlikely to commit the same crime again. Still:
Despite the argument that a sentence of imprisonment is unnecessary to promote deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation in Mr. Lynch’s situation, he recognizes the seriousness of the offense, given his role as a former public official. With that role, Mr. Lynch accepts that retribution is an important goal of sentencing and a term of imprisonment would help the public to appreciate that he received serious and significant consequences for his actions.
Prosecutor's sentencing recommendation (49k PDF).
Defense attorney's sentencing recommendation (20.1M PDF).