EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 24, 2013

US Attorney says ex-Methuen official falsified records

Michael McLaughlin charged with falsely reporting his salary while director of Chelsea housing authority

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If convicted of the charges, McLaughlin could receive a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

McLaughlin, who served as Methuen town manager for more than two years in the early 1990s, could not be reached for comment. A phone message left at the office of his Boston attorney Thomas M. Hoopes was not returned.

Raised in Billerica and the son of a school custodian, McLaughlin has had a long and controversial career in politics and local government.

He got his start in town politics in the late 1960s. In 1970, McLaughlin, then just 24, was elected state representative. Six years later, he was elected to the Middlesex County Commission, which ran courts, jails, hospitals and work programs. A failed bid for Congress followed in 1978.

In 1979, McLaughlin was named executive director of the Somerville Housing Authority. He would hold the position, in addition to his role as county commissioner, until 1985.

McLaughlin went on to direct the Lowell Housing Authority in 1986. Four years later, board members accused him of politicizing the authority and bought out the remainder of his contract.

Angry Methuen residents called for McLaughlin’s resignation within weeks of his hiring as town manager in February 1990.

Within a month, town councilors had ordered a police investigation into his background and formed a subcommittee to explore a contract buyout.

McLaughlin eventually resigned under pressure from the town council in October 1992. Just a year earlier, he had already come within a single vote of being fired after councilors derided him as “power hungry” and a “ruthless politician.”

McLaughlin has been investigated for wrongdoing numerous times but never indicted, found guilty or charged — until yesterday.

“In all my life in politics, from the Lowell City Council to the U.S. Senate, no one worries me more than Michael McLaughlin,” the late-U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, a longtime McLaughlin adversary, once said.

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