EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 23, 2013

Editorial: Cheers, jeers for come local newsmkers

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CHEERS to U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodcock, who last week exceeded the request of prosecutors in sentencing Michael McLaughlin to three years in prison.

McLaughlin, the former executive director of the Chelsea Housing Authority, pleaded guilty to lying about his salary in his budgets and then filing false reports to state and federal authorities. McLaughlin reported his salary in 2011 was $160,415 when in fact his salary was at least $283,471 and his total compensation was $324,896. McLaughlin also under-reported his salary in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

McLaughlin faced a maximum sentence of 20 years, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine on each of four counts.

Prosecutors had recommended that McLaughlin, who was a Methuen town manager in the early 1990s, receive 18 months. But Woodcock doubled that sentence, saying McLaughlin had committed “very serious crimes.”

It is refreshing to find a judge who is willing to look beyond the deals made between prosecutors and defense attorneys and hand down sentences appropriate to the crimes committed. Woodcock said McLaughlin “picked the pockets” of housing authority residents. He deserved the harsher sentence.

JEERS to McLaughlin himself, who indeed picked the pockets of the poor.

The former Chelsea Housing Authority director wept crocodile tears as he was about to be sentenced, saying that he “truly regretted” filing false reports and blamed his actions on his stubbornness and ego. We suspect the only thing McLaughlin “truly regretted” was that he was caught.

In his more than 40-year political career, McLaughlin had a track record of questionable behavior.

While a state representative in the 1970s, McLaughlin was investigated by the Middlesex District Attorney’s office for allegedly pressuring businesses to contribute to his campaigns. That case was dismissed.

While serving on the Middlesex County Commission, he was called to testify before a grand jury concerning the selling of jobs. McLaughlin repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify about his approval of jobs for high-ranking members of the Boston mob. McLaughlin was never charged.

McLaughlin lasted just two years in the early 1990s as Methuen Town Manager. He resigned under pressure in 1992. Council members called him “power hungry” and “ruthless.”

The late Sen. Paul Tsongas had him pegged: “In all my life in politics, from the Lowell City Council to the U.S. Senate, no one worries me more than Michael McLaughlin,” Tsongas once said.

His guilty plea and sentencing likely put an end to McLaughlin’s political career — an end that is long overdue.

CHEERS to the 181st Engineer Company of the Army National Guard, just returned home from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.

About 55 members of the unit, members of a detachment based in Methuen, came home last week. They were greeted enthusiastically by friends and family.

The company left from Cape Cod around Labor Day for a tour in Afghanistan, building and combining forward operating bases in remote parts of the country for use by coalition and Afghan soldiers.

“It’s been a long, long tour without my wife and kids,” Sgt. Brian Oxley, 43, a 20-year Army man, told our reporter. “It never gets any easier. It’s exciting once you get there. But seeing the smile on my children’s faces when you get in, that’s the best part. And to see my lovely wife’s face. It’s always good to see that.”

We welcome the 181st Engineers home and we thank them for their service to our country.