State Ethics Commission logoUPDATED, Jan. 16: Former Inspectional Services Director Michael F. Byrne repeatedly violated the Massachusetts conflict-of-interest law by allowing his plumbing company to do work in Arlington without permits or inspections, the state Ethics Commission says.

In a Jan. 12 news release, the commission’s enforcement division alleges that Byrne, who retired from town employment in 2021, created fraudulent permits for plumbing work his company performed without permits, inspected his own company’s work, issued certificates of occupancy for properties at which his company had performed work and issued a certificate of occupancy for a property owned by a developer who had lent him money.


Read a copy of the full complaint >>

Byrne, who owned Trademark Plumbing, was director of the Town of Arlington’s Inspectional Services Department from 1997 to 2021. As director, Byrne was responsible for enforcing state building, wiring and plumbing codes within Arlington.

4 years cited

From 2016 through 2020, the Ethic Commission release says, Byrne allowed Trademark Plumbing to perform plumbing work in Arlington without permits at 37 locations and without inspections at eight locations.

The commission's order alleges that Byrne, in his capacity as a town department director, also performed inspections on Trademark Plumbing’s work at six locations, issued certificates of occupancy for two properties where the company did work and created eight fraudulent plumbing permits for work the company had performed without permits.

The order further alleges that in 2017, Byrne issued a certificate of occupancy for a building owned by a developer who had provided him with loans in 2016, 2017 and 2018 totaling $25,000. 

Said to inspect Trademark's work

The conflict-of-interest law prohibits public employees from participating officially in matters in which they or businesses they own have a financial interest. The order alleges that Byrne violated this prohibition by inspecting Trademark Plumbing’s work and issuing certificates of occupancy for properties where the company had done work.

The order also alleges that by allowing Trademark Plumbing to perform work without permits or inspections, and by creating eight fraudulent permits for the company, Byrne violated the conflict-of-interest law’s prohibition against public employees using their official positions to obtain valuable, unwarranted privileges.

Additionally, the law requires that public employees avoid acting in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to believe that they would unduly favor another person or be unduly influenced by another person when performing an official act. The order alleges that Byrne violated this requirement by issuing a certificate of occupancy for property owned by the developer who had provided him with private loans.

Pooler comments

The Ethics Commission decision is dated Dec. 15, 2022. Town Manager Sandy Pooler was asked to comment Jan. 13 about when he became aware of the investigation and allegations. He wrote: "I heard the specific allegations yesterday. I had been aware for a few months that there was an investigation, but I did not know the subject matter."

Trademark Plumbing, at 1337 Mass. Ave., was organized on July 23, 2010, by Byrne and involuntarily dissolved on Dec. 30, 2022, the state corporations database says.

Attempts to reach Byrne at two phone numbers were unsuccessful. Both were reported disconnected.

Asked to comment and indicate what the next steps are and in what court, Byrne's attorney, Daniel K. Gelb, of Gelb & Gelb LLP in Beverly, responded Jan. 13: " I am respectfully declining to comment on this pending matter." 

Hearing in 90 days

The commission’s enforcement division files an order to show cause after the commission has found reasonable cause to believe that the subject of the order has violated the conflict-of-interest law. Before filing this order, the release says, the enforcement division gives the subject an opportunity to resolve the matter through a disposition agreement.

The commission plans to schedule a public hearing about the allegations against Byrne within 90 days.

The commission is authorized to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the conflict-of-interest law.

In February 2020, Byrne was placed on paid administrative leave as town officials investigated a series of allegations made against him, then-Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine confirmed at the time, declining to comment further about the nature of the allegations.

Byrne was not suspended, Chapdelaine said then.

Tipsters at the time told YourArlington that the case involved the proponent of the proposed pub at the former Balich 5 + 10 location on Mass. Ave. in Arlington Heights. 

Attorney Michael F. Bettencourt of Stoneham, who represented James O'Rourke, proponent of the The Heights Pub, said by phone on Feb. 14, 2020, that Arlington officials had asked this week to interview his client. He said did not know any specifics about the town investigation.

Byrne retired in June 2021.


Feb. 14, 2020: Unspecified claims put director of inspections on paid leave

 


This news summary was published Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, based on information from Gerry Tuoti, public information officer of the state Ethics Commission. It was updated to add a copy of the complaint and again on Jan. 16, to add comments.