Cambridge City Councillor William H. Walsh is under investigation for bank fraud by federal authorities. And, according to many of Walsh's political enemies, it comes as no surprise.
Questions about the integrity of Walsh's dealings floated around Cambridge long before the Boston Globe announced the investigation Monday, many of them arising during the decades the fourth term councillor spent building his real estate empire and solidifying his political career. They arose when Walsh started to "do business" with colleagues at city council and politically eminent Cantabrigians.
Walsh's business transactions became mixed up with the lives of colleagues such as fellow Councillor Sheila T. Russell, City Clerk Joseph E. Connarton and former Police Chief Anthony G. Paolillo. And although Mayor Alice K. Wolf acknowledged that the dealings may be construed as "potential conflicts [of interest]," Walsh maintains his innocence, despite the suspicions of a sizable political faction in Cambridge and a group of federal investigators.
Justice Department officials are probing the mechanics of a major real estate deal in Andover, according to the Globe report. Although the case is in its "early stages," investigators hypothesize that Walsh artifically inflated condominium prices to obtain larger mortgages from banks and prevent the failure of the 70-unit condo development, the Globe reported.
But Walsh firmly denies the allegations.
"There was no inflating of prices," he says. Walsh explains that "the ultimate price [of the condominiums] was based on a formula" which combined his estimate and the bank's estimate of the property value.
"To my knowledge, everything was 100 percent legitimate," Walsh says of his real estate dealings.
Life of Success
Before Walsh's career on the council started in 1985, he carved out a successful private law practice and real estate business. After his election, however, his private and public careers began to intermingle, according to the Globe, marking the start of numerous questionable dealings.
Walsh is currently involved in at least 25 law-suits in various courts throughout the state filed by former banks, clients, partners and the FDIC, The Globe reported.
The ups and downs of Walsh's real estate fortune in many ways mirror the successes and failures of area banks that loaned him money. The failure of the Eliot Savings bank in June of 1990 suspiciously coincided with the demise of many of Walsh's condominium enterprises--and many people blame him for the bank's collapse.
Councillor Edward N. Cyr says it is important to get to the bottom of the insolvency of Eliot and other banks to identify the responsible parties.
"The folks who are responsible for [the failures] that behaved inappropriately should be held accountable," Cyr says. Otherwise, the people of Cambridge and America are going to have to pay off the bank's debts, he adds.
Many Cambridge politicians and activists--mostly his political enemies--say they doubt Walsh's claim of innocence, saying that his questionable dealings have affected his impartiality as a publicly elected representative and that Walsh may be entangled in numerous conflicts of interest.
In the winter edition of the Tenant Independent, the Cambridge Tenant Union's publication, Walsh was accused in an editorial of having used his clout to block the criminal prosecution of his client, Jacqueline Rickard. Rickard was found to have "willfully violated Cambridge's Removal Ordinance," but was able to remain an alternate member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, the editorial stated.