By Michael Gaffney
I had heard a rumor that the property at 1398 Main Street was going to become a drug rehab facility and the administration and certain state representatives were well aware of it, but conspired to keep it a secret. So, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, I sent the following to the City Manager’s office:
I’ve heard rumors that the property at 1398 Main Street is being considered for a Rehab Center and that two of our local state representatives are backing this project.
To my knowledge the neighborhood has not been informed.
I hope that this is just a vicious rumor without any merit.
Just outside of one hour later, the rumor was confirmed, the administration knew all along, here was their response:
Good morning Councilors,
The Manager has asked me to reach out to inform you that the owner of the proposed facility located at 1398 Main Street has been working with Commissioner John Kelly on the permit process and has offered to host a neighborhood information session to answer questions about this project. Commissioner Kelly will work with the owner and the Webster Square Neighborhood Association to set something up over the next few weeks and will advise once a date and location have been determined, in the meantime John can answer questions either of you may have about the proposed use.
Within the last year, Councilor Tony Economou and others demanded that the neighbors and Council be informed of any proposed centers or nonprofits, so it was rather shocking that the administration would fail to inform either party.
On August 17, 2017, the Telegram & Gazette printed an article titled “Neighbors slam rehab facility planned for Main St.” Overall, a fine reporting of the back and forth at the meeting, but it fails to dig into the players involved or point out that the administration knew of the plan and deliberately failed to disclose it despite a clear and unequivocal order to do so from Council.
So, here is what was reported by the Telegram:
WORCESTER – Irate residents filled a Main Street church Thursday night to speak out against plans to build a rehabilitation facility for recovering addicts at the former Anna Maria Rest Home at 1398 Main St.
For two hours residents of the neighborhood asked questions and voiced concerns about plans for an extension of Washburn House, another facility that recently opened at 1183 Main St. Washburn House founder Timothy Rassias explained that the currently operating facility provides care that focuses more acutely on detoxification and the earlier stages of recovery. The planned extension at the former rest home would take those same clients and house them for a longer period of time to bolster their recovery. He said the new building would be able to accommodate up to 32 beds.
Residents said they were upset at the very short notice of Thursday’s meeting, held at Christ the Rock Fellowship Church, and many said they felt like the meeting was meaningless, since the plans for the facility appear to be finalized.
Unfortunately, the meeting was meaningless, the deal is already done.
But, an important question was never asked, other than why the City failed to disclose, is:
Who is this developer?
According to the New York Times, January 22, 2005, Mr. Rassias has an interesting background:
William F. Galvin, the Massachusetts secretary of the commonwealth, filed a civil complaint against Cantella Securities Inc. yesterday, contending that it did not supervise two brokers accused of selling unregistered hedge funds to unqualified buyers.
Mr. Galvin said 41 individual investors lost almost all of the $3.5 million they invested in hedge funds created by two brokers affiliated with Cantella of Boston.
”These are average middle-class people who suddenly found themselves taken advantage of,” Mr. Galvin said.
Michael Frasier of Cantella’s compliance department said only that the two executives named in the suit were no longer with the company.
Mr. Galvin said two Cantella representatives in Worcester, Mass., James Pangione and Timothy Rassias, began improperly selling hedge funds in 1999. A lawyer for the two did not respond to a voice mail message. A civil suit Mr. Galvin’s office filed against the brokers is pending.
A rehab center dumped in South Main run by a person that allegedly took advantage of “average middle-class people” to the tune of $3.5 million. I’m sure they we be an excellent neighbor.
But how does this happen? Wouldn’t the City protect its residents from having a rehab center dumped in one of its neighborhoods?
The Telegram went on to note the involvement of two of our local state representatives, one of which is in the employ of Mr. Rassias. To be clear, this is not their district. Could you imagine if either of these two were to suggest putting a rehab center over in their district, the West Side?
State Rep. James O’Day, D-West Boylston, and state Rep. John Mahoney, D-Worcester, both said they’ve been involved with Mr. Rassias’ efforts to start other rehabilitation facilities and spoke highly of the quality of his work. Mr. Mahoney said Mr. Rassias hired him over the summer. He described his role as a “part-time employee,” and said in the past he has done marketing work reaching out to doctors and other professionals. One resident questioned that relationship as a potential conflict.
Potential conflict is right! Rep. Mahoney admits he works for Mr. Rassias. So does Rep. O’Day, but according to the article, he didn’t disclose that rather important fact.
What both State Rep. James O’Day and John Mahoney also failed to disclose is their membership at the Tatnuck Country Club with Mr. Rassias. I’ve confirmed the membership, but attempts to find out who sponsored and paid for their membership were unsuccessful. Who paid? Who sponsored? Good questions, but the fact that they failed to disclose a close personal relationship with Mr. Rassias is troubling.
Did the City fail to inform the public because of intervention by both state representatives on behalf of Mr. Rassias?
Can we trust Rep. James O’Day, allegedly a player in the Probation Scandal? According to the MetroWest Daily News:
Also on Monday, Rep. James O’Day was called to the stand in the trial of three former probation officials and said that in July 2007, two months after he had been elected to the House, DeLeo himself called to ask if his district included Clinton and to let him know about a job opportunity at the new electronic monitoring, or ELMO, facility.
O’Day’s recommendation, Stephen Ware, applied for a job at ELMO on Sept. 5, 2007, and John O’Brien, who was then the probation commissioner, wrote a letter also dated Sept. 5, 2007 to the chief justice of administration and management, saying O’Brien was appointing Ware to the job of acting assistant electronic monitoring coordinator with a starting salary of $40,446, according to evidence presented Monday.
The neighborhood is about to have this project forced upon them by a City administration that played along and said nothing. It is clear from their immediate response that the City was well aware of this project. The project is being backed by two state representatives with conflicts of interest, potential financial gain, and a spotty history of ethical decision-making.
Of course, they aren’t putting in their district, just dumping it in South Main, as far away from the country club as possible.