Speliotis owes taxpayers an explanation on why he helped developer get special treatment

20 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Let’s call it what it is and all agree that it was a questionable deal that allowed a developer to get a no-bid contract to construct a state-of-the-art sports complex on the grounds of the Essex Technical Regional High School in Middleton.


Ted Speliotis

The developer, a company named Edge Sports, was not only granted the rights to build the $11 million facility on public property, it won the contract with no competition. Instead of following state law, which requires that taxpayer rights be protected through an open bidding process on such projects, Edge was granted the contract through a line item added to a larger spending bill on Beacon Hill, according to the Salem News.

Was that legal? Well, the Office of the Inspector General and the State Ethics Commission will need to decide, and a source tells us that state oversight officials are looking into whether there was a violation here.

For now, though, Ted Speliotis – our State Rep, who co-sponsored the legislation that gave Edge the edge outside of the open bid process – has some explaining to do to the taxpayers he represents in West Peabody, Middleton and Danvers.

Not only didn’t he help his constituents receive the protection of the open bid process, he helped pass essentially an “earmark” that will give Edge Sports the opportunity to lease the property at our vocational school for free.

There is a lot that smells with this deal, and so far, we the taxpayers should not be satisfied with the response from Rep. Speliotis.

According to the Salem News, Speliotis said in a phone interview this week that he did not pay close enough attention when the deal was being negotiated.

“I did go along with it, but it was really my colleagues who amended this thing” to require that the lease be awarded to Edge Sports without a competitive bid process or review by the state Inspector General, Speliotis told the Salem News.

Instead of “passing the buck” on this one, Ted, how about giving the taxpayers you represent a real explanation on how you just didn’t look out for our best interests?

Recount confirms Charest win in Ward 4, Hochman will further contest results

19 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Although it’s not quite as significant of a news story as the 2000 Florida Presidential Primary dispute, it appears that last night’s recount of the vote in Peabody’s Ward 4 Councilor election wasn’t enough to settle matters.


Ed Charest

For the record, there was no change following a professionally managed recount by City Clerk Tim Spanos and his team. As was determined on Election Day just over two weeks ago, Ed Charest still held a four-vote lead over Jarrod Hochman.

But while Charest celebrated with his supporters, including outgoing school committee member Dave McGeney and his family, Hochman continued to dispute the final results.

We’ll follow this as we can, and bring you more details, but for now, here’s what Jarrod Hochman posted on Facebook this morning to his supporters:

From Jarrod Hochman via Facebook


Jarrod Hochman

The recount occurred last night. The Clerk’s office and staff as well as the Election Commission and staff performed their functions admirably and with class and dignity. I thank them all for that.

I also wish to thank my supporters and observers for taking time from their already too busy and complicated schedules to volunteer on my behalf, I am flattered and humbled by their generosity in time and affection.

While the “count” did not change for my opponent or myself, good and valuable information developed before and after the recount. Sufficient ballots are under protest, as well as numerous procedural and legal questions remain that are not able to be addressed at the recount phase, which exceed the differential in this race. We have solid grounds to bring this matter for judicial review and that is precisely what will occur. The result is still in question.

I will provide updates as things proceed.

Thank you again for all of your support, it is heard and appreciated!

More potentially interesting developments to come. Stay tuned.


Ethical questions arise over construction of new sports complex at regional voke school

16 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Following the publication of a comprehensive investigative report this morning by Paul Leighton of the Salem News, it might finally be time for the State Ethics Commission to investigate potential political shenanigans on the grandiose grounds of Essex Technical Regional High School.

The latest saga involving the $135 million “Mega-Voke” — which serves 40 communities, including Danvers, Peabody and Middleton — concerns a dubious deal for a new sports complex. Leighton reports that, in November 2013, Essex Tech Superintendent Dan O’Connell suggested – as required when it comes to public projects — that the school board issue a request for proposal (RFP), and put out for bid a plan to build a sports complex on school grounds in Middleton.

But now, two years later, as construction is about to begin on the $11 million facility — with its two ice-skating rinks, an indoor turf field, and an athlete training center — it has come to light that that no bidding process occurred. A developer called Edge Sports Group was simply handed the contract following some questionable maneuvers within the State Legislature.

Ted Speliotis

Ted Speliotis

Contrary to a “strong recommendation” from the State Inspector General that the deal be put out to bid in an effort to ensure “an open and fair deal” for taxpayers, State Rep. Ted Speliotis and Gloucester state Sen. Bruce Tarr sneaked a few lines into a large spending bill on Beacon Hill that gave the lease to Essex Sports.

Not necessarily illegal or unusual on Beacon Hill, but according to Leighton’s report, here are some things that make you go “hmmm” as a taxpayer:

  • According to Leighton, one of the key people behind the passage of the special legislation was Jack McGlynn, a Salem-based attorney and lobbyist who also works as outside counsel to Essex Tech. McGlynn played a significant role in guiding the legislation that created Essex Tech, Leighton writes, adding that, according to state records, the North Shore Regional Vocational School District paid McGlynn $217,000 as a lobbyist from 2005 to 2010 while the merger was being developed.
  • McGlynn, Leighton writes, has been paid approximately $24,000 over the last two years by Essex Tech for his advice on the sports complex and other issues, according to the school district.
  • In 2014, he landed another employer regarding the project – Edge Sports Developer Brian DeVellis. According to state records, Leighton writes, the company hired McGlynn on Feb. 14, 2014, to lobby for passage of the legislation that would specify Essex Sports (Edge) as the developer. Leighton adds that 10 days later, O’Connell and McGlynn hosted a meeting for local legislators at Essex Tech to introduce the DeVellis and Edge Sports Group.
  • McGlynn, Speliotis tells the Salem News, has also contributed to every fundraiser the Rep has held since he was elected in 1997.

Speliotis, meanwhile, told the Salem News that he was not concerned about going through a public bidding process because there were no other developers willing to build the sports facility. “The RFP process is to make sure you’re not giving a special deal to someone in a marketplace where someone else doesn’t have an opportunity,” he said. “There wasn’t any market for this. I’m confident today that if we could put it out to bid, we’re not going to get any bidders.”

Not a market for this? Does Edge Sports really have a “monopoly” on building sports complexes?

The other sweetheart part of this deal for the developer comes through the actual lease. Essex Sports has agreed to allow all of the voke’s teams to use the facility for its games and practices without paying a fee. But there’s also a catch: Essex Sports will deduct a per athlete user-fee from the rent it will pay to the school district. In other words, the developer will probably end up paying no rent at all.

Great job of reporting by Paul Leighton, and I’m sure he’ll have further details and follow up. Here’s hoping that members of the State Ethics Commission read the Salem News.

Asking our legislators to stand with the people, and stand against Kinder Morgan

10 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher


Residents from western Mass. urge legislators to uphold Article 97

BOSTON – Spending my day today in solidarity with the residents of Sandisfield in southwestern Mass., who fill the Gardner Auditorium at the State House to implore legislators to reject bill H.3690. That bill seeks to set aside Article 97 protection so that a Texas-based gas pipeline company — run by the guy who used to run Enron – can essentially jeopardize their scenic Mayberry-like community of less than 900 year-round residents.

Article 97 of the Mass. State Constitution says that lands set aside for conservation cannot be used for any other purposes without a two thirds disposition vote of both the House and Senate on Beacon Hill. It is our only hope as residents of the Commonwealth to fight back against not only Kinder Morgan and its notorious CEO Richard Kinder – who helped create that mess that was Enron – but also a five-person appointed board in Washington, DC, called The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Even though there is overwhelming public opposition to this pipeline — which will slash through Massachusetts and southern NH — FERC is expected to grant approval to build Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline Project.

But back in the Texas offices of Kinder Morgan, they probably should be saying “Houston, we have a problem.”

After all, Article 97 battles are setting up all over the Commonwealth, as KM seeks to take as many as 100 environmentally protected parcels for a project that will be of no benefit to the residents of Massachusetts. Since our Independence Greenway bike path is set aside conservation land, we could end up having our own day too here on Beacon Hill, which is why I’m sitting in the balcony right now listening to compelling testimony from residents who are asking their legislators to please do the will of the people and kill this bill in committee. If we stop H.3690 and stop them from taking Article 97 land in Sandisfield, then we might be able to do the same in Peabody. This is our precedent-setter.

Right now, residents of this beautiful little community, and others, are making a plea before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, which is co-chaired by our Senator Joan Lovely.

What this comes down to is a battle between residents of the Commonwealth, a company bent on increasing its already obscene profits, and the federal government. Clearly, we’re just a potentially dangerous and disruptive pass through, since it’s become clear that most of the gas shipped in the NED pipeline is destined to be loaded on LNG tankers, and shipped to lucrative overseas markets.

Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that the NED pipeline, and five other pipeline projects on the drawing board for Mass., will produce five times more natural gas than is needed to meet future demand in the state. Peabody has zero need for additional gas, and the Spectra pipeline currently running through the bikeway area is on most days at half capacity. We assume all of the risk, get no benefit, and KM increases it’s already huge profits.

It’s not about lowering your electric bill, or keeping your home warm. But it is about big energy and big money. H.3690 was filed by a State Rep from Hingham named Garrett Bradley. His district is a 3-hour ride from Sandisfield and Otis State Forest, with its scenic and endangered Spectacle Pond, and old growth forest, yet it was he who brought the bill forward on behalf of the pipeline company. Wonder if he doing KM a solid here has anything to do with the campaign contributions Brian Hickey & Associates – the pipeline company’s main lobbyist on Beacon Hill – made to Rep Bradley’s war chest?

The fact is that Beacon Hill these days is awash in Kinder Morgan blood money. But here’s hoping that our state legislators do the right thing. Are you listening Rep. Ted Speliotis and Senator Lovely?

This needs to be about protecting the quality of life of the residents of the Commonwealth. This should be about doing the will of the people. It’s about the public trust set established when we the people voted to add Article 97 to our Constitution more than 40 years ago.

Withdrawing recommendation for Ward 4 Councilor

2 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

People can like, hate, or be totally disinterested in what I write here, but the last thing I ever want them to say is that I lack integrity. So, tonight, based on information I just learned and confirmed today, I can no longer recommend that you vote for Jarrod Hochman in tomorrow’s election for Ward 4 Councilor.

I’m going to decline at this point to reveal why, but it involves something I learned today that started as gossip, but then was confirmed by an official source. When further details emerge from official sources, I will write about it here, but for now I can’t in good conscience endorse Mr. Hochman.

Hochman’s opponent in tomorrow’s Ward 4 election is Ed Charest.

The rest is up to the voters of Ward 4.

Here’s a look at our final endorsements in all of the races in tomorrow’s election. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Our recommendations for Tuesday’s Peabody City Election, please vote

29 Oct


By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

election-2015Come next Tuesday, Nov. 3, another Peabody City Election day will be before us.  That day, there are many interesting races, and several new candidates competing for your votes. The following are this blog’s straight-forward recommendations for who you should consider. Polls are open 7 a.m.to 8 p.m. that day. Please go out and vote!

Ward 1 Councilor

South Peabody has two very solid candidates from which to choose, but I recommend that you cast your vote for neighborhood activist Jon Turco, who has worked tirelessly on his campaign since late last winter.

Turco is my pick because I feel that he truly understands what the job of ward councilor is all about. Although having a noteworthy resume as a businessperson is always an asset on the city council, what Turco would bring is more important to the role of ward councilor, the most-local of all elected offices in any community. Turco has the regular-guy appeal, and passion to defend the neighbors on all quality of life issues. He’ll be easy-going and approachable, and those are the right qualities for a ward councilor.


Councilor At-Large

Tom Walsh

Tom Walsh

Each of the five incumbents have had a very good year so far when it comes to defending the quality of life of residents, and because of that I recommend that Tom Walsh, Tom Gould, Mike Garabedian, Dave Gravel and Anne Manning-Martin get your votes.

The lone challenger in the race, Ward 5 resident Peter Bakula, is a good guy who has worked hard to make Peabody a better place through his involvement in different community activities, but it’s hard to argue against the performance lately of the five incumbents.

School Committee

With the guarantee of at least two new members being added to this embattled board, voters will have a chance to create huge change. This is one reason why I recommend that you use your three votes on the following three new candidates:

Brian Addesa

Brian Addesa

Brian Addesa is a highly qualified educational leader and dad, who is the most-independent of all the candidates competing for these three seats. He’ll bring a straight-forward, yet professional approach to school issues, and always and only be on the side of parents and taxpayers.

As an attorney and CPA, John Olimpio has the professional business experience that has been sorely lacking by the current school committee members. Although the educational aspects of what the school committee does is ultimately the most-important part of the job, school committee members also need to understand their role when it comes to looking out for precious taxpayer dollars.

Finally, educator and dad Joe Amico is worthy of one of your three votes. Amico gets it when it comes to all of the important issues, and while I feel he’s a little too fiscally liberal, in the end it’s my opinion that he’ll be an independent thinker on a school board in dire need of new ideas.

Be aware that the Kinder Morgan ‘community meeting’ at Spinelli’s will be filled with half truths and total lies

28 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

By now, you’ve probably heard about the so-called pipeline “community meeting” taking place (Oct. 29, 6-8 p.m.) at Spinelli’s function facility on Route 1 in Lynnfield.

Just so you know, this is not really a “community meeting,” but instead is a carefully orchestrated propaganda show run by Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based company bent on destroying your quality of life with a high-pressure natural gas highway that will be of no benefit to any of the local communities through which it passes.

The meeting will be brought to you by KM Chief Propaganda Officer Allen Fore, and it will be filled with half-truths and outright lies.

But there will likely be free chicken fingers and balloons for the kids, so that’s something.

I’ve been debating all week on whether to inform you of this dog and pony show, since the last thing we want to do is help KM with its tour of lies. But you’re all grownups, and can decide for yourselves whether or not to attend. But please, go knowing that what will really be served for food is a heaping helping of crapola.

All you really need to know about this obscenely profitable Texas company is that it is seeking to risk the safety of your home, your environment and your water supply to build its pipeline and all of its laterals. Furthermore, KM plans to get approval for this project through a five-person appointed board in Washington, DC, called FERC. Loaded with friends of the fossil fuel industry, FERC hardly ever rejects a pipeline permit. Your ELECTED representatives will have no say here.

Know going in, too, that all of this gas is destined to be loaded on LNG tankers and shipped to lucrative, gas-starved foreign markets.  None of the gas will be used by Massachusetts residents.

There is zero need for additional gas in the Commonwealth, the ISO-New England statistics prove this, and right now we’re simply cannon fodder for this company and its goal to make even more profit for its shareholders. They’ll tell you otherwise, but in Peabody we have a gas line owned by a company called Spectra, and that pipe is currently at half capacity.

By the way, did I mention yet that the “Kinder” in Kinder Morgan is for Richard Kinder, who went along for the ride as a high-ranking executive for a famously notorious company called Enron. Kinder Morgan is indeed everything that is wrong with America. Somewhere, Gordon Gekko is smiling, since when it comes to Kinder Morgan the company motto is … “greed is good.”

So, if you go tonight, please ask some tough questions and let them know that you know what they’re up to, all of it bad for Peabody, Lynnfield and Danvers.

Kinder Morgan is a disgraceful corporate citizen, and their destructive and dangerous pipeline will benefit no one other than their stock holders.

Rep. Speliotis accepts campaign contributions from Kinder Morgan pipeline lobbyist

26 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

For months I’ve been giving Representative Ted Speliotis the benefit of the doubt, hoping all along that he would unconditionally be on the side of the thousands of West Peabody, Middleton and Danvers residents, who passionately oppose the potentially dangerous and totally unnecessary Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal.

Ted Speliotis

Ted Speliotis

There have been days when Rep. Speliotis has seemingly been with us. But then we’ve been puzzled on days when he’s either been on the fence, or curiously, seemed to discourage our opposition efforts.

He has been all over the place, never really 100% committing to opposing this project, which would not only threaten homes and Peabody’s pristine Independence Greenway bikepath, but also the Ipswich River, which provides public drinking water to 350,000 residents on the North Shore.

His lack of total commitment had been puzzling, but maybe we now know why he hasn’t been 100% with residents on opposing the pipeline.

On the rep’s two most-recent campaign finance reports, posted on the Mass. Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), there are several contributions — worth more than a thousand dollars — from lobbyists who represent the natural gas industry.

But one contributor stands out above all others. In the last two reporting periods, Brian Hickey of Brian Hickey & Associates — who was hired to represent Kinder Morgan’s Massachusetts interests — has given Rep. Speliotis two checks for $200 each. Here’s the link to Speliotis’ full campaign finance report

For a year now, Hickey and KM Chief Propaganda Office Allen Fore have been peddling truths, half-truths and flat out lies to Mass. State Legislators, while filling several campaign war chests with thousands of dollars.

There is, of course, nothing illegal going on here. After all, greasing palms is standard operating procedure for lobbyists on Beacon Hill, and I can’t blame Mr. Hickey for trying to make a living.

But how thoroughly disappointed are we in Rep. Speliotis?

Didn’t we elect him to work for the people of West Peabody, Danvers and Middleton, and oppose this project that will endanger resident quality of life, while providing no benefit to the people of the 13th Essex District. Didn’t we expect that he wouldn’t be taking any of this “blood money?”

The fact is, no matter how much Kinder Morgan tries to avoid the question – and trump up a fake scenario for local demand – we feel that this gas is destined for lucrative foreign markets. The residents of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire are being used as a pass through for this potentially destructive gas highway.

Rep. Speliotis knows this, and maybe, just maybe he should have sent back this KM blood money? Shame on you, Ted, but I guess at least we now know why you haven’t been 100% supportive of our opposition.

RIP Tom O’Leary: Peabody loses its Champion of the Underdog

23 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When I heard the sad news, I instantly flashed back to the first time I ever met a good guy named Tom O’Leary, and suddenly I felt better. In fact, thinking about that first meeting, made me LOL.

Tom O'Leary

Tom O’Leary

It was somewhere, sometime back in 1997 when this lanky, friendly gent, who immediately reminded me of my Boston Irish grandfather (the line back then was that he had the “map of Ireland” on his face), approached me, and stuck out his hand.

After some brief introductions, the jokes began flying, including the one that made me chuckle again the other day after I heard that this fine man, this “Champion of the Underdog,” had passed away at the age of 78.

“The thing about me,” Tom began back then, in a voice that was both gruff and loveable all at the same time. “I used to be nervous and jerky. But now … I’m not nervous anymore.”

In the years that followed, and as we developed a friendship, I’d hear the same line over and over again as Tom endeared himself to others. And each time, the corny joke, his joke, made me laugh just as hard as I did the first time that I heard it.

He was a genius at using self-deprecation to endear himself to those he came across in a lifetime of helping all those he came across.

At this point, I should also mention that one of my great regrets in life was losing touch over the years with Tom, and his wonderful bride Marsha. My separation from this very good man isn’t his fault whatsoever, and is rooted in personal reasons on my end only. Long story, short, it’s one of those “life is too short lessons.” You’re going to regret it when they’re gone, and I definitely regret that I didn’t keep in touch with Tom O’Leary the past 14 years.

In Yiddish, the word is “mensch,” which means a person of integrity and honor. And Tom O’Leary was most definitely an Irish mensch.

He ran unsuccessfully for Ward 5 Councilor a couple of times, and we the people missed out on being served by a guy, who I believe would have been an outstanding advocate for the neighborhoods when it came to quality of life. The mess that is Route 1 when it comes to excessive and intrusive development would have never happened under Tom O’Leary’s watch as Ward 5 Councilor. That would have been a given.

But the loss of people all over Ward 5 was the gain of those who live in mobile home parks from Peabody to Cape Cod. Fighting for the rights of families and seniors seeking to hold onto their homes became Tom’s lifetime crusade, earning him the moniker of “Champion of the Underdog.”

He never got elected to public office, yet he was always there for the little guy, whether that meant being a rock on resident rights when it came to serving on Peabody’s Rent Control Board, or simply inviting people into his home for some good advice and the “best cup of coffee in Peabody.”

For me personally, that meant him pouring his heart and soul into two of my campaigns for office. I didn’t win, but my family and I have always been grateful for what he did for me.

In recent years, I understand that Tom’s health kept him from being able to do what he loved, which was being a pain in the neck to the powers that be when it came to defending resident quality of life. But after seeing him briefly at the Kiley School polls during the election two years ago, I also saw that he never lost his gregarious, make-you-feel-good personality. When I saw him that day, which turned out to be the last day I ever saw this very good man, he made me smile again with his giant trademark of a laugh. I gave he and Marsha a brief hug, and then walked away feeling I had lost out by not having them in my life for more than a decade.

It makes me feel sad today that this was the last time I saw him. It makes me sad that I didn’t stay in touch all of these years. It is indeed a life is too short type of lesson.

But surely, the little guy in Peabody is way better off for having had Tom O’Leary on his side.

Rest in peace, my friend. You were a good man of very high integrity, and more importantly, you were indeed the Champion of the Underdog.

(If you would like to pay your respects, here are the details for Tom’s services.)

Time to stop blatant discrimination against homeschooled Peabody students

6 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

For months now, the dysfunction on Peabody’s School Committee has been talked about by angry and frustrated taxpayers from Russell Street to Lynn Street. There have been bad decisions when it comes to tax dollars, too much focusing on trivial issues, and constant bickering among members.

People have been calling these meetings the Tuesday Night Follies, and as a taxpayer, first you laugh, but then … you cry.

The latest episode of the Follies aired last week with some members of the committee displaying their desire to discriminate against a small group of students.

Simply put, parents of homeschoolers asked that their kids be allowed to have the same opportunities as any other student enrolled in Peabody’s schools. They asked the SC if their kids could be allowed to play sports and be in the band, or participate in any and all student activities. In other words, these parents are willing to pay the same outrageous extra-curricular fees as everyone else, and at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

Keep in mind that the homeschool program is monitored by the PEABODY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and homeschoolers graduate too.

Keep in mind, too, that Peabody is one of only a handful of public school systems in the Commonwealth that relegates homeschoolers to the status of second-class students when it comes to not allowing full participation in extra curriculars.

But certain members of the school committee, especially Ed Charest and Beverley Dunne, continued to push back at last week’s meeting while spewing nonsensical reasons for not allowing homeschoolers their basic student rights. The silly reasons for not allowing homeschooled students equal rights revolved around such things as how unfair it is that non homeschooled kids had to get up early and catch the bus, and how there could be conflict on sports teams when homeschoolers win spots over non-homeschoolers.

Dunne even insinuated that parents of homeschoolers can game the system by inflating grades. Maybe it’s time that Beverley read the national data that shows how homeschoolers, on average, score 15% better on achievement tests than traditional public school students.

Then there was talk about how allowing homeschoolers to participate in student activities would cause more work for school administrators. OK, stop laughing now.

This foolishness caused angry outbursts from homeschooler parents attending the meeting, and who could blame them?

Member Brandi Carpenter, meanwhile — who is up for re-election on Nov. 3rd — took no position at all, telling the Salem News: “I’m looking for more information. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out.” Hey Brandi, the voters are starting to notice how you’re trying to protect your political skin these days by not taking a stand on anything. Your “Sgt. Schulz” approach to being an elected official is really wearing thin.

Or, maybe Brandi is simply a fan of the old adage “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Perhaps Charest and Dunne should have taken Honest Abe’s advice too.

For the record, Mayor Ted Bettencourt is in favor of allowing homeschoolers their student rights. The Mayor, and rightfully so, sees this as a simple issue of fairness. So, too, does Jarod Hochman, who is running against Charest for Ward 4 Councilor on Nov. 3. Bettencourt and Hochman, like the rest of us, also don’t understand why this is such a big deal. Homeschoolers participating in student activities hurt no one.

Instead of deciding and voting on the issue last week, the school committee has assigned it to yet another useless ad-hoc subcommittee for further examination.

As for the rest of us, the Nov 3rd election can’t come fast enough.


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