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.

6 Responses to “Ethical questions arise over construction of new sports complex at regional voke school”

  1. anonymous November 16, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I’m confused. Is this a privately owned facility on school property? At the beginning of the article it looked like the state hired them to build the facility, which sure sounds like overkill on an already huge boondoggle of a project. Two rinks, really? At the end though, you write about them paying rent on what is surely a sweetheart deal. If it’s privately owned, why are they allowed to build on school property and then to add insult to injury, possibly escape rent free?

  2. Salemknows November 16, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Please , this is a pimple on a butt compared to what the Peabody school committee has done behind the curtain.

    Try councilman ( angry man ) charest with his ymca deal

    How about ( I am almost as popular as Taylor swift ) Carpenter with her police program that she is friends with owner.
    How about all the jobs lefty Levine had secured for the mayor, mcgeny , and the old boys club
    How about ….. Well it can go on and on ….
    Teachers and kids getting screwed as usual in Peabody !!!!!

  3. Barry Sinewitz November 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    After reading this article, now you can understand my reasons to vote against Peabody joining the regional vocational school back in 2009. I was city council president at the time and state representative Ted Speliotis stood in front of the city council and literally screamed out loud how the city of Peabody needs to join the vocational school. I responded by saying it’s fiscally irresponsible for the city of Peabody to join the voke system without giving us the operational budget. Yes it’s true. The city of Peabody voted to enter the regional voke without knowing what the cost would be! The first year alone it cost the taxpayers of Peabody three million dollars. There is absolutely no oversight and we virtually have no say on the spending. After reading this article, who approved spending $24,000 on a lobbyist at the state house to build a privately owned sports complex on school property? After all, all the communities in the regional voke paid for this! What’s really sad is that the educational budget for over 6000 students in Peabody has to be cut each year to pay for the voke school while part of our tax dollars are going to fund a privately owned gym? I can’t tell you after reading this article how disappointed I am in our state rep. To hide the no bid contract language in a bill in the legislature and then to say he see’s nothing wrong with it is insulting to the communities and taxpayers in the district.
    Barry Sinewitz
    Peabody City Councilor

    • Anonymous November 16, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

      Barry you’re in ward 6 you should run against this bafoon Ted we’ll knock out two terrible state reps in the course of what, a year????

    • Bob Croce November 16, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

      I believe that there is a lot more to come here, Barry. One of the big overall issues with Rep Speliotis is that he is owned by lobbyists like Jack McGlynn. Here’s a fact for you: During the first half of 2015, the Rep raised almost $14,000 in campaign contributions, yet just $200 of that came from constituents. The rest was from outside the district, and more than 80% of that came from lobbyists. That’s disturbing. With this mega voke, a lot of people have had their hands out, and when it comes to his war chest, Rep Speliotis benefited greatly

      Earlier, we revealed here how — after telling us that he was with us in opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline — we learned that our rep had taken money from Kinder Morgan lobbyist Brian Hickey & Associates.

      It’s very clear that, if you pay, you get to play with Ted Speliotis.

  4. Ron Halrey November 20, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    Just read the Salem News today, another unbelievable story written about this blatant ethics violation by Ted Speliotis. And a great opinion story from Barry Sinawitz who continues to impress this voter. Seems like he is mounting a run for the seat, one could only hope that it is true!

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