January 22, 2007: In the bulging roster of corrupt pols who serve the people on
the Eastern Seaboard, few provide as many black laffs as the
Asselin clan of Springfield, Massachusetts. Even the klown kings
of Jersey can't hold a candle.
Springfield is the largest city in Western Mass. The third
largest in the state. Its citizens have been treated to the
antics of the Asselins for decades. The clan's pater familia,
Raymond Asselin Sr., was long time head of the Springfield
Housing Authority (SHA). A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) production. When Ray first went SHA, Disco
ruled the dance floor and Pam Grier was blowing off mobsters as
Coffy. During Papa Ray's reign, he and his family looted the SHA.
Those who partook included his wife, their five adult children
and two daughters in-law. Assorted henchmen and public
contractors buzzed round the hive giving and getting graft. When
an Asselin needed a home rehab, a swimming pool, a boat or a BMW,
the SHA or a bid rigger picked up the tab. Workers, materials,
and appliances were rerouted from public housing projects. Even
washers and dryers in laundry rooms were reaped. To the Asselins,
there was no such thing as "spare change". Their pockets bulged
with stolen quarters. And when State Representative Christopher
Asselin ran for office (Democrat, 9th Hampden District, 2001-2005) his campaigns were juiced by the SHA.
None of this took place in a vacuum. Springfield has a hoary rep
re political corruption and it's best bud, organized crime. The
rep took on new luster during the administration (1996-2003) of
X Mayor Mike Albano. Albano was a revitalizing ball of fire.
Taxpayers, largely through HUD, made many an investment.
Including ones in mob bars and mortgage frauds. Apres Albano,
Springfield went bust. The state took over via a Finance Control
Board. Though Mayor Mike has never been charged with a crime,
many folks close to his admin have been swept up by an ongoing
federal investigation launched at the turn of the millennium.
By the dawn of 3000, Springfield should be squeaky clean.
Particularly if over the next thousand years, regional dispensers
of taxpayer investments are more canny than they've been in the
last 30. Hey-- kazillion dollars and a dream!
Milking HUD isn't the only way to kill time when being corrupt in
Springfield. Threatening grand jury witnesses and being a
blowhard is also big. No surprise. Most post-industrial cities
turned taxpayer investment towns are run by political machines
whose top dawgs think Nietzsche meant them. Take the Asselins--
they knew they deserved to Do The Freddy. Papa Ray, king of the
pilfered laundry machines, called his family "the Kennedys of
Western Massachusetts".* And after being indicted, Mother Asselin
told her brood "Chins up. Remember, we're Asselins".**
The federal indictments the Asselins received involved hundreds
of charges. At first, angry defiance spewed from Asselin lips
like hot coins from a burgled dryer. But eventually the Kennedys
of Western Mass tossed in their towel and copped a collective
plea. Several Asselin gals were let off the hook as part of the
deal. A former daughter-in-law is in witness protection; she
wore a wire for months and caught many priceless family moments.
Including the groaning and grinding of Ray Asselin's shredder as
he gorged it with incriminating documents.
One by one, the Asselins are being sentenced. X State Rep Chris
Asselin was in court on January 18th. His lawyer requested Chris
be allowed to hang in a halfway house or wear an ankle bracelet
at home. Painting Chris as nought but a passive recipient of
gifts grafted by Dad. No go. Chris must trade in his jammies for
a jumpsuit. The judge gave him 18 months. Chris took the sentence
like a man. Declaring "I'm a big boy and I understand you have to
make a judgement on me."
Though the Asselins are unique comic geniuses, there are other
Springfield side splitters. Such as former Police Commission
Chairman Gerald Phillips. Who handed out no-show jobs while
heading a job training program aimed at teaching teen-age welfare
moms the value of work. And Frances G. Keough III, director of
Friends Of The Homeless. A former city councilman, Keogh used his
friends, the homeless, as free labor to renovate his vacation
home. And put his henchman, a convicted violent sex offender and
drug dealer, in a position of authority at the homeless shelter
run by "The Friends". Keough himself reportedly extorted sex from
homeless women. He also supplied cronies with no show jobs,
filled his home with HUD funded furniture and defrauded HUD
subsidized rental programs. All while complaining that the
government was underfunding services for the homeless.
Then there's Anthony Ardolino, X chief of staff to X Mayor Mike
Albano. Ardolino's trial is upcoming. Among the charges are
allegations that Anthony and his brother, an X cop convicted of
mortgage fraud, skimmed money from bars in which they had hidden
interests. Including the Civic Pub. Where pols and players, circa
Mayor Mike, would meet and admire each other's civic virtue.
As for Springfield's future, the Finance Control Board seems to
be doing a decent job. Deficits are down and public agencies have
new faces in top slots. Best of all, surveillance cameras are
being installed in and around city hall.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
* "Asselin Family lost sleep, initial bravado," Stephanie Barry,
The Republican, 01/14/07
** "Plenty of Chin," Valley Advocate, 09/06
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