I-Team: Freetown residents call for firing of building official
FREETOWN, Mass. —
It's not even July and the fireworks were flying in Freetown, as emotion and anger filled the room at Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting.
"I've been intimidated," said resident Sandra Lawrence.
"Oh, it was a living hell," added property owner, George Lambert.
The town's building inspector and health agent wasn't in the room, but the name Paul Bourgeois was mentioned by the crowd of 50-plus people: residents, business owners, all of them taxpayers who say they are angry and fed up.
"You didn't know about this?" asked a man from the crowd, speaking toward the selectmen.
"If you argue with him, you will pay the price and I did," said Lawrence.
"We were told right up front, you have to deal with us if you want to do business in this town," added Lambert, who claims he had nothing but problems dealing with the town's building department. He said he no longer wants to do business in town.
Selectmen have launched an investigation into the practices and allegations the I-Team raised last month. Residents said Bourgeois cost them money, bullied them, and they allege the building inspector is too close to some of the contractor's he's paid to supervise.
In one deal, the I-Team found the building inspector had pocketed a $160,000 profit after flipping a property bought off a Freetown builder. The I-Team also found Bourgeois had continued to sign permits for that builder after the deal.
Bourgeois declined to talk to the I-Team, twice, when asked to give his side of the story last month.
On Monday, the drum beat grew louder for his firing. Selectmen are asking residents to put their complaints in writing, sign them, and hand the complaints over to the board.
"Every complaint that we get is going to get investigated each one," said Selectman Paul Sadeck.
Sadeck said he has faith in the fairness of the investigation, at this point.
Last month, the I-Team questioned the objectivity of that investigation because the law firm that has been charged with investigating Bourgeois is also defending him in a civil suit filed against the town and Bourgeois, a suit that also alleges abuse by the building inspector.
Some in Monday's crowd wondered why a public body, like the attorney general's office, couldn't take a look at the evidence. Selectwoman Lisa Pacheco said the third-party investigator, hired by the law firm, will also consult with the attorney general's office and the state Ethics Commission on any findings.