I-Team: Report released on former Freetown building inspector
CRANSTON, R.I. —
Twenty-five complaints were lodged against Freetown's former building inspector Paul Bourgeois.
Lois Huntress was one of them. She passed out and was taken away by ambulance after an encounter with the inspector.
"He threatened me," the 76-year-old said.
Others came forward too, like gun store owner Roger Choquette, who claims Bourgeois wrongly held up the opening of his new store costing him thousands of dollars.
"The building department is here to make sure we do the right things, not to hinder our business, not to hinder us from being able to open," Choquette said.
When he wasn't the town's building inspector and health agent, Bourgeois was also a landlord and real estate developer. The I-Team found a deal in 2001 when the inspector and his partner flipped a piece of land in Lakeville, purchased off the wife of a Freetown builder. They pocketed $160,000 after dividing two lots into three.
The allegations and vocal town meetings prompted selectmen to hire an independent investigator, retired police officer Kenneth Harrison of Harrison Consulting & Investigative, LLC.
While the investigation was ongoing, Bourgeois officially retired in August.
Town residents though still wanted to see the results of the months-long investigation and the 655-page report was released Thursday.
Harrison thoroughly interviewed each complainant and supporter. Seven people said Bourgeois served them well. Some said he even helped them save money.
But the complaints struck a chord with the investigator, who wrote "the consistent, passionate way that these conversations were recounted by those I interviewed and re-interviewed leaves little doubt that Mr. Bourgeois was abrasive, rude, and intimidating."
Bourgeois was also interviewed.
The investigator wrote "while he was most cooperative, I found him less than forthcoming; displaying selective recollection when my questions turned toward his treatment of the public."
Harrison also noted he had his own run in with Bourgeois at Town Hall. He said the building inspector asked him, "If he had found the smoking gun yet?" Harrison said he found the exchange condescending and unusual for a person to say to his own investigator.
Harrison also pointed out that in 2012-13, Bourgeois held 17 different positions at Town Hall.
"It appears on its face to be an extreme concentration of authority to one appointed individual," he wrote.
Harrison suggested town officials not let that happen again.