I-Team: Women share similar stories of Freetown official
Rosemarie Walsh and Lois Huntress don't know each other, but both women live in Freetown and have a lot in common.
"I passed out completely, gone, the stress of it, the stress of it. So they admitted me to the hospital," said the 76-year-old Huntress.
"I collapsed. I went unconscious and my daughter had to call an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital," added Walsh.
"He threatened me over the phone," Huntress said.
"It was the most horrible experience working with someone who was such a bully toward me," added Walsh.
Both women tell the I-Team the stress of dealing with the town's building commissioner and health agent, Paul Bourgeois, prompted rides in ambulances.
For Huntress, the animosity spanned over 5 years, first when she had a problem with permits for a new garage, then in 2011 when she wanted to install a wood stove to save on her heating bills.
"He threw the documents at me over the counter of his office and at that time I left and came home and I called my lawyer," she said.
Bourgeois threatened to the take the grandmother to court for what she thought could have been worked out at town hall. The paperwork sits on the table in her 18th-century farmhouse. Bourgeois' signature was displayed on the bottom.
In Rosemarie Walsh's case, she and her husband Brett were building a new house in 2005.
"He threatened me and said that if I asked him to look at my application one more time, he would put me to the bottom of the pile," Walsh said.
After the house was built, Walsh's family was packed up with a U-Haul in the driveway, ready to move in. They had scheduled a walk through with the building inspector for an occupancy permit.
"We were all set to close that day and I told him that this was going on and he said he didn't care what my problem was, he wasn't coming and he slammed down the phone on me," Walsh said.
The couple was fined thousands of dollars in penalties on their construction loan, lost their locked-in interest rate, and feared losing the home as the banking crisis loomed.
The stress, she says, caused her to collapse.
The I-Team approached Bourgeois at Town Hall.
NBC 10's Parker Gavigan: "Can we talk with you about these taxpayer complaints?"
Bourgeois: "No. I'm going to try to find me a fair reporter and give him my side of the story."
Gavigan: "That's all we're asking for is your side of the story."
Bourgeois closed his door.
He said he wasn't pleased with an I-Team report earlier in the week. When Bourgeois is away from Town Hall, he's also a real estate investor. The I-Team searched records and real estate deals recorded at the Plymouth County and Fall River Registries of Deeds.
Seventy-five transactions span page to page; more than two dozen properties, at least eight realty trusts, all connected to Freetown building inspector Paul Bourgeois.
But one deal raised questions by taxpayers.
In May of 2001, the building inspector and his partner bought a piece of land in neighboring Lakeville for $140,000, purchased off the wife of Freetown builder Robert Viana.
On that same day, records show Bourgeois flipping the land to another builder for $300,000 and pocketing $160,000 with his partner.
"Any allegation of impropriety is something this board and this town takes very seriously," said Jean Fox, chairwoman of the Freetown Board of Selectmen.
Fox told the I-Team that Bourgeois will have an opportunity to respond and due process will be allowed to play out.
Selectman Paul Sadeck went a step further asking for an independent investigation, outside of Freetown.