Bribery case spurs Zoning Board review

Days after a former Boston official agreed to plead guilty to federal bribery charges connected to zoning board votes, Mayor Martin Walsh on Thursday announced a review of how that board conducts its business.

John Lynch, the former assistant director of real estate at the Boston Planning and Development Agency's Economic Development Industrial Corporation, was charged on Aug. 30 with one count of bribery and one count of filing a false federal tax return that failed to report the bribe payment.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling's office said Lynch had agreed to plead guilty to accepting $50,000 from a real estate developer, in return for using his influence to secure a vote on a permit extension from a Zoning Board of Appeals member. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Lelling's office said it would recommend a sentence of between 46 and 57 months in prison.

The charges come on the heels of the federal convictions last month of two Walsh administration officials.

Timothy Sullivan, chief of staff of intergovernmental relations, and city tourism chief Ken Brissette, were each convicted of Hobbs Act conspiracy, and Brissette was also convicted of Hobbs Act extortion, for having pressured a concert promoter to hire union workers for the 2014 Boston Calling festival on City Hall Plaza.

Asked Wednesday if he was concerned about Boston City Hall given the two recent federal cases, Gov. Charlie Baker pointed to a scandal at the state level that also involved criminal charges.

Several state troopers were arrested last year in connection with federal and state investigations into overtime abuse at the department.

"You're asking a guy who started an investigation that led to the referral of 46 state troopers to state and federal law enforcement officials for potentially defrauding the commonwealth and the federal government," Baker said in response to a reporter's question about the Boston officials.

He went on to say that the "vast majority" of people working in state and local government "show up and do their jobs and do it well every single day."

"Whenever there's an incident like this, the most important thing is that it be dealt with, and it should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately, but I don't want us to paint a broad brush across anybody who works in the public sector based on the really bad behavior of a few," Baker said. "From my point of view, if people in our administration engage in that kind of behavior -- no tolerance for it at all, and we would refer immediately, as we did, to the appropriate authorities, but I don't think we should presume that everybody in public life plays the game that way, because they don't."

Walsh's office on Thursday announced that the mayor had asked the law firm Sullivan & Worcester to conduct a "comprehensive review beginning with the rules and regulations in place that dictate how the ZBA conducts business on behalf of the residents of Boston, and those with matters before the board."

The review, the mayor's office said, will be aimed at ensuring practices and protocols are in place so that the zoning board can serve applicants "in a way that is transparent and accountable to the public."