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I-Team: Framingham Building Commissioner Under Investigation

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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Framingham Building Commissioner Michael Foley at a golf course.

Framingham Building Commissioner Michael Foley at a golf course.

WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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FRAMINGHAM (CBS) – A building inspector is supposed to be working for the taxpayers but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Framingham.

An investigation into the practices of Framingham’s Building Commissioner Michael Foley is now underway after the I-Team brought allegations of bogus expense reports and dubious permits to the attention of town leaders.

Foley’s critics say he was more interested in what his high profile office could do for him.

Foley promised to answer a long list of questions the I-Team had submitted to him, but he never did.

To start — we wanted to know about his permitting process.

When Whole Foods supermarket on Route 9 wanted to install solar panels, they filled out the paperwork and paid almost $5,000 in fees.

But it was a different story at the Suburban Athletic Club which Mr. Foley attended.

As documents obtained by the I-Team show, he personally signed off on a drastically reduced rate of just $1,500 for an almost identical project.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

George Lewis is a Town Meeting member.

Shortsleeve asked, “As an elected Town Meeting member, what’s your reaction to apparently a reduced permit for the Suburban Athletic Club where he was a member?”

Lewis’ response:

“Well that is outrageous, that is outrageous, for someone in authority to start giving discounts to other people, that’s not right, it’s the town’s money, and it’s our money!”

And then there is the “The Bone” restaurant in south Framingham.

Its renovation was even featured on SPIKE-TV.

But the I-Team learned Foley never required a single permit and no fees were paid.

Why?

Sources say Foley has friends connected to the restaurant.

George Lewis says, “What really upsets me is that we are in desperate financial shape.”

But there are also questions of out and out fraud.

The I-Team has learned that Foley seems to be padding his mileage reports, increasing his income by hundreds of dollars each month.

For example, on September 28th, we followed Foley as he travelled seven miles on town business.

But his expense report is filled with some bogus addresses and a claim he drove 60 miles.

Two days later, when his car was at the Framingham Ford dealership for service, he put in for 55 miles.

And even on a vacation day — June 15th — he said the taxpayers still owed him for driving 65 miles.

Framingham Town Manager Julian Suso would only respond in a written statement to what the I-Team found:

Hello Mr. Shortsleeve,

I have received your allegations of suggested improprieties involving the actions of Building Commissioner Mike Foley. Given the significance of these allegations, I have asked Town Counsel’s Office to undertake a full investigation and to return the results to the Town Manager’s Office for action as appropriate. My request to Town Counsel’s Office is that this investigation be thorough, deliberate and begun expeditiously. I am asking for your personal cooperation with Town Counsel’s Office to allow Town Counsel to bring this investigation to full and appropriate closure. Thank you.

Julian M. Suso

Foley also seemed to dodge scrutiny about his work schedule.

One man who works at town hall and didn’t want his identity known told the I-Team, “We work a full week and not him, during the warm months… you get a part-time commissioner.”

For example, it was well known you could find Foley on a golf course in Millis every Wednesday.

His scores over 18 weeks were even posted online.

The source said,“Everybody in the department knew about it, it wasn’t a secret at all.”

Shortsleeve asked, “What was the reaction from town hall employees to his weekly golf escapes?”

“They were very upset, why can he get this privilege? And why not anyone else in the department?”

Shortsleeve asked Town Meeting Member George Lewis, “What do you think of him playing golf every Wednesday afternoon.”

“Outrageous! I don’t know what to say, often we here are short of staff and we have a load of complaints… that’s a pile of baloney.”

Sources also tell the I-Team up until the time Foley was contacted by the I-Team he rarely worked a full day, consistently exceeded his vacation and almost never showed up for work on a Friday in the summer.

Foley’s salary is almost $98,000.

Town Manager Suso told the I-Team he wants a deliberate and expeditious investigation.

When Foley ignored our written questions, we confronted him as he left his town hall office.

We asked why he would not respond?

He would only say “Contact the Town Counsel.”

So we did.

He did not return our call.

If you want to let the I-Team know about a possible story, send an email to iteam@wbztv.com.

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