I-Team: Framingham Building Commissioner Under Investigation

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

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.


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.

  • KTC

    They should make him the new police chief…

  • George Lewis

    I fault the (now) former Town Manager, Julian Suso, for creating a climate that allow employees under his authority to feel there will be no actions or consequences from Town Manager. My experience with issues I have presented to Town Manager for the past four years has been complete frustration. Town Manager had repeatedly failed to followup and report findings. It is the duty of the Board of Selectmen to oversee Town Manager’s work and oversee the issues presented to the BOS. There is a lack of accountability and making people accountable at all levels.

    • John McKeever

      I have had personal dealings with Mr. Foley and Mr.Suso within the past five tears and even currently.

      My experience has been Mr. Foley telling me to “Sue the builder” when I pointed out to him flooding caused by house construction on the street behind my house. I spent hours researching the Planning Board minutes and requirements and plans as filed by the builder (who it turns out to have a close relationshipwith the builder (distant relative?) and it was only accidentally I found the builder ommitted to include 3 large dry wells as required. This “ommission was never reported by the Building Dep’s site inspector.

      Mr. Foley refused to meet with me regarding this oversight, and it was only when I hinted at legal action against the town with Mr. Suso did Suso requier a meeting between the 3 of us.

      At that meeting I pointed out the missing drywells and the failure of Mr. Foleys department to properly monitor the construction site. He became very defensive and excited and got up and WALKED OUT. Mr Suso did not stop him, nor did he require him to return. Clearly a case of the TAIL WAGGING THE DOG.

      While I was doing my research almost every town employee I dealt with was clearly afraid to make any comment regarding Foley, (from the Endineering Dept, to Town Hall, and evento the Planning Board. Everybody was afraid to make ANY COMMENT!

      He clearly abused his position and authority. His employees were terrified of him, and one who was fired told me afterward it was for following town processes, not Foley directives.

      It is time for Mr Foley to be dismissed, without pay or termination. He has milked this towm for years.

  • Dan Wiener

    A BIG THANK YOU to George Lewis for standing up to and exposing this guy. Doesn’t Foley’s GOLFING on camera when he should be WORKING pretty much say it all? Why isn’t this guy SUSPENDED W/O PAY YET??? How many OTHER people like this are stealing the town’s money? Has an independent auditor been hired yet? Maybe the $2.4 million “Accounting error” discovered recently is just the tip of the iceburg, and our total Town Government needs to be audited and possibly amended as well. Time to end the insanity…

  • George Lewis, Town Meeting Member

    This morning, I will be recommending to our interim Town Manager, Valerie Mulvey, to immediately bar the Building Commissioner from entering Town Hall and the Building Department offices. It would not be in the best interest of Framingham to allow him access to town records or conduct any further activity as Building Commissioner until a thorough investigation is completed to the satisfaction of Town Meeting members, Standing Committees and Framingham citizens.

  • ivanb

    framingham isn’t the only town where this is happening…….like this is something new in the public sector

  • Dan Wiener

    Maybe not, Ivan, but it’s about time that someone is calling attention to it. You can bet this is going on all over Massachusetts, and these people should not only be punished/incarcerated, but they should be sued by the Town or City for TREBLE DAMAGES, for dishonoring the public trust that they were given. Government officials need to be expected to be acting on a higher level to serve their community; not take what they can from their job or office for their own personal gain. They have to remember, if we win, they win. If not, they should LOSE, and LOSE BADLY, professionally & personally..

    • JohnC

      I agree.

  • George Lewis, Town Meeting Member

    The (former) Town Manager, Julian Suso, (now the newly appointed Falmouth Town Manager) responded to the CBS I-Team discoveries with a written statement, “given the significance of these allegations, I have asked town council’s office to undertake a FULL INVESTIGATION” That has not been in his vocabulary while in Framingham.
    Shame, shame, shame on you!
    Mr. Suso’s inability to oversee departments and unwillingness to investigate the many issues brought before him over the years had created a climate that had allowed certain employees to take liberties from the rules of the Town Bylaws. These employees ignored the Bylaws knowing there will be no consequences. At personal meetings about subjects as property misuse and misinformation by the Building Commissioner, Town Manager has been noncommittal. His unresponsiveness has allowed improper activities to continue at these properties.
    Code of conduct issues and other matters in the Building Department have been presented at Board of Selectmen meetings in the last four years with no response or follow-up by the Board. The response in a recent conversation with one Selectman regarding Mr. Foley’s work ethic was “I think Mr. Foley is doing excellent work.”
    There is no accountability at all levels and no enforcement of accountability.
    Framingham motto “Dedicated to Excellence in Public Service” does not exist. There is only “smoke and mirrors.”

  • Rocky Stallone

    I’ll bet he won his golf match with his buddy that day too………….But he cheated there also……….nice work if you can get it.

  • emom

    Yeah he’s working alright,,,, ON HIS GOLF SWING………. FIRE THE LYING SACK OF POO…. FIRE THE ENTIRE BOARD WHIOLE YOUR AT IT…. I bet most knew of what was going on.. lets be real here.. Over the last year we have heard about way to many state employee’s that have had crooked deals, stealing money, wasting time on jobs, NOT doing their jobs, giving favors to friends of theirs, taking way to much time off, using own funds for their pleasure, falsifying records to steal funds. Yeah like this is anything new.
    But how long will we the PEOPLE OF THE COMMONWEALTH continue to take this, To many things are done and we scratch our heads in dismay, things are not getting done all because they state it will take way to long, Inspections are never done and people get hurt, When will someone take this seriously.. Oh and I bet there are plenty of people that are more that qualified or not but are very willing to take on these jobs, these low life’s are not doing…
    with unemployment so high I am sure every town can find a few great people to do these jobs, and do them well.

  • sloopjohnB2

    Bet he has a low handicap! Practice makes perfect.

  • sean

    he should pay restitution!

  • William LaBarge, Town Meeting Member

    This is outrageous on our ‘trusty’ Building Commissioner Mike Foley. We trusted him and he violated that trust. It is time for Mike Foley to go and get NOTHING for any severance package. After all, he is in breach of contract with the Town of Framingham for doing the job involves being honest and not cheating the Town.

  • Mike Williams

    This guy is a George King relic, and should have been gone when Georgew was forced out of Town Hall, 5 years ago. He has put many honest citizens through the ringer as they apply for building permits for years, and he has allowed friends of his to continue to rent substandard housing, some wven with unabated asbestos. He is like the old “southern hospitality sheriff” that make up so much American folklore.

    He has already revceived the package, we really need to terminate him wioth no further benefits. I am thankful that Mr. Lewis has made this crusade, and applaude him for his bravery, as Mr. Foley is a man with many “friends,” and there will be some type of retribution from him… There always is when it comes to Mike Foley! Foley is the “go-to guy” for sweeping problems under the rug. Hopefully the Selectmen who defend him will be remembered on their election day. Defending Foley is condoning corruption and all that is wrong with our town government.

  • Bill

    Lets jump one step further — who is this guy related to and how did he get the job to begin with?

  • Yaakov Cohn

    I’m going to guess that Framingham cannot simply fire Foley and deny him severance and retirement benefits, unless he is convicted of significant and relevant crimes. Even then, Foley might prevail. Didn’t a judge recently restore Sal Dimasi’s $5,000/month pension?

  • Frank De Marco

    I have been frustrated the last few yeaars dealing with Mr. Foley and Mr.
    Julian Suso. We had several meeting but nothing was ever accomplished.
    Mr. Foley negelected the South side precicnt 16 . Not enforcing the By Laws
    of the town,bypassisng the Zoning Board, letting a business open without
    the proper permits, He did not enforce the conditions of Special Permits in
    our area. Mr. Foley doesn’t belong back working for this town. I hope
    the selectmen will look into this matter and not close their eyes, and shake
    this matter under the rug.. The town of Framingham deserves better.
    I also agree wtih Mr. George lLewis and applaud him for his courage to
    bring this matter to light.

  • Mark

    this has been going on at all levels of Mass government for decades. I blame the voters for re-electing the same old pols year after year which as a result has allowed this corruption to exist and grow in this state. This is not just a tip of the iceberg, remember the largest part of an iceberg is submerged!

  • chris p

    joe shortsleeve is a hero for uncovering this unscrupulous foley character. It happens everywhere but this guy is the most egregious and shameless of them all!

  • Mike Williams Jr.

    Mike, Get your facts straight. He was hired by Suso, and he was a reference for Suso in Falmouth where he owns a house. He is a Suso guy all the way.

  • fran ingram
  • lujamie

    Is anyone going to contact the State BBRS (Board of Building Regulations and Standards)? They’re the agency overseeing Bldg. Inspectors and would probably like to investigate this themselves, especially if work is being done with no permits.

  • Dan Wiener

    I emailed this story to an email address I found on the Secretary of State’s Web-site (eopsinfo@state.ma.us) Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to SOMETHING:
    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I see that this Board (Board of Building Regs. and Standards) has no EMAIL, so hopefully you can either forward this to them or inquire about what they’re doing about this. WBZ-TV recently did a story about Framingham Building Inspector Michael Foley, and it seems like this has been going on awhile, and nothing continues to get done. Here is the link to the story. I am also putting this letter in the comments, to let WBZ-TV know that at least SOMEONE tried to do something about this.


    Thanks for your help!
    Dan Wiener

    • Dan Wiener

      UPDATE: Much to my chagrin, NOTHING from the Secretary of State’s office regarding my EMAIL yet. Makes you wonder if ANYONE besides WBZ-TV is investigating this…not good…

  • The Dock

    Not a bad gig! His vehicle, paid for by the town, is the top of the line Ford Taurus SHO. There is no need for a government employee to be driving a $45,000 365hp vehicle. This guy is nothing but a thief, simple as that.

  • George Lewis

    You may be interested to read Framingham officials’ slant regarding the actions of the Building Department. It appears in today’s Framingham Metrowest News. The link is:

    I submitted the following comments in that paper and wanted to share that on the I-Team report:
    “I am the person who was interviewed by CBS Joe Shortsleeve, reporter in the I-Team Channel 4 Since the initial broadcast of this video on Tuesday evening, November 1, NO official from the Town of Framingham has contacted me. I received no calls from any of the Selectmen, interim Town Manager or Town Council. If town government is as concerned and serious enough to get the truth as they imply in this news article, I would expect that I would be the first person that the town would want to speak with.
    In response to Mr. Sisitsky comment at the end of this article: (Foley) deserves to have a full hearing. I completely agree with this statement. It applies to all. But what comments does Mr. Sisitsky have regarding addressing grievances by citizens, taxpayers and all people in Framingham? Framingham citizens, taxpayers and all people have the same rights that must be protected by those who are paid and whose duty it is to serve our people.
    As would happen if the town government were a business corporation, I would expect a response with assurances from a town official that the matter in this news article will be dealt with impartially and thoroughly. As much as this article speaks of the successes and rights of one of its employees, I have received complete silence from the town.
    Every person has rights and protection under the United States laws. Also everyone has rights that protect people from for such things including threats, assaults, and abuse. There are consequences to improper actions. Most important, it is the duty of the appropriate state or federal agency to be informed about matters such as the above, to be impartial, to thoroughly investigate and to take every legal action to get to the truth. It seems to me that there is a conflict of interest when a local government is studying the alleged misconduct of a department head from their own government. There must be an impartial outside source to investigate for the fair treatment of all.”

    George Lewis,
    Town Meeting Member and Precinct Chair
    Member of the Standing Committee on Planning and Zoning

  • fran ingram

    An Interesting Somerville news article on 12/2/2010 regarding a State Ethics Commission press release about a Somerville employee:

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