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Shelter board tied to Keough

Republican, The (Springfield, MA) (Published as Sunday Republican (Springfield, MA)) - February 6, 2005

Author/Byline: JACK FLYNN, STAFF, Sunday Republican (Springfield)

Edition: ALL
Section: News
Page: A15
The shelter has received more than $10 million in taxpayer support in recent years.
SPRINGFIELD - One of Francis G. Keough III's bosses is an old neighbor and childhood friend.
Another is a formerly homeless man who Keough helped. A third is the son-in-law of one of Keough's business partners.
They are all members of Friends of the Homeless Inc.'s board of directors, the unpaid volunteer group that controls one of the region's
largest homeless charities. And, they all have ties to Keough, the shelter director charged last month with extorting payments from a
construction contractor.
Under pressure from state and city funding sources, the 12-member board suspended Keough two weeks ago from the $95,000 post he
secured in 1994 after serving five terms on the City Council. The former Cathedral High School track and football star is facing a single
extortion charge for allegedly squeezing $29,000 from The Ware Group, a construction company that worked on the shelter and Keough's
vacation home in Rhode Island.
Keough, 46, has pleaded innocent. His lawyer, Jack St. Clair of Springfield, said he looks forward to clearing his client's name.
Whatever its outcome, the indictment has revived questions about the leadership of Springfield's largest homeless agency. Is it really run
by an independent board of directors? Or has Keough, by recruiting friends, neighbors and old political allies, been able to pick his own
bosses and escape the scrutiny routinely provided by other non-profit boards?
The question is more than academic - Friends of the Homeless Inc. has received more than $10 million in taxpayer support in recent
years, and its future may hinge on whether city and state officials have confidence in its leadership.
The issue first surfaced in December 2003 when the board refused to confront Keough or conduct its own internal probe after FBI agents
raided the Worthington House shelter and Keough's homes in Springfield and Rhode Island.
Three months later, the board's president, Springfield lawyer Frank A. Caruso, resigned after The Republican questioned him about
private legal work he had performed for Keough while serving as a board member.
Caruso's replacement, Maryrose Coughlin Porter of Springfield, said the board has provided strong supervision, even while
acknowledging that past and current members have ties to Keough.
"We've had a good relationship with the executive director," said Porter, a friend of Keough's since their childhood in East Forest Park.
"But that doesn't mean we've neglected our fiduciary or legal oversight."
The most obvious sign of Keough's good standing with the board is his $95,000-a-year salary, which accounts for about one-tenth of the
agency's annual budget; the figure is between $20,000 and $40,000 higher than what most shelter directors earn in the region.
Despite being a nonprofit agency, Friends of the Homeless Inc. relies almost exclusively on taxpayer funds, including about $600,000
from the state and $200,000 annually from the city. By law, the board is not only responsible for overseeing the shelter and its day
programs, but also for supervising Keough's performance.
But a close look at the background of current and former board members only underscores doubts about the independence of the
agency's leadership. In reports filed with the state Division of Public Charities, for example, a former employee, Amy Toller, is listed as a
board member in 2003 and 2004.
Toller's address is listed as 1119 Sumner Ave., the second floor of Keough's two-story house. In an interview Friday, Toller confirmed that
she was Keough's former tenant, but said she was never a board member.
"I'm a little surprised. I don't know what to tell you," said Toller, an official with the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. "Frank talked to
me about joining the board, but we decided it would be a conflict of interest because I was his tenant," Toller said.

Porter, the board president, said she had no idea how Toller's name ended up on the list, and would try to find out. "Of course, this
bothers me," said Porter, who rejoined the board last year after serving a stint in the early 1990s.
Another board member, Thomas Gentile of Springfield, is married to the daughter of Springfield lawyer Robert M. Santaniello, a long-time
business partner of Keough.
In an affidavit released last month, FBI Agent Clifford W. Hedges said Keough often lobbied city officials to win approval for projects
proposed by Santaniello's clients; in one case, Keough received $43,000 in consulting fees from Studio One, an architectural firm that
worked for the shelter and on Keough's vacation home, the affidavit states.
Another board member, Joseph Banks of Springfield, was a former shelter resident. According to Banks, Keough recruited him to join the
board more than a year ago. "He has helped me a lot; I think Frank Keough is a great man," Banks said.
Other members include former Springfield Redevelopment Authority director Dominic Sarno, who had dealings with Keough during his
five terms on the council, and Brigid Garvey, one of Sarno's former staffers.
"I wouldn't say we were too close to him," said Sarno, who was one of the original board members when the shelter first opened in the
1980s. "The city didn't seem to have any issues with the shelter, and most of the time we were dealing with routine matters."
Still, a University of Massachusetts business professor said the overlapping relationships between Keough and some board members,
combined with the lack of an internal probe after the FBI raids, were glaring signs that the board lacked independence.
"Why even have a board if you're not going to investigate something like that (the FBI raid)," said Ben S. Branch. "Unless you're trying to
give the appearance of board oversight when there really isn't any."
The close ties between Keough and the board did not raise any red flags at City Hall during the eight-year tenure of Mayor Michael J.
Albano, another friend of Keough's. Indeed, one of Keough's former employees, Jennifer E. Murphy, ended up as Albano's press aide
during his last term.
Murphy, who had no comment Friday, also served on the board of directors after leaving the shelter's payroll.
For his part, Albano backed an $8 million shelter expansion before leaving office, a project later held up by Mayor Charles V. Ryan after
federal agents raided the shelter. Albano, who did not run for re-election in 2003, did not return a telephone call seeking comment last
Porter said she spoke with city and state officials last week to discuss the agency's future. Based on the talks, Porter said, "our funding is
not in jeopardy."
Neither Ryan nor a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development, one of the state agencies that oversees the
shelter, could be reached for comment Friday.
Despite its mounting troubles, the shelter's board has not held a regular meeting since October. When Keough was suspended at a
special meeting two weeks ago, the session lasted less than half an hour.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Porter said.
(COLOR) Francis G. Keough III
Record: MERLIN_3086371
Copyright: Copyright, 2005, The Republican Company, Springfield, MA. All Rights Reserved. Used by NewsBank with Permission.