sure has been taking it on the chin lately. Maybe we have
been throwing around our sophistication and prosperity too
much. Maybe we are too liberal and effete for this rural
county. First it was the Registry of Motor Vehicles office
fleeing to Hadley, then all the “big boxes” bypassed Northampton
and went to the Hadley megamalls. Now Kollmorgen might leave
us, and the state has decided to take half of our courthouse’s
business away and set up shop in a new courthouse headquartered,
yes, in Hadley.
in the county has been hurling brickbats at the idea of
a $2.5 million new building barely three miles from the
existing county courthouse in Northampton. The local bar
association called it “costly and disruptive,” Judges Michael
Ryan and Lillian Miranda and Atty. Jonathan Souweine have
gone on the record as opposing it. Even Judge Nancy Dusek-Gomez
is saying maybe the project should be in Belchertown, where
it was originally supposed to be. Its only defenders seem
to be former State Rep. William Nagle, who started the ball
rolling by inserting the $2.5 million into the House budget
just before he left office, and Rep. Nancy Flavin, of Easthampton
who picked up the ball and was the point woman who fought
for the line item to be put in the current budget.
But maybe some
of this is smoke, designed to enable politicians to distance
themselves from an unpopular project. The storm seems to
be dying down and progress continues on the project with
the developers planning to break ground this summer.
main parcel they acquired is on the north side Russell Street
(Route 9) close to the center of Hadley. About a month ago
Matthew McDonough and an entity called ROAM LLC (a limited
liability corporation) signed a purchase and sale agreement
for an adjoining parcel. The backyard of what is now a house
site on West Street, owned by John and Ann Misch, gives
them enough room for parking to satisfy the Hadley planning
board. According to Kevin Flanagan of the Department of
Capital Assets Management (DCAM), the state still has not
signed a contract with ROAM, but the partnership has its
bank financing all set and is laying out substantial bucks
for land acquisition and engineering. ROAM LLC obviously
thinks it is a done deal.
reasons that the state should not go ahead with this project
are numerous and compelling, Its location is embarrassing
, close to Northampton restaurants and the homes of law
enforcement professionals, but distant from most of the
towns in this new district, which includes Hadley, South
Hadley, Amherst, Belchertown, Pelham, and Ware. The eastern
part of the county is depressed economically and isolated
from public transportation, and now a courthouse to serve
its people is being built barely six tenths of a mile from
the Northampton line. I clocked it myself.
then there is the state’s financial crisis. The last I heard
the state might lay off 44 percent of the Department of
Transitional Assistance caseworkers in Holyoke, and 43 percent
of the caseworkers in Springfield because of a $3 million
shortfall. Hundreds of jobs might be saved if the people
in Boston would take line item “A” and shift it over to
column “C”. Then there’s the issue of taking business away
from a Northampton courthouse that has cut its backlog in
cases, and is doing 51 percent fewer jury trials than it
did in l998. In addition, the old courthouse may be a lot
emptier next year now that towns and cities in the county
are considering not funding the regional council of governments
now housed in the downtown court building. So what are the
good reasons for going ahead?
important stands to make money from it. When a project has
strong legs, you should probably look around for the neighborhood
elephant. The firm behind the Hadley courthouse deal - ROAM
LLC - is one of a whole group of corporations managed by
a Springfield real estate broker named Matthew McDonough.
He and his partners are moving into Hampshire County
real estate in a big way. His Gretna Greene Development
Corp. bought the old Tri-County Sales building on Conz Street
and converted it to medical offices in l997, and last year
Middle Hampshire Development LLC bought both of the old
Kaiser-Permanente buildings. The one at 70 Main St. in Florence
went for $850,000, and the bigger building in Amherst for
Picknelly, president of Peter Pan Bus Lines, and the Picknelly
family play a big role in some of these projects, and might
have an indirect interest in them all, through McDonough
Realty. Peter Picknelly’s lawyer, John C. Auth, is the treasurer
of McDonough Realty Services Inc.
in a telephone interview, Peter Picknelly attempted to distance
himself from McDonough, denying he had any financial interest
in McDonough’s operations.
the last four years, the Picknellys, through their various
corporations, including the Sheraton, Falcon Holding Corp.,
and Monarch Place, have given over $18,500 to critical leadership
figures in the Massachusetts House and Senate. Money buys
clout and LLCs associated with Matthew McDonough or the
Picknellys now own buildings that house many public agencies.
has two major projects going right now, the Hadley Courthouse
and rehabbing a building in Greenfield for the Hampshire
--Franklin District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel. And just
the other day it was announced that Paul Picknelly, Peter’s
son and president of the Sheraton hotel, is the visible
partner in Monarch Enterprises LLC, which is slated to build
a new regional $3 million dog-pound to serve the communities
of Chicopee, Springfield, South Hadley and West Springfield.
couple of months ago an Advocate article looked for answers
(Why This Hadley Courthouse?) and pointed at corporate links
between a publicly indentified partner in ROAM LLC, former
DA candidate Edward J. Ryan, and his law partner Paul Boudreau.
And, it should be noted, Boudreau is married to Hampshire-Franklin
DA Scheibel. I talked to Scheibel about a month ago,
and she was upset at the courthouse rumors that evidently
led to the Advocate article, and vehemently denied being
behind the Hadley project.
if it’s not Scheibel, who is pushing this?” I asked one
old courthouse employee, who doesn’t want to go on the record.
No one wants to go on the record on this poisonous issue
with layoffs in the air because of budget cuts. We all have
mortgages. “Oh look south, look to Springfield,” he said.
“That’s where the power is. “
can see the hills of Ware and the plains of Hadley in the
distance from the 25th floor of Monarch Place. Peter Picknelly’s
office and Matt McDonough’s office are up where the trade
winds blow. Huge at the base, the floor plan in Monarch
Place is cozier up on the 25th floor. Everything is silver
and green with touches of gold. Coming out of the elevator,
the first thing you see is a large sign on a free-standing
wall: McDonough Realty Services (MRS). The officers of McDonough
Realty are Picknelly’s lawyer, John Auth, and McDonough.
Auth and McDonough have their offices at one end of the
short corridor, on the other end is Peter Picknelly’s suite
and the offices of the architect for most of these ventures,
Bernard Schenkelberg. Everyone is close at hand, ready to
be called into the inner sanctum.
I was there and I asked for Mr. Picknelly, the receptionist
went into the inner office and returned with the news that
Mr. Picknelly had no comments on my questions about his
ownership or involvement in the Hadley and Westfield courthouses,
a South Hadley group home, and a Holyoke Juvenile facility.
I should take all my questions to Matthew McDonough.
don’t get comfortable, because the answers I am going to
give you, you won’t like” said McDonough. “I don’t have
much to say to you.” He looks like some character that plays
a lawyer on TV. Tough, bald, smallish and well-dressed,
built like a small bull. His office is small and elegant,
right on the edge of the glass cliff. I look out at the
clouds, I look around for somewhere to sit down, but there
isn’t anything available. What he says is no, no he isn’t
going to say who the partners are in these ventures I am
they wanted to name their venture the John Doe LLC they
would have.” he says. “The investors in these ventures want
their confidentiality respected.”
A limited liability corporation is not like a normal corporation,
where there are boards of directors, and you can go to the
Secretary of State’s office in Boston and find out who the
people running the corporation are, and get their annual
reports. All that an organizer of an LLC has to file with
the Secretary of State is a one-page declaration with the
name of a manager of the LLC. The manager has to keep in
his desk at work all the tax returns of the LLC , a list
of investors (members) and the percentage that each investor
has of the project. McDonough has all the information on
his investors in his stylish desk, but he doesn’t have to
open that drawer unless the director of the securities division
of the Secretary of State’s office invokes chapter 156C:9
and asks him for the information.
is the guy on point for the deals, the only man who shows
up on the computer screens in the courthouses. He does business
for the Picknelly family, and he says some years they are
his biggest clients, some years not. He says he is an independent
rent-paying broker who finds deals for his clients, spots
properties, and makes the winning bid. He does admit that
the Picknellys were owners of one of the courthouses, and
he was also an investor in that particular venture, which
was the Westfield one.
The Holyoke Juvenile Court Facility
Architect: Bernard Schenkelberg
Builder: Marois Construction
Owner: Gretna Greene Development Corp.
Financing: Peoples Savings Bank
first Peter Picknelly venture into courthouse construction
that I am aware of was the juvenile court facility
in Holyoke. He was the only bidder on the contract. On the
last day of l996, he bought an old garage on Elm Street
in downtown Holyoke, evicted School Time Inc., a privately
owned school bus operation, and on April 18 of l997 sold
the property to Gretna Greene Development Corp. His lawyer,
John Auth, is the only officer of Gretna Greene, and Matt
McDonough managed the project. According to the building
permit, Gretna Greene put about $960,000 into the building,
and the a spokesman for the State Judicial Court told me
that the state pays Gretna Greene Development about $339,000
a year for their five-year lease on the facility.
2000/2001 Children’s Study Home, South Hadley
Architect: Bernard Schenkelberg
Builder: Marois Construction
Owner: Canal Street Development LLC
Financing: Peoples Savings Bank
Hadley is the home turf of many of the people involved in
these projects. Matt McDonough is on the town’s appropriation
committee, Edward J. Ryan is the town counsel, George Boyle
of Boyle Associates is the former town planner, and Joe
Marois (probably the M in ROAM) is on the town’s industrial
December of l999, the Daily Hampshire Gazette carried a
story that the Children’s Study Home wanted to convert the
old VFW post in South Hadley to a facility for young women
in the custody of the State Department of Youth Services.
Local residents got up in arms about the project, which
would be owned by something called Canal Street Development
LLC. (CSDLLC) and leased to the Children’s Study Home. Developer
Matt McDonough of CSDLLC had a private meeting with the
Town Administrator to talk about the project, something
that stirred up more bad feelings.
town planner, Richard Harris, thought there were zoning
problems with the project, and went to see the town’s counsel,
Edward Ryan, for a ruling. On Jan. 14, 2000, Ryan gave him
a preliminary opinion that the educational nature of the
McDonough project made it exempt from local zoning laws
under Chapter 40A. On the 19th, Harris sent the ruling to
planning board members. He notes “ I have been advised that
Mr. Ryan does not have any business relationship with either
the proposed developer or the Children’s Study Home. “
lawyers seem to have a habit of saying things that are literally
true but substantively false. Maybe it is something they
teach you in law school. Sure Ed Ryan was not partners with
Matt McDonough in January of 2000, and was not associated
with the Children’s Home, but he had a conflict and he should
have said so. In March Ryan followed his initial letter
with another formal ruling, and the town planner asked the
Attorney General for a legal opinion, an opinion which the
AG’s office declined to issue. In the end, the planning
board voted 4 to 1 to approve the project. Members said
they were afraid that the town would face a lawsuit if the
project was blocked by the community. Ryan’s legal opinion
effectively limited the town board’s options. Did his critical
intervention lead McDonough to cut him as an investor in
the Hadley project? We’ll probably never know unless someone
gets an awful attack of truth-telling. Ryan denies it.
sure I know all these people,” said Ryan to me, “I know
a lot of people in this town. I’ve worked here a long time.
I had no reason to walk away. I thought this was a question
where I could give a good reading of the law.” He says that
it was “long afterward” that he asked McDonough to keep
him in mind if he had any more projects. And McDonough came
back and said yes, we got a project here.
had to know that Canal Street had links to Joe Marois. Ryan
was Marois’ friend and long-term lawyer. He represented
Marois in the organization of Community Self-Storage Inc.
(July ,l999), Marois Construction Co. (Jan., l978), and
Orion Farm Inc. (Nov., l997). There’s a whole nest of close
business relationships between Ryan, who once unsuccesslfully
sought the Democratic nomination forr district attorney
and his partner, Paul Boudreau, spouse of the current DA,
a Republican, and between them and John Auth and Michael
J. Murphy, Picknelly’s lawyers.
McDonough strikes again: Courthouses in Westfield and Hadley,
and new offices for the District Attorney in Greenfield.