Mayor Walsh today signed an order that both aims to reduce the risk of more ethical and legal issues related to the projects Zoning Board of Appeal members vote on and to make it easier for the public to get a look in advance at upcoming proposals
Walsh's order prohibits board members - who under state law must include representatives of local building organizations and unions - from voting on any projects they have had an interest in as long as five years earlier - and bars them from any business dealings with projects they've voted on for at least two years after they vote. They will also have to file annual financial-interest statements with the city clerk's office under the order, which also requires new members to file a statement listing all projects they or business partners have interests in that might come before the board.
The order comes after one month to the day after a former BPDA official was sentenced to 40 months in prison for taking bribes to help a developer win a zoning-board vote to extend his approval of a proposed South Boston project. No zoning-board members have bee charged in the case, although one resigned and the former head of ISD stepped down from his new city job.
The order also comes after a consultant recommended steps to bring some efficiencies to a board that often has to race through upwards of 40 separate proposals at its meetings in a booming city.
In addition to the ethics changes - which will also require new and re-appointed members to undergo "comprehensive ethics training" - the order also requires the board and the city IT department to develop a system within the next 18 months to let applicants file their plans online - and to make those plans accessible to the public. The BPDA already has such a system in place.
The order also requires the board and the IT department to develop an e-mail system to which residents can sign up to be alerted of new zoning applications, hearing dates and decisions in particular parts of the city - and to designate somebody as an ombudsperson to respond to queries from residents about board procedures and how to testify at hearings.