Friends of Mary Cummings Park delivers complaint to the Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley seeking an investigation of misallocation of care and maintenance trust funds, breach of trust and return of up to 15 million dollars by the City of Boston .
- July 23, 2008
Citing nearly $200,000 in misallocated funds in just the past five years, the Friends of Mary Cummings Park Inc, a local non-profit group, is asking the attorney general to seek the removal of the City of Boston as trustee and a return of the misallocated money. The complaint filed on July 23rd also points to numerous documents demonstrating the intent of City of Boston officials to undermine the clear purpose of the land trust that was established in 1930, which created a "public pleasure ground" from Mary Cummings' 234 acre farm.
According to the City's own records, between fiscal years 2002 and 2007 only 1.2% of the "care and maintenance" trust fund income was actually spent on maintenance of the park. The bulk of the money was diverted to lawyers, surveyors, and appraisers who were preparing residential subdivision plans for land legally designated for use as a public park and playground.
The complaint includes memos from the law firm Palmer & Dodge which show that it was the intent of City Hall to use the trust and public park land to create revenue for the City, rather than the trust. In 1996 and 1999 memos from their legal counsel, City Hall was advised that the land is legally protected as a park and playground under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution but that they might be allowed to change the purpose of the trust and sell the land if they could "demonstrate that the land is not suitable for a park". Over a decade of neglect followed.
The group also cites a petition submitted by the City of Boston to the Attorney General in 1987 to change the trust. The aim of the cy pres was to sell the park land to fund other Boston Park Department operations. This petition includes a claim by the City of Boston's lawyers that the main income producing asset of the trust fund, an office building which was adjacent to Faneuil Hall, was immediately seized by eminent domain by the City without compensating the trust fund. The group says this shows that any lack of current fund in the care and maintenance trust fund is Boston's own doing.
If true, the appreciation and income over the last 78 years from the $118,000 that should have been awarded in 1930 amounts to more than enough for adequate maintenance. The Friends' complaint also seeks a return of this money totaling approximately $15 million in appreciation and income.
Other breaches of trust pointed out by the group include the cancellation of children's programs and refusals of outside funding to keep the field house in repair. Boston for many years ran a garden program in cooperation with the Boston School Department which utilized another trust, the Randidge Trust, for transportation. Boston also permitted Kamp for Kids (Kids Challenge) to use the park. While these two programs were cancelled outright by Boston, the refusal of Boston to accept YMCA funding, other outside funding or to use Cummings trust funds to repair the bathroom facilities in the field house has prevented day camps from operating.
Currently, there are no signs identifying the park and no mention of it on the City's website. The only signs that City Hall has posted are the 15 "No Trespassing" signs that until recently threatened park visitors. These signs, nailed to trees along the road, cost the "care and maintenance" trust fund $2,940 in FY2004.
In December 2007, the Friends of Mary Cummings Park purchased two engraved wooden signs for $2,500 and posted them at the park. City Hall not only confiscated these signs but also made threats of trespass against the group. The signs were eventually returned to the Friends under the stipulation that they not be posted ever again.
The complaint concludes that misallocation of the Trust fund income, cancellation by City Hall of children's programs, public misinformation, purposeful neglect, and refusals of any outside funding to further the trust's purpose and maintain the park are a breach of the public's trust and that the only way to move forward is to have the court appoint a new trustee.