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Michael A. Lorusso made the most of his job as deputy director of the city’s Office of Property Management. The list of duties was pretty boring: negotiating leases, managing security, and fielding HVAC complaints. Lorusso, however, seemed bent on wringing a bit of star power from his post at One Judiciary Square.
Late last year, as he was driving to a meeting at the Wilson Building, Lorusso turned to a companion and said, “I’m involved in a lot of things.”
“‘He said, ‘I don’t have to wait for a table at a restaurant,’” recalls the companion, a District subcontractor who asked not to be named. “He said, ‘I can park in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, if I want to.’”
Then, says the subcontractor, to make his point, Lorusso did just as he said: He pulled into the median in front of the Wilson Building, shut off the ignition, and walked into a meeting.
Lorusso didn’t fit the mold of a midlevel municipal functionary. He used designer suits to conceal his ample waistline, shod his feet in cowboy-style shoes, and shaded his eyes with frameless blue-tinted lensesthe kind normally seen on the likes of Bono, not a DS Grade 17.
Lorusso’s appearance matched his cocky demeanor in the halls of D.C. government. Although he had arrived in the District in November 2000, Lorusso spoke with the certainty of a veteran observer when it came to D.C. politics. He flaunted his close relationships with local power brokers. And he thought nothing of imposing his own taste on government offices, personally picking out furnishings with the help of his D.C. credit card. Until recently, he had a bright future in D.C. government.
On Jan. 8, Lorusso learned that his bigger-than-life approach to rental agreements hadn’t won him the right allies: He was not being reappointed to serve in the second term of Mayor Anthony A. Williams. The next day, he packed his belongings and walked out of One Judiciary Square.
Since then, Lorusso’s two-year tenure with D.C. government has come under the scrutiny of no fewer than five separate investigationsby the D.C. auditor, the D.C. inspector general, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Among the issues that investigators are looking into:
•A questionable property assessment. Lorusso was a frequent dinner companion of prominent D.C. developer Douglas Jemal and even held a key card that let him enter Jemal’s downtown offices, the Washington Post reported. According to Graham and the D.C. auditor, Lorusso attempted to inflate the assessment of a 34-acre lot in Prince George’s County to bring it in line with Jemal’s $14 million asking price. Lorusso also approved a $929,299 payment to Jemal’s Douglas Development Corp. for work on a basement space that at the time hadn’t been completed. Jemal has agreed to return the payment. Deputy Mayor for Operations Herbert Tillery is currently conducting an audit of the District’s leases.
•Side work. The D.C. auditor found that Lorusso conducted “a private business” with an offshore bank account from his office computer.
•Lorusso’s spending habits. The billing statements for Lorusso’s District-issued credit card show that he charged more than $440,000 for items such as furniture, computers, electronics, clothing, and shoes, according to the Post.
•Lorusso’s relationship with International Builders Inc. and its owner, Fernando “Fred” Villegas. Graham alleges that Lorusso approved payments to International Builders for work at One Judiciary Square that was not done. Lorusso also approved payments to a company owned by Villegas that supplied furnishings for District offices.
Most of the allegations surrounding Lorusso’s official conduct have dribbled out of several marathon hearings held by Graham over the past eight months. And if Lorusso was ever looking for affirmation that he was a big wheel in local government, he now has it: Pundits have seized on the property-management fiasco as evidence of the disintegration of the Williams administration, and Graham has gained the sort of celebrity that tenant protests and public-safety meetings could never provide. Timothy Dimond, Lorusso’s boss, has resigned. The whole affair even bears reminders of famous congressional investigations in that Jemal has repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination before Graham’s committee.
While his friends and colleagues take the heat before the TV cameras at the Wilson Building, Lorusso has been holed up in Boston, in the offices of his family’s real-estate business.
He hasn’t been seen in Washington since May. All that’s left is a trail of e-mails, spotty paperwork, and conflicting statements. By keeping out of sight, Lorusso has left it to others to define him. And depending on whom you ask, Lorusso is either a shrewd con man or a well-meaning bungler. “If he wasn’t big and brash, I wouldn’t have remembered him,” says a longtime D.C. operative.
About 13 years ago, Lorusso met Dimond when the two were taking a real-estate class in Baltimore. At the time, Lorusso was living in Boston, but he made sure to drop in on Dimond whenever he passed through Washington. Lorusso always kept Dimond abreast of real-estate deals he was working on.
Dimond became head of D.C.’s property-management office in 2000, and his first order of business was assembling a senior management team. He had heard good things about Lorusso’s employer, the Boston Industrial Group, from other real-estate industry insiders. Initially, Dimond wanted to hire Lorusso for one of several senior-level positions. But budget pressures quickly quashed those plans, and Dimond had to make do with one deputy: Lorusso.
Dimond forwarded Lorusso’s credentials to the D.C. Office of Personnel for vetting. Lorusso got the job, and his starting salary was $105,579.
Lorusso’s qualifications were impressive, if light on specifics. Before coming to work for the District, Lorusso spent two years working as the chief financial officer (CFO) and portfolio manager for a hedge fund he calls Bunker Hill Group LLC. The fund was run by Hawthorne Investment Trust, a Boston investment firm.
Lorusso’s entree into finance speaks to the professional adjacencies of property management. Lorusso was managing the building where Hawthorne’s small office was located, and he became friendly with Charles Dyer, former president of the since-dissolved firm. Lorusso showed Dyer his expertise in real-estate software, and Dyer put him to work on an office computer. “We got to know him, and he started doing more and more for us,” says Dyer. “He was a bright guy. He had a lot of real-estate experience.” As for Lorusso’s claim that he was CFO of the Bunker Hill Group, Dyer says, “I wouldn’t call that a falsehood.”
In 2000, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Dyer and Hawthorne of not complying with federal reporting requirements between 1995 and 2000. Through a settlement reached with the SEC in 2001, Dyer admitted no wrongdoing, but he was fined $25,000 and prohibited from working as an investment adviser for a year.
Also in 2001, the SEC filed suit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts alleging that Dyer was part of a fraudulent investment scheme that targeted members of the Christian Science Church. Last year, the court issued a $22 million default judgment against two alleged members of the scheme who had renounced their American citizenship and whose last known addresses were in the Bahamas.
In its complaint, the SEC alleges that Dyer, through a group called Bunker Hill Aviation, managed a hedge fund tied to the scheme that funneled investor money to a Bahamian bank account. Dyer says he was unaware at the time of wrongdoing by his partners in the venture. “They got in, and we were the administrator for them, which was a big mistake,” he says. Dyer is also accused of misappropriating investor funds to help purchase a golf course, which he has denied. He is currently in settlement negotiations with the SEC.
“We had some battles with [the SEC],” says Dyer. “Mike [Lorusso] didn’t have anything to do with it….He helped run the computer and everything. But he was not any type of troublemaker.”
Lorusso did not respond to calls and letters requesting comment that were left with relatives.
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On his résumé, Lorusso also claims that he’s a certified commercial investment manager (CCIM). According to the Chicago-based CCIM Institute, however, no one by the name Michael Lorusso ever received the professional certification, which requires about five years of experience in the real-estate-investment field, the completion of four courses, and the passing of an exam. Lorusso didn’t complete a single course, says Roy-Mark Gomillion, the institute’s director of membership operations. Lorusso’s name appears in the CCIM database only because in 1997 he requested a course catalog. Lorusso also claims on his résumé that he was a candidate for certified property manager, but an official with the Institute of Real Estate Management says Lorusso’s candidacy lapsed in 1998 because he stopped paying dues.
What Lorusso lacked in official certification he seems to have made up for in real-world experience. He spent much of his professional life as custodian of his family’s real-estate holdings. From 1985, when Lorusso turned 20, to 1988, he worked for Lorusso Realty, which managed properties in Massachusetts and four other states. Lorusso’s résumé says he was responsible for the company’s portfolio of 1.4 million square feet of residential, commercial, and mixed-use properties.
At the age of 24, Lorusso’s résumé indicates, he made the switch to a company called Boston Industrial Group in Boston, where he had responsibility for 1.3 million to 1.8 million square feet of development activities. The only record of a Boston Industrial Group filed with the Massachusetts secretary of state is a paper-mill venture that failed in the early ’90s, whose former president, Robert Macy, says he has never heard of Lorusso. Boston’s city clerk has no record of a firm doing business by that name. There is a Boston Industrial Group Realty Trust. But its owner, Bruce Shulman, says he’s never heard of Lorusso. The CCIM database has a Boston address for Lorusso and “B.I.G.” at 440 Commercial St., a building owned by his family.
Officials for the Massachusetts chapters of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and the CCIM Institute have never heard of either Lorusso or Boston Industrial Group. Karyn McFarland, a Boston real-estate broker, who was once the leasing agent for 440 Commercial St., and who knows the Lorusso family, says she also has never heard of the Boston Industrial Group.
In 1996, Lorusso earned his bachelor’s degree in real estate from Florida Atlantic
University. A year later, he enrolled in a real-estate-development master’s program at the University of Florida. From the very first day of classes, Lorusso made an impression: He was loud and boastful.
“The first thing he ever said to us at our first sit-down at a table’I’ve developed over a million square feet in the Boston area,’” says a fellow student, who asked not to be named. “All of us thought, Well, what the hell are you doing here if you’ve done that?”
“There were times when I think he perhaps wanted to extend his pronouncements or his leadership a little beyond where he really had a knowledge base,” says Wayne Archer, one of the program’s instructors. “Sometimes I thought, Gosh, does he really have that much experience? But it’s a judgment call.”
Lorusso lived a little more like a real-estate mogul than a bright-eyed grad student. He had a well-furnished apartment off campus, a late-model Nissan Maxima, and a professional wardrobe. His legend grew when he told classmates that he owned a cigarette boat. “He had a large boat and condo in Ft. Lauderdale. I don’t know whether that was true or not,” says Lorusso’s classmate. “You could say that he was a braggart.”
Property records show that Lorusso’s mother, Sandra Lorusso, did own a beach condo in Fort Lauderdale. Family ownership of a boat could not be verified.
Boat or no boat, Lorusso’s creative résumé- writing put him in good company among the Williams administration’s political appointees. The mayor’s choices for fire chief and recreation director both doctored their own CVs, embarrassing the administration’s personnel shop.
Mayoral spokesperson Tony Bullock says that it wasn’t the Office of Personnel’s job to vet Lorusso’s résumé; it was Dimond’s. “In this case, lorusso came to the District government because he was a personal acquaintance of the director,” says Bullock. “At that point in time, it would have been [Dimond’s] job to do that. The Office of Personnel is not an investigative body. They can call a school to see if someone actually received a degree. But they can’t do a full shoe-leather investigation.”
As political perches go, the Office of Property Management is hardly a plum assignment. The agency oversees all of the District’s buildings, which during Lorusso’s tenure grew to encompass 14 million square feet from 5 million. When Lorusso joined the agency, it had the additional challenge of having to manage the relocations of several agencies, including the return of the mayor’s office and the D.C. Council to the Wilson Building.
But if the responsibilities of his new job daunted him, Lorusso didn’t show it. “He was a jovial guy. The Jim Belushi of D.C. government,” says Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty.
Mary Myers, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, first met Lorusso in May 2001 after she got lost driving to a new District salt dome on W Street NE. It was late in the afternoon on a weekday. She was on New York Avenue, heading in the wrong direction. She called the Office of Property Management to ask for directions. Lorusso took the call and instructed her to turn around, pull into a nearby parking lot, and wait. Twenty minutes later, Lorusso pulled up in a District sedan and gave Myers a lift to her destination.
Other agency honchos might tell a lost District employee to consult a map. But the Office of Property Management routinely pushed the boundaries of its bureaucratic mission. With 14 million square feet of real estate to look after, the office’s approximately 200 employees often had to throw the procedural handbook aside. Lorusso fit right in. “He liked to say, ‘I don’t like bureaucracy. I’m a firm believer in getting things done,’” says one D.C. subcontractor.
Lorusso disliked paperwork and often preferred to hop into his District-issued double-cab Chevy pickup to personally deliver furniture to municipal offices.
Lorusso’s higher-ups in the Wilson Building also got personalized customer service. In February 2001, Erik Gaull, then an aide to City Administrator John Koskinen, spent several weeks at the Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. Lorusso flew up one weekend, and the two met up in Boston. Lorusso showed Gaull around his old stomping grounds in the North End, pointing out at least one building that he said his family owned and had developed. At one bar, Gaull recalls, the staff gave Lorusso the big-shot treatment. “The valet began snapping his fingers, saying, ‘Make room for Mr. Lorusso’s car.’”
Early in Lorusso’s tenure at the Office of Property Management, former colleagues say they noticed cell phones, digital cameras, handheld organizers, and other electronic gizmos around Lorusso’s officeperhaps those he charged on his reported $440,000 credit-card bill. Administration officials say Lorusso didn’t appear to be buying anything that he didn’t distribute to employees for agency projects. At least one colleague, however, thought Lorusso enjoyed shopping for gadgets a little too much: “He was like a teenager.”
Tales of Lorusso’s long hours at the office jibe with stories of a man in love with his deal-making mission. Colleagues say his car was often one of the last ones to leave One Judiciary Square. But Lorusso wasn’t one to shuffle to bed. He liked to hit the town after hours for late, Diet Coke-fueled nights.
Lorusso also liked indulging in political gossip. When trading tales, he deployed his own insider shorthand, referring to various officials by their initials. He often claimed to know the real skinny on the latest D.C. Council blowup or Wilson Building rumor. Some thought he chimed in too much. “He wanted to be a player, but he hadn’t paid his dues enough to be a player,” notes one veteran D.C. political insider. “He didn’t know the political landscape. You should fade into the woodwork a little bit. He wasn’t cautious.”
Besides being heard, Lorusso liked to be seen. He had a penchant for white-tablecloth restaurants in the East End and Georgetown: Zola, Capital Grille, and Cafe# Milano.
If the power-lunch set didn’t immediately recognize Lorusso, they recognized some of his companions: Douglas Jemal and son
Lorusso was so comfortable dealing with the Jemals that when Douglas Development broker Blake Esherick e-mailed Lorusso, he addressed him as “Mikey.” Lorusso also took in Washington Wizards games from Jemal’s skybox at the MCI Center.
The sight of Lorusso, a relative newcomer, ingratiating himself with one of the city’s biggest developers raised eyebrows. Says one prominent real-estate industry executive: “To be doing all this business with them and be out with them, it wasn’t appropriate. People wanted to say to [Lorusso], ‘With the level of arrogance you’re operating in, it’s going to come back to haunt you.’”
Graham has repeatedly questioned Jemal about his relationship with Lorusso. In a May report, the D.C. auditor speculated that Lorusso might have been offered “favors, gifts and other gratuities in an effort to curry favor and manipulate his official decisions.” In February, Jemal denied under oath that he had ever transferred funds to any of Lorusso’s bank accounts.
Lorusso found himself in Graham’s sights last September, when the mayor tried to rush council approval of a deal to purchase Jemal’s lot at 4800 Addison Road in Capitol Heights, Md., in exchange for the sale of a historic firehouse at 438 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Graham says he questioned the $12.5 million purchase price for the Addison Road impound lot as soon as he saw it. He says he immediately called and asked Lorusso for a copy of the appraisal. When he received the report a few days later, he saw that the appraisers had taken pains to note that the $12.5 million valuation depended on the District’s leasing the property for 12 years. At the time, the District had leased the lot for only three years. Graham says he again dialed Lorusso’s number. “Is there a 12-year lease?” Graham asked.
Lorusso didn’t hesitate, Graham recalls. “He said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
Graham then called Mayor Williams to tell him that the appraisal for the Addison Road parcel was “cooked.”
On Oct. 21, Williams withdrew the proposal from consideration. By then, At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz had scheduled a hearing on the impound-lot deal. Since then, Schwartz and Graham have held several hearings on the issue.
The story that emerges from the testimony of Donald Morris, chief appraiser at the firm of Cushman & Wakefield, doesn’t look good for Lorusso.
Morris testified that in December 2001, he and his appraisers came up with an initial valuation of the lot at 4800 Addison Road that was closer to $4 million or $5 millionfar below Jemal’s $14 million asking price. Scott Frankel, a Cushman & Wakefield executive director, testified that he broke the news to Lorusso over the phone. According to Frankel’s testimony, Lorusso then demanded that Frankel “get involved.”
Morris said Frankel called him into his office, and the two spoke to Lorusso on speakerphone. Morris repeated the $4 million- to-$5 million figure. He testified that Lorusso said, “Why so low?” Morris explained that the District’s lease was set to expire after three years, and no other tenant would be likely to lease the lot at a similar rate. Morris said that Lorusso assured him that a nine-year lease extension would be forthcoming. The D.C. auditor reported that Douglas Development apparently furnished Lorusso with a draft of the nine-year lease extension later that day.
The next morning, Morris’ appraiser received a copy of the lease extension from Lorusso, but the document wasn’t signed. So Morris telephoned Lorusso to make sure that the lease was going to be signed. Morris said that Lorusso assured him that it would be. That day, one of Morris’ staff e-mailed the final appraisal to Lorusso.
The nine-year lease extension was never executed. It remained the basis of the appraisal, however, for nearly a year.
Lorusso’s other regular dinner companions have stirred up only slightly less controversy. In 2001, Lorusso met Fernando Villegas, the owner of International Builders, a small general-contracting firm based in the District, at a business dinner organized by local real-estate developer J. Fernando “Fern” Barrueta. Barrueta says he had met Lorusso not too long before that, at an International Council of Shopping Centers function. Lorusso, he recalls, complained of needing to find more minority contractors to do work for the District. Barrueta says he recommended International Builders, with which he had worked before. He also told Villegas to give Lorusso a call.
Villegas, eager for District business, asked Barrueta to arrange a formal introduction. After the dinner, Villegas testified, he tried unsuccessfully to meet with the deputy director. Two months later, Villegas said, he ran into Lorusso on a plane coming back from Miami. Soon after, Lorusso gave him a chance to do some work at One Judiciary Square. Villegas’ company performed the job to everyone’s approval.
Satisfied with International Builders’ first assignment, Lorusso then instructed Cushman & Wakefield’s Frankel to use International Builders for two more jobs: further renovations at One Judiciary Square and construction of the Emergency Management Agency’s Command Center and offices at the Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs on 14th Street NW.
Graham has alleged that on the One Judiciary Square project, Lorusso signed off on as much as $2.5 million in payments to International Builders for work that wasn’t done.
Lorusso kept a sporadic rein on both projects, say contractors who were involved. Sometimes Lorusso would walk the site at One Judiciary Square and issue highly specific orders. Once, says a subcontractor who asked not to be named, Lorusso pointed to a specific spot and demanded that the contractors make room there for a receptionist desk.”He had a very dominant personality. He could be very persistent about what he wanted,” says one former colleague. At weekly project meetings, Lorusso “liked to wave his flag,” says a subcontractor, who asked not to be named. “He would yell and scream, ‘You didn’t do [this or that].’”
One detail in particular Lorusso wasn’t content to leave to underlings was furnishings. In July 2001, he began to stop by Bo Concept, a Danish-furniture store in Georgetown, about once a month to look at the merchandise, says the owner, Claude Zein. He would often show up with two Office of Property Management employees in tow. Zein says his employees delivered the furnituremostly desks and keyboard traysto offices inside One Judiciary Square.
Altogether, Lorusso ordered about $500,000 worth of furniture from Bo Concept, Zein testified before Graham’s committee. Lorusso bought about $33,000 worth of it using his District-issued credit card. International Builders picked up the tab for the rest, passing on the costs to the District. Graham’s staff is currently sorting out where the furniture is and how much the District paid for it.
Zein says Lorusso didn’t order any furniture from his store after September 2002. By then, Lorusso had found another vendor: Fernando Villegas.
In June 2002, Lorusso traveled to Chicago for NeoCon, a fair of office-furniture manufacturers and distributors, to look at furnishings for District offices. Villegas, who also attended, testified that at NeoCon, he and Lorusso stopped at the exhibit of a vendor of Italian modular office furniture called Uffix. “We liked the product….
Everybody raved over the product.” Villegas said that after talking to the Uffix representative, he decided to become a U.S. distributor for the company. In September 2002, Villegas incorporated Global Furniture Resources, of which, he testified, he is sole owner and employee. Global Furniture Resources immediately began procuring furniture for District agencies. As of March, the District and Douglas Development had purchased more than $650,000 worth of furnishings through Global Furniture for District offices at a markup of 32 percent.
Graham has taken a particular interest in Villegas’ sudden turn as the District’s newest furniture vendor. Under oath, Villegas has denied that he started Global Furniture at Lorusso’s behest. Having procured furniture for the District from Bo Concept, Villegas testified, “I got a taste of furniture. It’s a good business.” Villegas has also denied that Lorusso has any financial stake in Global Furniture Resources or International Builders.
Lorusso had little patience for anyone who raised questions about payments to International Builders, according to testimony from Office of Property Management employees and contractors. Joseph Philip, one of Lorusso’s staffers, recently told Graham’s committee that after he and Lorusso disagreed over several invoices for work at One Judiciary Square, he returned to his office one afternoon to find all his files on the project missing. Philip said that he eventually found theminside Lorusso’s office. And when he confronted his boss, Lorusso calmly explained that he had taken the files because of their disagreements over the invoices.
Despite Lorusso’s hands-on managing, delays plagued both the Emergency Management Agency project and the work at One Judiciary Square.
The Emergency Management Agency Command Center was on an especially tight deadline. District officials wanted it completed in time for the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Anything less would have been a huge embarrassment for the mayor, says agency Director Peter LaPorte.
Despite the symbolic deadline, planning for the Reeves Center work dragged on for months, and construction crews didn’t dig in until late June 2002. Infighting among contractors further dogged the project, even though Lorusso gave several of them new laptops to foster better communication.
LaPorte watched from the sidelines. Once his agency transferred funds for construction to the Office of Property Management, he lost control of the enterprise. All he could do to speed up the pace of work was nag or complain to higher-ups. LaPorte says frustration twice drove him to see Dimond. “I wanted to punch Mike Lorusso out,” says LaPorte.
“Mr. LaPorte and I sat down and talked through our issues,” says Dimond. “To the best of my knowledge those issues were resolved and the project moved forward.”
By the end of September 2002, LaPorte had finally gotten his office, albeit one that was a third smaller than planned and without any sleek Italian or Danish furniture. The Command Center had also come on line, several days after the Sept. 11 deadline, but in time for the World Bank/International Monetary Fund protests. International Builders had completed work on many of the offices at One Judiciary Square. However, many hallways and a state-of-the-art conference center remain unfinished.
Lorusso wanted to stick around D.C. government. He had a few options. In March 2002, he asked Koskinen about applying for the job of deputy mayor for operations. “He was anxious to do more,” says Koskinen, who passed Lorusso’s name on to the search committee. Lorusso, however, didn’t get an interview. He told friends that he was also interested in becoming an agency director, maybe even taking over the Office of Property Management after Dimond left.
Over the summer of 2002, Lorusso threw himself into District politics, volunteering for the mayor’s re-election effort. In August, he wrote a $2,000 check to the Williams campaign.
Earlier in the year, Gaull announced that he was leaving the mayor’s office to challenge Kathy Patterson for the Ward 3 council seat. Eager to help a friend and ally of the mayor’s, Lorusso approached Gaull about throwing a fundraiser for him. Gaull pointed out that Lorusso couldn’t; as a District-government employee, Lorusso was prohibited from campaigning by the Hatch Act. So Peter Lorusso, Michael’s brother, organized the event, which took place at the end of July. (Peter Lorusso did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.)
Michael Lorusso, however, had a hand in securing the venue. In July, he paid a visit to Bo Concept. Zein was out of the country at the time. Zein testified that one of his managers called him, saying that Lorusso wanted to know if he could throw a party in the store. Zein had let others use his space for parties and didn’t think anything of it. Zein says he only recently learned that the party was a political fundraiser.
Initially, Lorusso didn’t act concerned over the fuss that Schwartz and Graham were making about the impound-lot deal. Even though Schwartz had asked the D.C. auditor to investigate, hardly anyone in the mayor’s office took the inquiry seriously. On Oct. 24, mayoral spokesperson Bullock e-mailed Koskinen, “I think Herb [Tillery]’s getting it under controland no one else seems to care.”
Deputy Mayor Tillery had indeed begun his own inquiry. Early on the morning of Oct. 22, Tillery pressed Lorusso by e-mail about what he had told the appraisers. Tillery kept Koskinen posted. As they awaited Lorusso’s response, Koskinen suggested, in an Oct. 27 e-mail to Tillery, that if they don’t get clear answers from the Office of Property Management, they should refer the matter to the inspector general.
On Oct. 29, Lorusso finally responded to Tillery by e-mail. “There is no specific recollection of giving a detailed instruction to utilize the extended term,” he wrote. “There were no specific assumptions suggested to the appraisers.”
Later that day, Koskinen suggested to Tillery by e-mail that they talk to the appraisers themselves.
In early December, Tillery passed on written allegations of impropriety inside the Office of Property Management to the Office of the Inspector General.
As the new year began, Lorusso knew that he, along with all Williams-administration appointees, would be reviewed for reappointment for the mayor’s second term. But given all that he had accomplished in the previous two years, Lorusso didn’t think his job was in immediate danger, say friends and former colleagues.
Late in the afternoon of Jan. 8, however, Tillery called Lorusso into his office to tell him that his appointment wasn’t being renewed. Lorusso received about $11,000 in severance pay and salary. Friends and colleagues describe Lorusso’s reaction to the loss of his job as a mixture of surprise and disappointmentcompounded by the news that he would have to be out of his office by the end of the next business day. He spent Jan. 9 packing.
Gaull happened to be in One Judiciary Square that day and heard the news about Lorusso. He says he stopped by Lorusso’s office to offer his condolences. Lorusso, he says, seemed to be taking it in stride. He talked of possibly returning to Boston to his family’s real-estate business.
A couple of days later, a few of Lorusso’s Office of Property Management co-workers took him out for a beer. Before January was out, Lorusso stopped by Bo Concept one last time. He told Zein that he wasn’t working for the government anymore. Over the next few months, Lorusso told employees at the Adams Mill Bar & Grill, a favorite hangout, that he was traveling a lot. The last time any of them saw Lorusso was in May, when one of the bartenders ran into him at Vida’s, a nightclub on 20th Street NW.
Gaull hasn’t seen Lorusso since the day he walked out of One Judiciary Square. “He said he would bounce back,” Gaull says. “He seemed to have it all figured out.” CP
Jason Cherkis provided additional reporting for this story.
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Charles Steck.