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OneUnited's "cardinal sin"

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OneUnited Bank has a complicated relationship with bills. Specifically: It isn’t fond of paying its own. The Boston-based bank was saved in 2008 with a $12 million cash infusion from the US Treasury. Since that time, OneUnited has missed 11 quarterly payments to the Treasury, racking up $1.7 million in unpaid dividends. That’s what makes a headline in today’s Herald a real screamer: The bank that won’t pay its own bills is putting the screws to a Dorchester church, threatening to foreclose if the church doesn’t come up with $1.1 million by next month.

OneUnited is chasing the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church for a $1.1 million balloon payment on a five-year old loan the church used to construct a community center. The church’s lawyer tells the Herald that the church has not missed any monthly payments on the loan. Typically, commercial loans are extended or refinanced when their balloon payments come due. It’s also not unheard of for banks that want to close out loans to schedule foreclosure auctions to create leverage over commercial borrowers.

But the prospect of OneUnited -- which was bailed out in 2008 specifically because of its ties to minority communities in Boston, Florida, and California -- playing hardball with a historic black church has observers calling foul. The Ten Point Coalition’s Rev. Jeffrey Brown tells the Herald today, “I think it’s absolutely outrageous for a bank -- especially a bank that’s supposed to be a minority bank -- to move on an institution like the Charles Street. If there’s anything that’s a cardinal sin, this would be it.”

The optics of the loan standoff certainly don’t look good for OneUnited, given the bank’s liberal attitude toward repaying its own debts. OneUnited was operating under a cease and desist order -- one of the steps on the road to a bank closure -- when it received its lifeline from the Treasury. The bank now owes the Treasury a dividend payment on its $12 million bailout every quarter. To date, it has paid just under $94,000, while racking up $1.7 million in unpaid dividends. As a chronic non-payer of bailout dividends, the Treasury has assigned a government observer to sit in on the bank’s board meetings. OneUnited posted a $2.8 million profit last year. The bank has also been battered with rounds of bad press relating to its tepid mortgage business. It was recently hit with a fine from the FDIC, and it has come under scrutiny for its compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. In short, it’s not the type of institution that should pick a fight over financial management, if such a fight can be avoided. 

                                                                                                                                        --PAUL MCMORROW


BEACON HILL

The Phoenix’s David Bernstein and state Rep. Charles Murphy, banished from the House leadership team for talking about the probation probe, joined Emily Rooney to analyze the state of high anxiety on Beacon Hill as former Speaker Sal DiMasi shares his knowledge with the grand jury.

Sen. Steven Baddour holds a hearing on welfare, and law enforcement officials tell him there is a lot of fraud, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Other states are pushing for drug testing of welfare recipients, Governing reports.

State representatives and senators pocketed a total of $426,899 in per diem payments last year, Beacon Hill Roll Call reports (via Lowell Sun). The per diems are daily payments for trips to the State House and are separate from the lawmakers’ salaries.

Stephen Crosby, the head of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, says the organization won’t meet its early deadlines because of problems hiring commission members, WBUR reports.

Attorney General Martha Coakley continues her march against mortgage company ne’er-do-wells.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua appoints Ron Bell, a community liaison for Gov. Deval Patrick, as his chief of staff. The Eagle-Tribune reports on Bell’s 20-year record of driving violations, the most recent being a drunk driving charge last October that led to a suspension from his state job. With his license currently suspended, Bell may have to commute from Milton to Lawrence by public transit, which could take two-and-a-half hours each way.

Peabody City Council postpones a vote on adopting the state’s health care reform law as five of the 11 councilors are ineligible to vote because of a conflict, the Salem News reports.

Some Boston city councilors are trying to dump overnight trash removal.

Casino developers scouting locations in Chicopee may run into some obstacles.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino puts the kibosh on his fire commissioner’s side job.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

US Rep. James McGovern explores why the US Postal Service is closing a distribution center in Shrewsbury and building a new one in Boston, the Worcester Telegram reports.

GAO reports outlines billions of dollars in duplicated federal services, USA Today reports.

Tax-free Internet sales and exemptions are eroding state and local sales tax collections, USA Today reports.

Members of the New Hampshire state legislature move to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage statute.

ELECTION 2012

Keller@Large says Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts ties, which Romney himself used to joke about, are becoming more of an albatross than a punchline with conservatives.

Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter officially kicked off his run for the new Ninth Congressional District seat by bashing US Rep. William Keating for moving into the district to run for the seat -- even though Sutter lives outside the district.

The battle over what Ted Kennedy believed about health coverage, contraception, and religious freedom continues, with the Globe reporting that bills the late senator sponsored appear to undercut US Sen. Scott Brown’s claim that Kennedy held the same position he has staked out.

Another pundit opines on the end of days for the Republican Party.

Newt Gingrich is slipping in his home state of Georgia, after having collapsed pretty much everywhere else first.

The grandfather of the negative ad complains that nowadays, negative campaigners just take quotes out of context, and don’t create real, brutally scary art.

Bob Kerrey is running for Senate in Nebraska. Bob Kerrey is not so thrilled about this fact.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Cape Cod Times looks into the state task force set up to head off the proposed military base closings.

An “upscale Walgreens,” which sounds like an oxymoron, will be the new tenant at the former Borders site in downtown Boston.

A UMass Donahue Institute study says the state could lose 50,000 jobs over the next decade due to pending federal funding cuts.

Friendly’s emerges from bankruptcy protection and wants to serve wine and beer to keep up with the competition. The Republican says that move is just a sign of the times.

Wealthy homeowners have better luck staving off foreclosures than their less privileged counterparts.

EDUCATION

The principal of English High School in Lynn suspends 27 students following a videotaped fight between two freshman girls, the Item reports. One of those suspended says the fight wasn’t exciting and the two girls had fought before.

The superintendent of schools in Lowell and the head of the teachers union lobby against state approval of a charter school for the city, the Lowell Sun reports.

Liberty University, led by Jerry Falwell, Jr., could be the new owner of a shuttered prep school campus in Northfield.

HEALTH CARE

Competition from larger Boston hospitals who have already merged with community hospitals and reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments could trigger more hospital mergers in Massachusetts in the coming year, according to some industry officials.

The recently passed federal payroll cut included reductions in health care spending that will cost Massachusetts hospitals at least $62 million - and possibly much more -- over the next 10 years, the Globe reports.

The Harvard primate research center in Southborough could face federal fines after the recent deaths of three monkeys.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

US Rep. Edward Markey wants the relicensing review of Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, already the longest review in the history of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to be put on hold while officials gauge the impact of the facility on the threatened Atlantic sturgeon.

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan will seek $5 million from the federal government for alternative energy projects proposed by his predecessor, including uncovering the Quequechan River for hydropower.

A group of Dartmouth residents are trying to block a proposed 9,000-panel solar farm proposed by Con Edison Development despite a bylaw passed by Town Meeting last year that fast-tracks such projects.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Yarmouth police are pursuing domestic assault and battery charges against Republican gadfly Christy Mihos.

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy joins the growing chorus taking the Obama administration to task for its war on journalism.

Market researchers can now search and analyze up to two years of Twitter updates, the BBC reports.

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