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FinCom calls for Swan Boats audit

Posted in: Boston politics

The Boston Finance Commission is calling for an audit of Swan Boats Inc., the family-run ferry service in the Public Garden that says it earned $1.4 million between 2008 and 2010 and paid the city rent of just $62,000.

The Boston Herald reports that FinCom Executive Director Matthew Cahill sent a report to Mayor Thomas Menino criticizing the city’s Parks Department for letting Swan Boats owner Lyn Paget fail to document receipts and expenses or provide a full audit of the business. “I just want to make sure the taxpayers are being fairly compensated,” Cahill said.

Cahill is following up on a story in CommonWealth magazine last summer. The report detailed the Swan Boats’ shaky financial reporting and noted that customer payments for tickets and souvenirs were being tossed in a drawer. The CommonWealth story quoted Cahill as saying: ”How much are they making off of those swan boats is the question and how much is the city losing?”

The Swan Boats are a Boston institution, dating back 135 years. Cahill says it’s time the city received fair compensation for the monopoly it grants the Swan Boats. Either that, he says, or the city should consider building its own Swan Boats and running the business itself.

                                                                                                                                    --BRUCE MOHL


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2 Article Comments
Recent Comments


Says on 3/2/2012 11:28 AM
There would no news today about the Swan Boat "sweet deal" if it had not been for the report CommonWealth Magazine released many months ago. I doubt that Cahill or the Parks Dept would have paid any more attention to this than they have previously done in past contract renewals. Sure, the Swan Boats are a Boston institution but that shouldn't be a grant to enrich the Paget family. Aside from the principle involved, special deals have no place in government business.
Shirl k.

Says on 3/2/2012 9:35 PM
Thank you, CWM and Colman Herman, for exposing this Swan Boats boondoggle. The Paget family got a sweetheart deal on a phony "bid" process that was written so only they could qualify ("past experience" required!). In fact, they were getting the contract even when they failed to qualify -- they stopped using the original copper-swan boats that were specified for the contract (also to rig it for them), and replaced all but one of them with cheap fiberglass-swan boats (go look and you can see the difference); no one in the City cared, because it was all rigged. As meterman says, without you, no one would have paid the slightest attention to it; yet it is there, as plain as day, for anyone to see, millions and millions of dollars that should be going to taxpayer services, allowed to slip into the hands of a private, for-profit (and thus exempt from public record law) company -- a cash business that doesn't even use a cash register. No records, nothing to discover. Do the Pagets keep business records for reporting to the IRS and the state? But I hold the City to blame, not the company. Where are our public officials, whom we elect and hire and pay to watch out for our interests? Why didn't they even ask for records all these decades? Why, Mayor Menino, why? They are the ones I hold accountable. It wouldn't be this way if Menino and others before him didn't want it this way. Thank you for looking at this, and for your other stories on how our politicians are giving away the public treasury to private interests. Keep it up; there's more, lots more. And please, please consider doing an expose of the BRA, the biggest financial bleed of all. It's clear that this is the Boondoggle di Tutti Boondoggles. Yet no one else, evidently, will do it, although I have tried mightily for almost 20 years to get this started by sharing my information with the dailies; perhaps it's too close to the Mayor. You did a story or two on the BRA, its "money-making machine," but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I hope CWM has the courage and independence to take it on. Do us all a great service and blow it wide open. That's where the big money is.
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