A former member of Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal acted as a real estate broker for multiple properties that received valuable zoning variances from the ZBA during his tenure.

These variances allowed developers to undertake construction that greatly increased the sales value of the properties and otherwise would have violated zoning codes.

In at least four instances, the board member, Craig Galvin, took part in ZBA votes granting zoning variances for properties which he would later go on to broker the sale of as a founding partner of the Galvin Group, LLC, a Dorchester-based real estate company, according to records reviewed by WGBH News. Brokers typically receive a commission on sales, but real estate sales records do not include those details.

Galvin, who was appointed to the ZBA in 2016 by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, abruptly resigned earlier this month, days after a former City Hall employee, John Lynch, pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe to attempt to influence an unnamed ZBA member.

Galvin declined by phone to comment for this story and did not reply to questions sent by email.

Zoning Board Chair Christine Araujo did not respond to a request for comment.

Mayor Marty Walsh did not directly address WGBH News’ questions about whether Galvin’s conduct constituted a breach of protocol or ethics. But Samantha Ormsby, a spokesperson for Walsh, wrote in a statement that "Mayor Walsh has ordered an outside review of the Zoning Board of Appeal and he has made clear that with those findings he will eliminate even the opportunity to posture that there is an 'insider treatment' lane."

The ZBA, whose seven members are nominated by various groups specified in state law and appointed by the Boston mayor, has the power to grant property owners relief, or variances, from Boston zoning laws that in many cases strictly regulate the size, shape and use of Boston properties.

Many changes to Boston buildings and houses require extensive zoning variances. The granting or denial of those variances can have profound implications for a property’s value — allowing, for example, a one- or two-family home to be converted into condo units that could sell for multiple times the property’s former sale price.

Gregory Sullivan, a former two-term inspector general of the commonwealth who now directs research for the public policy-oriented Pioneer Group, called WGBH News’ findings “very significant” and said they raise “questions that should be investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the State Ethics Commission.”

Sullivan said the power wielded by public bodies like the ZBA makes scrutiny essential when it comes to even the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.

“In the super-heated Boston real estate market, when the zoning board decides to give somebody extra ability to build bigger, to expand taller … they can literally make that applicant rich just by that one decision,” Sullivan said. “Officials should not be benefiting in any way remotely from the decisions that are made on the [ZBA].”

WGBH News did not find any evidence that Galvin, or any other ZBA members, had taken a vote on the board regarding any property in which he had a contemporaneous business interest. Galvin would appear as a listing agent for the properties after the board had taken action.

State and city regulations do not require that ZBA members refrain from participation in the real estate industry generally, or in business activity involving a property that has received zoning relief from the board. But state ethics laws generally bar public employees from taking public action — such as a vote — when the employee has a conflict of interest, unless that conflict is disclosed and that employee receives clearance from a superior to proceed.

Galvin, who was appointed to represent the real estate industry and has openly maintained a private real estate business while serving on the board, has recused himself from many votes involving properties with which he or his business was involved at the time. In other cases, it’s unclear whether Galvin made disclosures that might have allowed him to vote in the case of a conflict or appearance of conflict.

But WGBH News found multiple cases in which Galvin did vote in favor of zoning variances for properties for which he would later be a listed broker when they went up for sale.

Those cases include:

  • A building on Westmoreland Street in Dorchester, for which the developer sought zoning variances in May 2018 for additions and renovations that would have violated local zoning. The zoning was granted by unanimous vote, including Galvin’s. The property was sold for $750,000 in June, 2019, with Craig Galvin and his business partner Anne Galvin listed as brokers.
  • A parcel on Starbird Ave. in Roslindale, for which the applicant to the ZBA sought zoning variances in September 2017 to demolish the existing structure and build a new two-story, two-family building. The zoning was approved by unanimous vote, including Galvin’s. The property was sold for $475,000 in September 2018 with Craig Galvin and Anne Galvin as listed brokers.
  • A house on Child Street in Hyde Park, for which the applicant sought zoning relief in November 2017 to legalize a carriage house as a single family dwelling. The zoning relief was granted by unanimous vote, including Galvin’s. The property was sold for $760,000 in August 2019, with Craig Galvin and Anne Galvin as listed brokers.
  • Two parcels on Kimball Street in Dorchester, for which the applicant sought an extension of zoning relief in August 2017 to convert a two-family house into three condos on one lot and build a new three-unit condominium on the other. In a video of the hearing, Galvin appeared to vote in favor of the extension; Craig Galvin and Anne Galvin advertised and helped sell the condo units between October 2018 and April 2019 for a total of $2.2 million. (The minutes of this meeting were not available online.)

In these cases, Galvin’s votes preceded any apparent business relationship involving the properties' owners.

And timelines matter, says Pam Wilmot of the nonprofit organization Common Cause Massachusetts.

State ethics laws, while strict when it comes to conflicts of interest, Wilmot said, generally apply only to conflicts — whether actual, potential or perceived — that exist at the time of an action by a public employee.

“The real question is, was there a specific conflict in these cases?” Wilmot told WGBH News. “[If] his vote wouldn’t, at the time, have affected [Galvin’s] financial interest … that doesn’t really raise these kind[s] of questions.”

The Pioneer Institute’s Sullivan, however, emphasized the importance of avoiding even the appearance of conflict.

An appointee to the ZBA, “has got to do everything to stay away from anything that could be viewed as self-dealing,” Sullivan said.

Isaiah Thompson is a reporter at WGBH News. Follow him on Twitter @isaiah_thompson.

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Anne Galvin as the wife of Craig Galvin. They are business partners but not married. We regret the error.