Former IG: Coakley cool to DiMasi probe

Says AG saw no ‘bright line of criminality’

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s campaign manager Tim Foley issued a press release at 4:13 p.m. Sunday criticizing my answers to questions posed to me by Boston Globe reporters David Scharfenberg and Andrea Estes. Some of my responses were published in the Sunday Globe and directly concerned my opinion of the Attorney General’s handling of anti-corruption matters on Beacon Hill; specifically, they related to the Attorney General’s lack of interest in pursuing an investigation of then-House Speaker Sal DiMasi. In the story, the reporters clearly stated that my comments were made in response to questions asked of me by the Boston Globe.

In response to the press release, I elucidate upon my published comments as follows:

In September of 2007, the Office of Inspector General was contacted by a whistle blower – whose identity has not been disclosed – concerning allegations that the procurement of $13 million of software by the Massachusetts Information Technology Division was apparently steered to a company called Cognos in violation of state procurement regulations. The whistle blower told investigators from the inspector general’s office that he or she had brought the matter previously to the attorney general’s office and had been told by a representative of that office that in their opinion, “there is nothing there.” The whistle blower told the attorney general’s office that he would bring the matter to the Office of Inspector General.

Shortly after that, in a conversation that took place in a stairwell of the Ashburton Place state office building in Boston, the first assistant attorney general asked me whether the whistle blower had approached the Office of Inspector General, to which I responded that he or she had contacted the office. The first assistant attorney general asked me if the inspector general’s office, rather than the attorney general’s office, would conduct an investigation because, according to him, it was a politically sensitive matter that involved “friends across the street.” I told the first assistant Attorney General that the Inspector General’s office would investigate the matter.

Support for my assertion can be gleaned by the fact that the Office of the Inspector General alone, not the attorney general’s office, conducted the subsequent investigation. After my staff had reviewed the documentary evidence of the procurement, I approached the Office of the Governor and informed them that my office’s preliminary review had determined that the procurement of the Cognos software may not have been conducted properly and advised them to take whatever steps they would consider prudent to protect the Commonwealth’s interests with respect to voiding the transaction if our full review of the procurement were to later confirm that it had not been properly conducted. Following that conversation, I was pleased to receive a letter from secretary of administration and finance requesting a full investigation of the matter, which we continued to undertake.

In the spring of 2008, I informed the secretary of administration and finance that in my opinion the procurement had not been conducted properly and should be voided. Subsequently, the governor’s office rescinded the procurement and successfully recovered $13 million in payments that had been made to Cognos.

On Thursday, October 8, 2008, subsequent to the continuing investigation by inspector general’s office staff, I sent a letter to Secretary of State William Galvin, which was published on the inspector general’s website, detailing that $1.8 million in payments had been secretly paid by a Cognos salesman to associates and friends of then-Speaker DiMasi without required reporting thereof to the secretary of state, and further that Cognos had paid another $125,000 in lobbying fees to a law associate of Speaker DiMasi, which also had not been reported to the secretary of state.

Following the publication of a story detailing these facts by the Boston Globe on October 9, 2008, the Office of Inspector General was contacted by the Office of the US Attorney requesting a briefing on the matter, which we agreed to provide.

On Friday October 17, a week after the Globe published the story, I was contacted by a high-ranking official of the attorney general’s office asking me to meet with the Attorney General and her staff at her office. I told him that I was in process of traveling to New York. He asked me whether I could turn around, to which I answered that I could not as I was on the way to board a plane for a scheduled flight. He then asked me to meet with the Attorney General at 9:30 a.m. on the following Monday, October 20, which I did.

At that meeting, the Attorney General informed me that her office had been reviewing the Cognos matter and requested that my office discontinue its investigation and turn the matter over to the attorney general’s office. She told me that her office had not seen a “bright line of criminality” in the facts and circumstances that it had reviewed and said that the attorney general’s office was considering a report similar to one that had been written by her predecessor, Thomas Reilly, concerning the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal that did not include indictments but instead identified potential changes in law to improve future enforcement and identify “lessons learned.”

I told the Attorney General that I could not understand how her office did not see a bright line of criminality considering that $1.8 million had been distributed to Speaker DiMasi’s friends and associates on the very day that Cognos had paid its salesman’s commission, and further that internal emails described Speaker DiMasi as being directly involved in facilitating the contract, referring to Speaker DiMasi as “the coach.” The Attorney General reiterated that her office did not see a bright line of criminality and again asked me to discontinue the investigation and turn the matter over to the Attorney General’s office. I told the Attorney General that I would discontinue the investigation but that I intended to refer the matter instead to the Office of the US Attorney. The Attorney General and her staff expressed dismay about this and Attorney General Coakley told me that the white-collar crime division of the US attorney’s office was virtually 100 percent dedicated to anti-terrorism efforts at that time. I told her that I would nevertheless be referring the matter to the US attorney.

Following my meeting with the Attorney General and her staff, I briefed my top staff and my chief investigator on the case about what had happened at the meeting and informed them that the inspector general’s office would immediately discontinue its investigation at the request of the Attorney General. Today’s story in the Boston Globe includes the following explanation:

“After returning to his office from the meeting, Sullivan said, he immediately told the story to his top-echelon staff. Several, including his then-first assistant Richard Finocchio, independently recalled his account from the time. “They were going to do a ‘lessons learned,’ ” Finocchio said. ‘I remember that, because I remember saying, what the [expletive] is a ‘lessons learned?’”

Subsequent to my meeting with the Attorney General on October 20, 2014, the Office of the Inspector General conducted no further interviews concerning the Cognos case, issued no subsequent document requests, and discontinued its independent investigation, except that the Inspector General’s chief investigator was invited to participate in the investigation by the US Attorney’s office, which he did.

In the days following my meeting with the Attorney General, my office’s chief investigator gave a verbal summary of the inspector general’s office’s findings to members of the US attorney’s office. The attorney general’s office subsequently asked to be briefed about what information my investigators had presented to the US Attorney’s office, which we agreed to do and signed a memorandum of understanding allowing us to share our documents with them. Immediately before my office briefed the Attorney General’s office, the first assistant attorney general asked me “Why did you do this?” and stated “Now the AG’s office is in a race against time.” My inference from these comments was that the attorney general’s office had been put in a position of playing catch-up by my having given the matter over to the US Attorney.

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Yesterday’s press release the Attorney General’s campaign manager calls into question the veracity of what I told the Boston Globe in response to the reporter’s questions owing to what the campaign alleges is the influence of the national Republican Party and the Koch brothers on Pioneer Institute, for which I presently serve as research director.

The claims do not make sense for several reasons. First, according to the Globe reporters who worked on the issue, the events described in the article were independently confirmed to them by my first assistant inspector general and several of my top-echelon staff. None of these individuals works for Pioneer Institute.

Second, my comments were made by me independent of Pioneer Institute, in my capacity as former inspector general. I am proud of the inspector general’s office, which is an independent, non-political entity.

As to the suggestion that I am personally influenced by the national Republican Party, I can assure you that I am a life-long Democrat, served for 17 years as a Democrat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, am an outspoken and ardent supporter of President Obama, that I twice voted for Deval Patrick, was appointed inspector general by Governor Patrick, Attorney General Coakley, and former Auditor Joseph DeNucci, all Democrats, that I managed Paul Tsongas’s campaign for US Senate in my home town of Norwood, held a campaign sign for attorney general candidate Maura Healey in front of a Norwood polling place during the recent primary election and donated to her campaign.

I particularly wish to call attention to the following line in yesterday’s Boston Globe story: “[Sullivan] did not approach the Globe with the story in the run-up to the election, offering it only after a reporter called seeking comment on Coakley’s record of prosecuting public corruption.” I want to make clear that at no time prior to or after publication of the Globe article did I advance this story with any media outlet on my own initiative. My comments were included as part of a larger Globe article about the Attorney General’s anti-corruption record, including many other aspects of her record in office. My comments came about solely as a result of the initiative of Globe reporters who contacted me to inquire about my opinion of the Attorney General’s handling of the DiMasi case, among other cases. The reporters contacted not just me but others who independently confirmed the series of events I described.

In yesterday’ news story, Globe reporters also wrote:

“But critics say a state-level official can do plenty. And they point, as a model, to Gregory Sullivan, former inspector general, whose investigative work played a central role in the spectacular fall of DiMasi, the once-powerful speaker now serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison. In October 2008, Sullivan published a letter revealing that software firm Cognos had distributed $1.8 million in secret payments to the speaker’s closest friends and business associates during a successful push for lucrative state contracts. The findings, splashed across the front page of the Globe, jolted Beacon Hill.”

I issue this statement to reiterate that my responses to Globe reporters David Scharfenberg and Andrea Estes were accurate and truthful. I would not have issued this statement today if Mr. Foley had not made outrageously false claims in the press release he issued yesterday.

Finally, I would like to point out that one of the contributors to yesterday’s Boston Globe article is Andrea Estes who by my count has now written 80 articles about the Cognos matter. She is unquestionably the person most responsible for the fact that former Speaker DiMasi was brought to justice. My review shows that in virtually all of her articles, someone is cited as strongly disagreeing with the veracity of the allegations. Yet, in the end, her reporting held up and justice was served. The Office of the US Attorney and US District Court Associate Justice Mark Wolf acted with tremendous skill and integrity in this matter.

Meet the Author
The authors of yesterday’s article quoted me as saying, “My take away was that they were not anxious to go prosecuting the speaker of the House.” I hope the facts that I have presented explain why I reiterate that conclusion.

Gregory Sullivan, research director at the Pioneer Institute, is the former Massachusetts Inspector General.