A real-life mystery at Boston library

3 workers under suspension, but for what?

IN A BUILDING whose shelves are packed with gripping fictional whodunits, it’s a real-life whodunit that is also a whodunwhat.

On Tuesday, the Boston Herald broke the story that three Boston Public Library facilities managers were on unpaid leave pending the outcome of an investigation. A BPL spokesman confirmed that the action was taken on July 18, but other than nugget of news, nobody was saying nothing to no one. Mayor Marty Walsh’s office referred all calls to the library officials.

Today the paper reports that the matter has been referred to Boston police. A Boston Police Department spokesman confirmed that fact but would not provide any further details — other than to tamp down the story a little bit by saying there was no full-fledged police investigation at this point and that the department was only “reviewing” the matter.

With not much more to go on at this point, the Herald goes full-bore at the fact that the city isn’t saying anything, with a sarcastic headline, “‘Transparent’ Walsh mum as library workers suspended, cops called in.” The article frames the story as another case of Mayor Marty Walsh being less than transparent about an important city matter only weeks after facing heat over the quiet engineering of the appointment of an interim superintendent to replace Tommy Chang following his abrupt exit.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The story also points to the turmoil at the BPL three years ago when Walsh forced out the library director over the disappearance of two pricey pieces artwork — though it turned they had simply been misfiled 80 feet from where they were supposed to be.

Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld says Walsh’s “hands-off attitude” toward the case “won’t cut it.” He says Walsh needs to step in and “get to the bottom of the mini-scandal.” But for all we know — and it seems more likely than not — Walsh already knows exactly what’s going on with the case, or at least he knows as much as the library officials who ordered the suspensions and referral to the police.

The real question may be whether it is appropriate to hold back details of who the suspended employees are and exactly what city officials are looking into. Maybe there is very good reason for the tight-lipped stance; maybe there isn’t. Some judgment on that can be made — but not until the full story is put on the table.