Why did Walsh look to cut short police commissioner probe?
City terminated investigation of White after 10 days, only to restart it days later
WHY DID MARTY WALSH, who was pilloried for the hasty appointment of Police Commissioner Dennis White with no vetting or even an interview when it was revealed that White was the subject of a domestic abuse allegation two decades ago, then look to short-circuit the investigation he ordered as a result?
That is among the most puzzling questions to emerge from the city-commissioned report on White, who has been on administrative leave since two days after his February 1 swearing-in. The report, released on Friday, says the probe was abruptly terminated by the Walsh administration only days after it was launched, a decision that was then reversed with the resumption of the investigation less than a week later.
Walsh says he only sought an update on the probe and was hoping to resolve the issue before leaving office to become US labor secretary, but White’s attorney says Walsh ordered the investigation halted because he was prepared to reinstate White as commissioner.
In the report released by the city on Friday, Tamsin Kaplan, the attorney retained to conduct an investigation of a 1999 allegation of domestic violence against White, writes that only 10 days after her February 12 hiring, she was told by Susan Weise, the city’s first assistant corporation counsel, that the investigation was being terminated at the direction of the city’s corporation counsel, Eugene O’Flaherty, and that she should provide a summary of her findings.
An email message on Friday to Walsh, who is now US labor secretary, had not been answered at the time CommonWealth’s story was first published at about 9 pm.
Just after 11 pm, a Department of Labor spokesperson provided a statement on the chronology of events.
“In late February, Walsh requested an update on the status of the investigation, in the hopes of sharing its findings with the public and resolving the issue before leaving the mayor’s office,” the statement said. “When it became clear that the investigation was ongoing, Walsh directed the investigation to continue, which ultimately led to the report issued today.”
That characterization does not square with the account detailed in Kaplan’s 19-page report or with letters to city officials from White’s attorney, Nicholas Carter, which were included with a complaint filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court seeking to block efforts by Acting Mayor Kim Janey to dismiss White from the commissioner’s post.
In her report, Kaplan writes she was notified on February 22 by Weise “that this independent investigation was to be terminated as of 5:00 p.m. on February 24, 2021, at the direction of Attorney O’Flaherty.”
Contrary to the statement provided by Walsh’s office that he asked for an “update on the status of the investigation,” Kaplan writes, “I was asked to provide a final report of investigation to the extent possible.” She writes that, given the early stage it was at, she “unable to make any findings at that time,” and provided instead a brief memo summarizing the status of the investigation.
Kaplan said she was contacted again by Weise on March 1 “and informed that this investigation was to resume.”
“Based on my communications with the City, it was my clear understanding that Mayor Walsh intended to reinstate Commissioner White as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department,” Carter wrote. “Consistent with that promise, the independent investigation was cancelled. I received notice of that cancellation from the investigator.”
Email messages also included in Carter’s court filing on behalf of White show that Kaplan urged the city not to cut off the probe.
Kaplan sent an email to Carter at 5:05 p.m. on February 24, informing him that the investigation had been terminated as of 5:00 p.m. “at the direction of the City of Boston’s corporation counsel.”
“As the investigation is in a preliminary phase, I’m unable to make any findings at this time,” she continued. “In view of the high level of public trust that is essential to the position of police commissioner, I have recommended that the independent investigation be resumed and allowed to progress to completion.”
Five days later, Kaplan writes in the report released on Friday, she was told the investigation was to resume.In his March 2 letter to O’Flaherty after learning that the investigation was being resumed, Carter said that the allegations from 22 years ago against White had been known to the city and that he had been promoted in the police department five times.
“At this point, Commissioner White can only reasonably conclude that this full-blown investigation is merely a delay tactic with an ulterior purpose: Commissioner White’s discharge,” Carter wrote.