DeLeo calls out prosecutors, denies jobs for votes claim
Doesn’t explain why he was handing out Probation jobs
House Speaker Robert DeLeo angrily insisted on Wednesday that the Probation jobs his office steered to candidates favored by fellow lawmakers played no role in his effort to gather enough votes to become Speaker. He said the suggestion by federal prosecutors that the jobs represented a quid pro quo for votes is false.
“It’s never been done and anyone who says it’s being done is being untruthful,” DeLeo, his voice quivering at times, told reporters as he emerged from a Democratic caucus over gun control legislation. “I’m calling upon the federal prosecutors or anyone else to cease making those statements because they’re untrue.”
Federal prosecutors have alleged that O’Brien used jobs in his department to curry favor with lawmakers in exchange for bigger budgets and greater autonomy from the Trial Court. O’Brien and two top aides, Edward Burke III and Elizabeth Tavares, have been on trial for more than two months on charges of mail fraud, racketeering, conspiracy, and bribery. DeLeo has not been charged with any crime and is unlikely to be called to testify, but his actions have become a central focus of the trial.
DeLeo’s comments come as prosecutors are winding down their case, likely wrapping up this week. The speaker is not on the prosecution witness list and, while he is on the defense list, says he doesn’t expect to be called even though he lamented “I cannot defend myself against false accusations.” He said he was not called before the grand jury and his only testimony in the scandal came before Paul Ware, the special counsel tasked by the Supreme Judicial Court to investigate the allegation of a rigged hiring scheme.
In the past several weeks, prosecutors have been focusing on jobs given out in the Probation’s Electronic Monitoring Office in Clinton in 2007 and 2008, when DeLeo was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and ramping up for a fight against state Rep. John Rogers to become speaker. Several witnesses who are or were Probation officials testified that O’Brien told them they needed to support DeLeo in the battle for the speaker’s post. They said O’Brien gave DeLeo 10 jobs at the newly created office to hand out to House colleagues to garner their support.
At least six past and present lawmakers have testified they got calls from DeLeo or his top aide, Leonard Mirasolo, offering them a post to hand out. All the reps said they suggested a candidate who was eventually hired. All of them later did, in fact, vote for DeLeo for speaker, though none said the two actions were connected.
Prosecutors have shown that all of the candidates had personal connections to the lawmakers and were hired without interviews, some even on the same day they filled out their applications for the positions. State Rep. Anne Gobi of Spencer and former Rep. Robert Rice both testified that DeLeo in 2007 offered them a position to fill at the ELMO facility, an offer neither of them found odd but also one that never occurred before or since.
“I received a call from Mr. DeLeo and he wondered if I would be interested in recommending anyone for a job in the electronic monitoring office in Clinton,” said Rice, who left the Legislature in 2010. Rice, who represented Gardner, testified that Clinton was “not in my district,” but he took the opportunity anyway to recommend an unemployed friend he knew for 40 years who was hired almost immediately.
State Rep. James O’Day testified last month he also received a call from Mirasolo seeking a recommendation for someone to fill an ELMO position. He recommended the job to Stephen Ware, a former colleague at the then-Department of Social Services. Ware testified he got a call from a Probation official telling him to go to the ELMO office in Clinton and fill out an application. Assistant US Attorney Robert Fisher put the application on the screen for jurors, highlighting the application date of Sept. 5, 2007. Fisher then showed a letter from O’Brien to Robert Mulligan, the chief justice for administration and management at the time, appointing Ware to the position that was also dated Sept. 5, 2007. Ware testified he never interviewed for the job.
Prosecutors have stated in filings and through their questioning that there was a connection between jobs and speaker votes and, in a filing with the court earlier this week, said it was a “quid pro quo” that proves their contention that O’Brien used the positions as a bribe. But DeLeo pointed out that was merely prosecutors talking and no one from the House has made that claim.
DeLeo did not address why he was handing out Probation jobs to associates of his legislative colleagues.
Federal prosecutors have tried to show that the Probation Department was treated well by the Legislature. Former state Rep. Charles Murphy, who was Ways and Means chairman under DeLeo, testified Wednesday he was told to leave the Probation budget alone when he suggested a 10 percent cut during the recession of 2008. Mulligan testified this week that the House changed the statute regarding his ability to move funds within the Trial Court to handle deficits in different departments by taking away his authority to shift money out of Probation.
Edward Ryan, a Probation supervisor who was O’Brien’s legislative liaison, testified O’Brien told him point-blank that the ELMO jobs were needed to give DeLeo a boost in the speaker’s fight and that it was going to help the Probation budget both while DeLeo was Ways and Means chair and when he ascended to the speakership. Ryan said after he received a call from Rogers recommending a candidate for a probation job in Gloucester District Court, O’Brien ordered him to route all House hiring calls through Mirasolo. Ryan told jurors lawmakers would call him inquiring about the ELMO openings but had already been briefed on the jobs by Mirasolo.
Mirasolo’s son, Brian, who is also DeLeo’s godson, was hired for a probation officer job after being recommended by DeLeo and his hiring is one prosecutors charge was part of the overall scheme.
“[O’Brien] had said it appeared [Rogers] was going to be running for speaker against Bob DeLeo… He said from here on in, anybody that calls regarding any position I want you to refer them to Lenny Mirasolo,” Ryan said. “Both sides were trying to get commitments. [Mirasolo] said he believed they were getting close to the numbers [DeLeo] needed.”
But DeLeo said he has “no independent recollection” of favoritism toward Probation and said if, in fact, the department fared well in the budget process, it was because of the job they do.DeLeo said decisions on how much money went to the departments was based on “budget analysts” and would only say the information to make the decisions came from “Judge Mulligan or one of his aides,” never mentioning any meetings with O’Brien.
“I will tell you that during the recession, probation probably was treated like everybody else,” DeLeo said. “They may have been treated differently because, maybe the difference being the fact of difficulties in public safety…They did not get any special treatment. Whether it was probation or anything in public safety, quite frankly, it was just kept in mind that public safety and the constituents of the Commonwealth were my utmost concern.”