Coakley indicts O’Brien, Cahill aide
AG alleges pay-to-play patronage schemes at probation, Lottery
Indictments unsealed today by Attorney General Martha Coakley allege the commissioner of the state’s Probation Department and the one-time chief of staff to former state Treasurer Tim Cahill engaged in pay-to-play patronage schemes.
The indictments allege John J. O’Brien, the former probation commissioner, and Scott S. Campbell, the former chief of staff and deputy treasurer to Cahill, jointly organized a 2005 campaign fundraiser for Cahill in return for a job at the state lottery for O’Brien’s wife.
The indictments separately allege that O’Brien in 2005 rigged the promotion of an assistant chief probation officer in Worcester District Court for a job candidate who had the backing of former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s office. The indictment accuses O’Brien of falsely telling court officials that proper hiring procedures were being followed when the selection was made before the interview process was completed.
Coakley stressed repeatedly that her investigation is not over. “This is the beginning, not the end,” she said. She declined to comment on whether former Treasurer Cahill is likely to be indicted.
O’Brien resigned his position on New Year’s Eve last year, issuing a press release denying any criminal wrongdoing. He also said he was caught in a power struggle for control of the Probation Department and insisted that the hiring of politically connected people is standard operating procedure on Beacon Hill.
According to Coakley, O’Brien inquired in the spring of 2005 about a job for his wife at the Lottery, which was under Cahill’s control. Coakley said today that Campbell was receptive to the idea and raised the idea of O’Brien hosting a fundraiser for Cahill. Coakley said the fundraiser was held in Quincy on June 23, 2005 and raised $11,100 for Cahill. O’Brien’s wife, Laurie, was subsequently hired as a customer service representative at the Lottery on Sept. 21, 2005.
Ware’s report, which also investigated possible connections between fundraising by O’Brien and his wife’s hiring, focused on slightly different issues and a separate fundraiser. Ware said 34 employees of probation attended a July 6, 2005 fundraiser for Cahill, each of them donating at least $100. Ware said Laurie O’Brien also donated $200, bringing the total to $4,000.
Ware’s report suggested the fundraising played a role in not only landing O’Brien a job at the lottery but also in getting her a better job in customer service. She had originally been slated for a job as a night shift computer operator.
Ware interviewed Campbell about the hiring process and reported that “Campbell testified that he does not recall referring O’Brien [to the Lottery] but conceded it was possible.”
Ware’s report also delved into the promotion of Bernard Dow to the position of assistant chief probation officer in Worcester District Court. Dow told Ware that between 1976 and 2004 he was passed over for promotions six times despite his belief that he was more qualified than the other candidates. In late 2004, Dow told Ware, he felt he was going to be passed over again.
Dow sought the help of then-Speaker DiMasi, who was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for attempting to steer a state contract to a software company. Dow said he talked to the speaker’s chief of staff, Danny Toscano, who offered to work on the promotion.
Dow told Ware that no one from DiMasi’s office solicited funds from him but, on his own, he began donating to the speaker’s campaign committee. After two $500 contributions spaced out over several months, Dow said he was called by Toscano the night before his final interview for the job and told he was going to land the assistant chief probation officer’s job and not the first assistant’s job “because it’s already spoken for.”Coakley said arraignments of O’Brien and Campbell are scheduled for Sept. 26. O’Brien is being charged with making a false report, bribery, conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy to get a job for his wife by unlawful means.
Campbell is charged with conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations, campaign finance violations, conspiracy to get O’Brien’s wife a job by unlawful means, and disguising campaign contributions. The last charge alleges that Campbell on three occasions in 2010, when Cahill was running for governor, gave $500 to three individuals – either friends or family – and asked them to donate the same amount to Cahill’s campaign committee.