Ware says his probe did not clear DeLeo

Independent counsel calls Speaker’s claim a distortion

Paul Ware, the independent counsel appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court to investigate Probation Department corruption, took issue with House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s contention that his 2010 probe found the Speaker engaged in no impropriety.

“It is a distortion on the part of the Speaker to claim the investigation of the independent counsel exonerated him, because it did not,” Ware said. The Goodwin Procter partner said he is not implying DeLeo engaged in criminal conduct, but nor is he implying that the Speaker is innocent of any wrongdoing.

DeLeo over the last week has issued several statements claiming that Ware’s investigation exonerated him. On Thursday, after a jury found former Probation commissioner John O’Brien and two of his top aides guilty of corruption charges related to Probation hiring, DeLeo again said Ware’s investigation “found no impropriety on my part.”

Ware said he was specifically directed by the SJC not to investigate the Legislature. He said he interviewed DeLeo as part of his investigation but did not subpoena his records or emails.

Ware’s report became the roadmap for subsequent state and federal criminal investigations of the Probation Department. The report concluded the agency’s hiring and promotion process represented “a pervasive fraud against the Commonwealth.” The report also said the hiring and promotion process may violate federal fraud statutes and state bribery laws.

Ware urged that the findings in his report be shared with the state attorney general and the US attorney’s office. He said in his report that the potential targets of a criminal investigation would include O’Brien, Elizabeth Tavares, and William Burke III, who were found guilty on Thursday.

The other potential targets mentioned by Ware were three other top O’Brien aides: Francis Wall, Patricia Walsh, and Christopher Bulger. Wall testified at the trial under a grant of immunity. Walsh and Bulger did not testify. During the federal Probation trial, Bulger lashed out at Ware in an interview with Lawyer’s Weekly. Bulger accused Ware of lying in his report about Bulger’s testimony and failing to include comments that did not support the findings.

Ware said the jury’s verdict on Thursday confirmed the accuracy of his report.

“I believe the verdict reaffirms basic principles of integrity,” he said, adding that the jury’s pronouncement essentially stated that “a state agency and its employment process are not a playpen for politics.”

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

As for the defense claim at the trial that O’Brien and his colleagues were practicing the same type of patronage that other officials routinely engaged in, Ware acknowledged that “there’s plenty of corruption to go around” in the public and private sectors. But he said the “everybody-is-doing-it” argument is not persuasive.

“That should not deter us from trying to enforce the law and the standards the public expects,” he said. “I’m unsympathetic to the argument that others may be corrupt.”