Heavy hitters go to bat for Wolf

Former judges, ethics commissioners, AGs back him

State Sen. Dan Wolf has lined up nearly a dozen big guns, including former judges, top prosecutors, and ethics experts, to persuade the Ethics Commission to change the rules to allow him to hold elective office without giving up his ownership of Cape Air.

Wolf submitted a petition yesterday to the commission signed by 12 prominent officials, including himself, asking the board to create an exemption so it would not be a conflict of interest for him or others who own private companies to do business with the state as long as they don’t receive special treatment.

The bipartisan signers of the petition include former Attorneys General Francis X. Bellotti and Scott Harshbarger; former federal judge Nancy Gertner; former state judges Elizabeth Dolan and Augustus F. Wagner, Jr.; Boston attorney Thomas Zampino; former Assistant US Attorney Jeanne M. Kempthorne; and state Rep. Daniel Winslow. Wagner is a former chair of the Ethics Commission while Dolan and Kempthorne were commissioners and Harshbarger and Zampino were one-time legal counsels to the commission.

“Today an eminent group of petitioners asked the State Ethics Commission to act to ensure that Massachusetts residents from all walks of life can serve in elected office, while continuing to protect the public from any real conflicts of interest,” Wolf said in a statement. “This initiative both respects the Ethics Commission’s mandate, and furthers the cause of participatory government. Its adoption would also allow me to continue in public service and face the fundamental challenge in our state and nation.”

The petition comes in the wake of a ruling by the Ethics Commission that Wolf is in violation of the statute prohibiting conflicts of interest because of his 23 percent ownership of Cape Air. Wolf had sought the opinion “out of an abundance of caution” to determine if it would imperil his run for governor, should he win.

The opinion, issued Aug. 2, said Cape Air’s agreement to pay landing fees to Massport to allow the airline to operate out of Logan Airport constituted a no-bid contract that is prohibited under the law. The ruling ordered Wolf to either divest his Cape Air holdings, cease the airline’s operations out of Logan, or step down as senator and cease his campaign for governor within 30 days. Wolf had planned to resign from the Senate last week but got a reprieve, though he has suspended his gubernatorial campaign.

The petition acknowledges the Ethics Commission made the right ruling given the wording of the statute. But it claims the commission has the power to rewrite the regulations and has done so repeatedly in the past, citing at least 13 other instances where exemptions were made for state employees who would otherwise be in conflict. The petition couches the plea in constitutional terms, urging commissioners to craft regulations that honor the spirit of “representative government” outlined in the state Constitution rather than the letter of a badly crafted law.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

“The regulation proposed by the Petitioners will advance fundamental principles of self-government and, at the same time, protect respect for government integrity laws which is undermined when they are perceived to be overly broad,” says the petition.

To see the filings submitted to the Ethics Commission, click here, here, and here.