Sen. Montigny contacted Manchester interviewer

Prosecutors say Manchester was senator’s girlfriend

Sen. Mark Montigny in 2008 personally contacted one of the people interviewing Kelly Manchester for a probation officer’s job, but it was unclear what role, if any, his recommendation played in the process. Prosecutors in the trial of former Probation commissioner John O’Brien say Manchester was Montigny’s girlfriend at the time.

The person Montigny contacted, the chief probation officer at the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, said the call by the New Bedford senator, whom he knew very well, had no impact on how he ranked Manchester during the interview process. The combined scores of the three interviewers ranked Manchester eighth out of the nine job candidates who were forwarded along for a final interview. Three of the nine were eventually hired, including Manchester.

Prosecutors in the trial of O’Brien and top aides Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III say the defendants committed mail fraud by rigging the hiring process for politically connected people and using the mails to cover up the scheme. O’Brien, Tavares, and Burke are also charged with conspiracy and racketeering.

In previous testimony on May 13, an attorney who participated in the final interview for the Bristol County probate job said Manchester received the highest scores even though he felt she was “woefully inadequate as far as her qualifications.”

On Thursday, Elizabeth O’Neill LaStaiti, the former first justice of the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, testified that she had a similar opinion of Manchester during interviews that took place at the court in February 2008. LaStaiti, who retired in 2011, was joined on the interview panel by James Casey, the court’s chief probation officer, and Francis Campbell, a regional supervisor for Probation who worked in O’Brien’s office.

LaStaiti said she became aware on the day of the interview that Manchester and Montigny were dating, but it was unclear who told her. She initially said she learned it from Casey or Campbell, and then later said it was Casey who told her. But Casey testified he said nothing to LaStaiti about Montigny and Manchester dating, which he says he didn’t learn about until later from other sources.

During his conversation with Montigny prior to the interview, Casey said the senator told him “he had an interest” in Manchester’s candidacy but said nothing about the two of them dating. Casey said Campbell told him there was an interest in Manchester “from the office of the commissioner.” He said he understood he was supposed to give Manchester “a little extra consideration,” which he said he didn’t do.

Casey ranked Manchester fifth out of the 16 candidates interviewed. “It was average. I didn’t see anything spectacular,” he said of Manchester’s interview. “She was young and enthusiastic.” Campbell also ranked her fifth.

LaStaiti, by contrast, testified that she thought Manchester was young and pleasant but light on experience. Manchester graduated from UMass Amherst in May 2006. She had worked as a bridge operator, a substitute teacher, and had just been hired as an administrative assistant at the Probation Department’s Office of Community Corrections in December 2007 when she applied for the probation officer’s job.

LaStaiti ranked only the top 10 candidates, and did not include Manchester in that group. “In my opinion, she was not as well qualified as the candidates that I listed,” she said. Nevertheless, LaStaiti signed the composite ranking of the candidates that placed Manchester eighth out of the nine forwarded along for a final interview.

Later, LaStaiti said she raised concerns about Manchester with both Casey and Sean Dunphy, who at the time was the chief justice of the state’s probate and family court. “I thought it was unfair and I thought there were better qualified people,” she said.

LaStaiti said she told Dunphy that Manchester had a relationship with Montigny. “That appeared to be her only qualification for the job,” she said. “I felt my involvement in the process was a sham.”

Asked how Manchester actually performed as a probation officer, LaStaiti was initially prevented from answering by Judge William Young, who said how a candidate actually performed in the job was not relevant to the case. But after a sidebar with all of the attorneys, he changed his mind and asked LaStaiti the question himself. “Beautifully. She was an excellent probation officer,” replied LaStaiti.

Defense attorneys grilled LaStaiti about discrepancies between what she stated in court and what she told FBI agents in 2012, but she stuck by her story. During cross-examination, LaStaiti agreed with defense attorney John Amabile that Montigny providing a reference for Manchester was not unusual, that politicians often made references on behalf of job candidates.

LaStaiti also said on cross-examination that the job applicant who she rated No. 1 was the daughter of a woman who worked occasionally as a security officer at her court. She said the mother had told her that her daughter was looking to transfer to the Bristol County court to be closer to home. LaStaiti acknowledged that the mother’s comment to her was inappropriate, but said it didn’t affect her judgment. “It was not based on a mother’s love for her daughter,” she said of her evaluation.

Records displayed at the trial also indicated Manchester had another political connection. Her second cousin, Daryl Manchester, the clerk magistrate at Wareham District Court, was a close friend of Casey. Casey said the two of them attended the same college and played on the baseball team there.

Sen. Mark Montigny in 2008 personally contacted one of the people interviewing Kelly Manchester for a probation officer’s job, but it was unclear what role, if any, his recommendation played in the process. Prosecutors in the trial of former Probation commissioner John O’Brien say Manchester was Montigny’s girlfriend at the time.

The person Montigny contacted, the chief probation officer at the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, said the call by the New Bedford senator, whom he knew very well, had no impact on how he ranked Manchester during the interview process. The combined scores of the three interviewers ranked Manchester eighth out of the nine job candidates who were forwarded along for a final interview. Three of the nine were eventually hired, including Manchester.

Prosecutors in the trial of O’Brien and top aides Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III say the defendants committed mail fraud by rigging the hiring process for politically connected people and using the mails to cover up the scheme. O’Brien, Tavares, and Burke are also charged with conspiracy and racketeering.

In previous testimony on May 13, an attorney who participated in the final interview for the Bristol County probate job said Manchester received the highest scores even though he felt she was “woefully inadequate as far as her qualifications.”

On Thursday, Elizabeth O’Neill LaStaiti, the former first justice of the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, testified that she had a similar opinion of Manchester during interviews that took place at the court in February 2008. LaStaiti, who retired in 2011, was joined on the interview panel by James Casey, the court’s chief probation officer, and Francis Campbell, a regional supervisor for Probation who worked in O’Brien’s office.

LaStaiti said she became aware on the day of the interview that Manchester and Montigny were dating, but it was unclear who told her. She initially said she learned it from Casey or Campbell, and then later said it was Casey who told her. But Casey testified he said nothing to LaStaiti about Montigny and Manchester dating, which he says he didn’t learn about until later from other sources.

During his conversation with Montigny prior to the interview, Casey said the senator told him “he had an interest” in Manchester’s candidacy but said nothing about the two of them dating. Casey said Campbell told him there was an interest in Manchester “from the office of the commissioner.” He said he understood he was supposed to give Manchester “a little extra consideration,” which he said he didn’t do.

Casey ranked Manchester fifth out of the 16 candidates interviewed. “It was average. I didn’t see anything spectacular,” he said of Manchester’s interview. “She was young and enthusiastic.” Campbell also ranked her fifth.

LaStaiti, by contrast, testified that she thought Manchester was young and pleasant but light on experience. Manchester graduated from UMass Amherst in May 2006. She had worked as a bridge operator, a substitute teacher, and had just been hired as an administrative assistant at the Probation Department’s Office of Community Corrections in December 2007 when she applied for the probation officer’s job.

LaStaiti ranked only the top 10 candidates, and did not include Manchester in that group. “In my opinion, she was not as well qualified as the candidates that I listed,” she said. Nevertheless, LaStaiti signed the composite ranking of the candidates that placed Manchester eighth out of the nine forwarded along for a final interview.

Later, LaStaiti said she raised concerns about Manchester with both Casey and Sean Dunphy, who at the time was the chief justice of the state’s probate and family court. “I thought it was unfair and I thought there were better qualified people,” she said.

LaStaiti said she told Dunphy that Manchester had a relationship with Montigny. “That appeared to be her only qualification for the job,” she said. “I felt my involvement in the process was a sham.”

Asked how Manchester actually performed as a probation officer, LaStaiti was initially prevented from answering by Judge William Young, who said how a candidate actually performed in the job was not relevant to the case. But after a sidebar with all of the attorneys, he changed his mind and asked LaStaiti the question himself. “Beautifully. She was an excellent probation officer,” replied LaStaiti.

Defense attorneys grilled LaStaiti about discrepancies between what she stated in court and what she told FBI agents in 2012, but she stuck by her story. During cross-examination, LaStaiti agreed with defense attorney John Amabile that Montigny providing a reference for Manchester was not unusual, that politicians often made references on behalf of job candidates.

LaStaiti also said on cross-examination that the job applicant who she rated No. 1 was the daughter of a woman who worked occasionally as a security officer at her court. She said the mother had told her that her daughter was looking to transfer to the Bristol County court to be closer to home. LaStaiti acknowledged that the mother’s comment to her was inappropriate, but said it didn’t affect her judgment. “It was not based on a mother’s love for her daughter,” she said of her evaluation.

Records displayed at the trial also indicated Manchester had another political connection. Her second cousin, Daryl Manchester, the clerk magistrate at Wareham District Court, was a close friend of Casey. Casey said the two of them attended the same college and played on the baseball team there.

Meet the Author

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.

OTHER PROBATION NEWS

Judge Young ruled at the end of court on Thursday that prosecutors could introduce evidence about Sen. Montigny’s efforts to land an administrative assistant’s job for Manchester at the Office of Community Corrections, which is affiliated with Probation. But Young said hearsay testimony would not be allowed. In a court filing, prosecutors say they plan to introduce evidence regarding conversations between Stephen Price, the director of the Office of Community Corrections, and Theresa Nowell, an aide to Montigny, about a clerical job for Manchester.