Reps say Probation jobs needed leadership support

Lawmakers acknowledge they tapped friends for the posts offered by DeLeo

State Rep. Harold Naughton of Clinton testified today in the federal corruption trial of former Probation commissioner John J. O’Brien and two top aides that it was common knowledge among legislators that candidates sponsored for probation jobs had a better chance if they had leadership backing.

Naughton, who ran a brief campaign for Attorney General that he abandoned earlier this year, was one of two lawmakers on the stand today who said they unexpectedly got calls from then-House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo offering job slots in Probation’s new electronic monitoring (ELMO) facility in Clinton.

Naughton, who recommended Michael Sheridan, the son of a friend who got the job, said it was well-known among the rank and file that candidates they sponsored for Probation jobs needed more than their backing.

“It would be helpful if someone in leadership advocated for a job in the Probation Department,” Naughton told jurors.

Naughton testified he would call O’Brien on occasion to advocate for a candidate, but that the go-to person in the Legislature for probation jobs was Rep. Thomas Petrolati, at the time the chamber’s speaker pro tem.

Naughton, a major in the Army Reserve, testified that when he was deployed in Iraq in 2005 to 2006, he made a call to the Legislature and learned Petrolati was on the rostrum during a House session and asked to speak with him. Naughton said he was “just checking in” because he had the access to a landline to call his wife but she was unavailable. He said he took the opportunity to call his colleagues and when Petrolati got on the phone, he inquired about a candidate for promotion in Probation that he had referred to find out the status of the process. He did not identify the candidate or the result.

O’Brien, Elizabeth Tavares, and William Burke III are on trial for mail fraud, bribery, and conspiracy charges and O’Brien and Tavares are facing racketeering charges as well for what prosecutors allege was a rigged hiring system that was used to curry favor with the Legislature in exchange for bigger budgets and more autonomy.

Prior to Naughton, state Rep. James O’Day of West Boylston took the stand and testified he got a call from Leonard Mirasolo in June, 2007, about a month after O’Day took office after winning a special election and handed the phone over to DeLeo. Mirasolo has been a longtime top aide to DeLeo and his son, Brian Mirasolo who is also DeLeo’s godson, is part of the case with prosecutors charging the younger Mirasolo got his job through DeLeo’s intervention.

O’Day said neither Mirasolo nor DeLeo knew that Clinton was not in his district but offered him a position to hand out in the ELMO office. O’Day said he called a former co-worker at the then-Department of Social Services to tell him about the position and urge him to apply.

The co-worker, Stephen Ware, testified he got a call from Janet Mucci, the director of human resources in Probation who has since retired, telling him to go to the ELMO office in Clinton and fill out an application. Assistant US Attorney Robert Fisher then put the application on the screen, showing 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.

O’Day and Naughton both said under cross examination that they placed a high priority on securing jobs for constituents. Both conceded to prosecutors they did not notify area jobs banks of the positions and did not reach out to anyone else other than their acquaintances.

O’Day, like previous representatives who testified, said he had no knowledge of a brewing fight for the speaker’s seat between state Rep. John Rogers of Norwood and DeLeo in 2007. But Naughton admitted he knew of DeLeo’s aspirations and voted for him in 2009 to succeed Salvatore DiMasi, who has since been convicted of fraud.

John Amabile, the attorney for Burke, tried to cast Naughton as a hero for his service in both the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a member of “the Great and General Court,” the actual title of the Massachusetts Legislature.

“You’re in Iraq serving your country and serving your constituents at the same time, correct?” Amabile asked Naughton, who replied “yes” to each question. “You are an honest state legislator and have always acted that way, is that correct? It was just a coincidence that Mr. Petrolati happened to be on the rostrum, isn’t that correct?”

US District Court Judge William Young sustained prosecutors’ strenuous objections after Amabile began pointing out the flags in the courtroom and describing Naughton as “a patriot.”

“Nobody’s patriotism is in question here,” Young said.

Earlier in the day, former Probation supervisor Edward Dalton finished up his testimony with several testy exchanges with Amabile. Dalton appeared to get frustrated and irritated several times as Amabile questioned him about conversations he had with two other witnesses during the trial.

Amabile taunted him that, after more than 38 years as an employee of the state Trial Court, he did not understand what “witness sequestration” was. Dalton said he “has a better idea” after reading news accounts over the weekend after his testimony on Friday.

Amabile also got Dalton to admit he was “hot tempered” and after finding out he was passed over by O’Brien for a deputy commissioner post in favor of Francis Wall, he used an expletive in talking with then-commissioner O’Brien. But under redirect by Assistant US Attorney Karin Bell, Dalton said it was in the course of the conversation the used “the f-word” but it was not directed at O’Brien.

“Jack called unsuccessful candidates down to his office, telling us who he appointed,” Dalton said. “I said something like ‘Jack he’s only been in our office six months.’ I said, ‘He barely knows the [Worcester] county. Why don’t you just tell the truth, you gave it to him because he was your friend.’ He said ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ I said at least you’re honest.”

OTHER PROBATION NEWS

Young excused a second juror after she convinced him the lengthy trial, which is now expected to go past the original two-month estimate into mid-July, was causing a hardship for her. Another woman was excused for similar reasons last week, leaving the jury with just 14 members, including just two alternates.

“I can’t keep doing this,” Young told the remaining jurors.

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.

Young did not make a ruling on a motion on Friday by defense attorneys for a mistrial in the wake of Dalton’s admission he spoke to other witnesses. William Fick, one of O’Brien’s court-appointed attorneys, filed the formal motion Monday.

“The government’s failure to advise these witnesses, in particular, of the sequestration order is inexcusable,” Fick wrote.