Summer heat turns up on DeLeo

There’s nothing like a summer news lull to fan the flames of a good scandal, and it’s House Speaker Robert DeLeo ’s turn in the glare of the beating summer sun. After insisting for years he’s done nothing wrong in handing out patronage jobs at the Probation department, DeLeo’s name is being spoken as often as the three defendants  — actually more in the case of two of them – in the federal corruption trial of top Probation officials.

DeLeo, who has maintained something akin to radio silence during the two-plus months of the trial of former commissioner John O’Brien and his deputies, William Burke III and Elizabeth Tavares, was finally forced to not only issue a statement denouncing federal prosecutors for dragging him into the maelstrom but also field questions from reporters bent on painting him in the same light as Charlie Flaherty, Tom Finneran, and Sal DiMasi, all of whom left office under impending federal charges.

  

DeLeo is not sitting at the defense table, and while he’s not been labeled an unindicted co-conspirator, the laser focus prosecutors are placing on the relationship between him and O’Brien is making many – and you have to believe this includes the jury – wonder why his name isn’t included at the top of the indictment.

“Who would have ever thought that Jim Kerasiotes would get lugged by the feds before Bobby DeLeo?” writes the Herald’s Howie Carr. “But at least the G-men are taking a bite out of Mistah Speakah’s ample hide in this endless Probation Department trial in federal court.”

What’s interesting and will likely hold everyone’s attention regardless of whether O’Brien and his co-defendants are convicted is the stench coming from Judge William Young’s courtroom about the process of patronage and how everyone agrees it goes on and on and on and on. But no one thinks there’s anything wrong with it.

A half-dozen past and present state representatives have testified in the past several weeks that, yes, indeed, they were offered a Probation position by DeLeo’s office when he was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to hand out to someone of their own choosing. And, yes, they did call friends or former colleagues who were hired without interviews, some on the same day they applied. And, yes, they did support DeLeo as speaker when the time came after DiMasi moved out of the office as corruption allegations were swirling around him. DeLeo’s former ways and means chairman testified yesterday that DeLeo told him hands off the Probation budget as everything else was being cut in the recession of 2008.

But was everything connected? Heck, no, they all insist. And did they do anything that anyone before or likely after them didn’t and will ever do? Double heck, no. While DeLeo called on prosecutors to stop saying he handed out jobs to colleagues in exchange for votes, what he didn’t deny is he handed out jobs to colleagues. And to his godson, the son of his top aide to whom O’Brien ordered all inquiries of jobs be routed to from House members.

Presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker said he accepts DeLeo’s explanation but, he says, that’s what you get with one-party dominance. Never mind that the sponsor lists prosecutors have submitted contain the names of Republican lawmakers, many in the minority leadership, as well.

Television reporters who have made rare appearances at the federal trial tossed questions at DeLeo, asking if the lawmakers who said they got jobs for votes were lying. Never mind that no lawmakers said they got jobs for votes. Those are the questions DeLeo will be asked going forward because that is the story everyone is watching, not the outcome of the trial.

“The agency he presided over and abused wasn’t some obscure office of uncertain importance,” writes the Globe’s Yvonne Abraham. “The Probation Department is on the front lines of the justice system… For years, O’Brien made a mockery of that vital work. Maybe, in the end, he walks. Maybe the jury, like so many observers, will decide that this is just the grubby way that politics works.”

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The House passed new gun control measures that garnered praise from both sides of the contentious issue.

Gov. Deval Patrick is set to sign a compound pharmacy bill into law, the Associated Press reports.

Geraldine Hines is confirmed as the first black woman on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Associated Press reports.

In the wake of lieutenant governor candidate Leland Cheung calling for the abolition of the Governor’s Council, council member Robert Jubinville said maybe it’s time to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s post, since the state has gotten along fine for a year without one.

Members of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus are mostly happy with the 2015 budget.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Globe reports this morning that seven people are dead following an early morning apartment building fire in Lowell.

The Haverhill City Council approves $1.5 million in tax breaks for Harbor Place, a development expected to house a number of businesses, including a satellite campus of UMass Lowell, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Weymouth officials are planning to file a bill this week to get the stalled Southfield development at the former naval air base kickstarted by diminishing the authority of the three-town quasi-public agency overseeing the mixed-use project.

The state’s Civil Service Commission upheld the decision by the Brockton Fire Department to pass over a veteran of the war in Afghanistan in favor of lower-scoring candidates.

The director of the Quincy Housing Authority, which has been the subject of scathing state inspections and reports, suspended the head of maintenance for the embattled agency for what he said was widespread mismanagement.

CASINOS

A Globe editorial says the fact that East Boston voters soundly rejected a casino plan should figure in the state gambling commission’s thinking when weighing the Suffolk Downs proposal, which got around the referendum vote by shifting the casino footprint to the Revere section of its property, which straddles the Revere-East Boston border.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Joan Vennochi says  the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Massachusetts buffer zone case reeks of hypocrisy because the court itself enforces a protest-free buffer zone on the plaza in front of its august Washington building.

Utah  is going to the Supreme Court to challenge gay marriage, Time reports.

Bridge closings be damned: The Wall Street Journal says Chris Christie is having a wildly successful run as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, raking in buckets of money for the group.

New York City police and prosecutors are at odds over marijuana possession.

ELECTIONS  

How changes in the polling landscape complicate reading midterm election polls.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Developer Don Chiofaro continues his reemergence from the shadows with a sit-down on Greater Boston to talk about his vision for the Boston waterfront and plans for his parking garage.

Already the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is becoming a major player in the financial services world for those at the lower end of the market, offering check cashing services, money transfers, and bill paying counters at its stores.

Aero comes up with a new survival strategy, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

EDUCATION

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll cancels Gordon College’s contract to manage the city owned Old Town Hall, citing the school’s discriminatory policy toward gays and lesbians, the Salem News reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy traces the problems  with Partners HealthCare becoming the 800-pound gorilla of Massachusetts health care back to then-Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and says Martha Coakley is on the same path to make Partners a monopoly.

State officials seek to add medical marijuana dispensaries in seven counties, WBUR reports.

TRANSPORTATION

The Wall Street Journal pours some cold water on city bike-sharing programs, saying many are suffering financial shortfalls or experiencing technical problems.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Thieves steal campus plants and trees maintained by Newton South students as part of a sustainability program.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Police are not amused: The Supreme Judicial Court rules that smelling marijuana does not constitute probable cause to search vehicles.

Federal prosecutors continue to lay out their obstruction of justice case against a friend of accused Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The Boston Police Department struggles to attract minority candidates.

A former New Bedford nursing home worker has been charged with stealing more than $8,000 from patients.

MEDIA

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.

News Corp . may be about to take another run at the Tribune newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

Yes, the French are different: They buy actual books.