Walsh tourism chief indicted on extortion charge

Feds allege Brissette pressured music festival to hire union workers

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITH HIS TOURISM chief due in federal court Thursday afternoon to face extortion charges, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh described 52-year-old Ken Brissette as a “good and hardworking person” and pledged continued cooperation with federal prosecutors who arrested Brissette on Thursday morning.

“I am deeply concerned about today’s news. Everyone who knows Ken knows him to be a good and hardworking person,” Walsh said in a statement released hours before Brissette’s 3:15 p.m. appearance at the Moakley Courthouse. “We will continue to work with the US Attorney’s Office to get to the bottom of this. Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way.”

The mayor’s office said Brissette is on paid administrative leave.

Walsh aides noted that last year the mayor asked attorney Brian Kelly to review the city’s interactions with Top Chef and Kelly “produced a report that concluded no city employee was involved in any illegal activities.”

Spokeswoman Laura Oggeri said Kelly has also been reviewing Boston Calling, the music festival associated with Brissette’s extortion charge, and he is also conducting a review of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment “to ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place.”

The office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced Brissette’s arrest, reporting that a federal grand jury had indicted him in connection with the alleged extortion of a music festival production company.”

Prosecutors claim Brissette extorted a company that had already entered into a contract with a non-union company to provide workers for the September 2014 Boston Calling festival, to hire members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 11. Prosecutors say Brissette “and at least one other city official, repeatedly advised the company while it was seeking permits that it would need to hire members of Local 11 to work at the music festival.”

Due to his demands, “three days before the music festival the company entered into a contract with Local 11 for eight additional laborers and one foreman. Shortly thereafter, the City of Boston issued the necessary permits,” prosecutors said.

Meet the Author
Gov. Charlie Baker is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. to join Walsh in East Boston for the groundbreaking of Boston East, a $71 million residential project that will feature 174 market-rate and 26 affordable units, including six artist live-work units.