Greenway’s history leaves it vulnerable

Back in the days of the typewriter, when an anonymous tip was passed onto newspapers, it was called “coming in over the transom,” a reference to the vent window above an office door that brings in light and air.

It conjures up an image of a stealthy tipster passing a plain manila envelope chock full of documents into the publisher’s office then taking off before being discovered. The information was quite often solid but still needed reporting and verification.

The nonprofit Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy appears to be the target of such action by an anonymous group which apparently passed a damning report on the organization’s finances to the Boston Herald. The Herald’s stories, since picked up by the Boston Globe, don’t appear to have been reported beyond the contents of the one-sided report, which the paper says came from a group calling itself the “’Greenway Whistleblowers,’ which claims it’s a group of past and present volunteers and staff members.” If the Herald knew who the authors were, it would undoubtedly eliminate the word “claims.”

But anonymity aside, the information apparently hit bone. The Conservancy, which oversees the 1.3-mile stretch of greenspace and parks where the elevated Central Artery once passed, has appointed one of its own to investigate the claims while Gov. Charlie Baker says the report has reinforced his intention to wean the nonprofit off of state funds for good.

The report blasts the Conservancy for spending millions on public arts projects, including the recent floating sculpture “As If It Were Already Here,” whose cost went from $500,000 to more than $1.7 million. The Herald story downplays the Conservancy’s contention that most of the money for the project came from private funds while the Globe prominently featured the defense, as well as the group’s chief of staff Michael Nichols lambasting the report as fraught with innuendo and inaccuracies.

But the reason the report resonates is the history of the Conservancy and what some say is the group’s tone-deaf reaction to how it uses public space and public money. Four years ago, CommonWealth took a long look at the fight over using taxpayer money and the political insider dealing that led to the creation of the nonprofit parks manager.

But several missteps at the time pushed then-Transportation Secretary Rich Davey, whose agency owns the strip, to declare the Conservancy had to wean itself off the public dole. Among those issues was the salary of former Conservancy executive director Nancy Brennan, who was the focus of a Herald investigation into her pay, as well as four other staffers who received six-figure salaries. While the story itself would have been little more than a one-day hit with maybe a follow-up, it was sent into overdrive with an email from Brennan to her bosses about how she was going to blow off the tabloid – which she mistakenly sent to Herald reporters. A report by the Boston Business Journal that the Conservancy wanted prospective board members to donate a minimum $5,000 also did not sit well with lawmakers.

The Herald, far more than the Globe, has been dogged in its reporting of the Greenway and its perceived elitist posture in running the public park. The paper reported in April that the state quietly signed a two-year extension to continue receiving state funds, which would bring it to the 2018 deadline set by Davey.

Regardless of how the information came to light, the report makes a salient point about the need for a watchdog over such a prominent public space.

“It is imperative that the right actions are taken and the appropriate changes are implemented in order to hold the Greenway at the same standards as the rest of the public-funded organizations in Massachusetts,” the report reads.

–JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and urban development, pushes for the authority to issue more tax credits to companies looking to move to Massachusetts. (State House News)

Attorney General Maura Healey ramps up her call for a federal assault weapons ban in an op-ed in GateHouse papers.

A group of conservative Bay State Republicans is making a last-ditch effort to get Gov. Charlie Baker to veto pending transgender rights legislation. (Politico)

“Is Beacon Hill on track to make Massachusetts safe for fornicating communists?” asks Mike Deehan. (WGBH)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Sturbridge selectmen rescind their earlier vote of non-opposition to a medical marijuana facility after they hear a list of concerns from Sen. Anne Gobi of Spencer and Rep. Todd Smola of Warren. The two lawmakers warn of “pot tarts” and say a medical marijuana facility would automatically lead to retail pot facilities if a pro-marijuana ballot question passes. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Fall River City Council rejected Mayor Jasiel Correia’s $256 million budget just nine days before the end of the fiscal year, which could force the city to operate on a month-to-month basis of 1/12 of the 2016 budget. (Herald News)

Somerset is about to receive $3 million from the state for the second year in a row to offset lost tax revenues from the closure of the Brayton Point power plant. (Herald News)

The Dudley health board denies a permit for a Muslim cemetery. (Telegram & Gazette)

Health permits in Ashland are in limbo in the wake of a dispute between a member of the Board of Health and the town’s health agent over the use of her e-signature. (MetroWest Daily News)

Dizzy, a monkey at the Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield, escapes his enclosure and remains at large. (Masslive)

A Falmouth selectman who won the seat last month despite questions over his residency abruptly resigned from the board citing health and personal reasons. (Cape Cod Times)

An arbitrator rules Sudbury officials were justified in firing a DPW worker who missed extensive time after his teenaged son was murdered. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A US District Court judge rules that the Department of the Interior doesn’t have the authority to regulate fracking. (Time)

US Steve Lynch knocks President Obama for his “PC” reluctance to use the term “Islamic extremists.” He also says the US should have hit back hard at ISIS following the Orlando killings. “They struck American citizens and we should have a show of force to send a message,” he told Boston Herald radio — though there is no evidence the Orlando shooter had any connection to ISIS or any groups in the Middle East. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump, lagging far behind Hillary Clinton in campaign fundraising, hints he may put up the money himself. Meanwhile, campaign finance records show he has paid himself, his children and his companies at least $1.1 million out of the campaign account. (New York Times)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is being vetted as Clinton’s potential VP pick, along with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. (Boston Globe)

Instead of shunning his party’s convention next month, Charlie Baker should ride into Cleveland on a white horse to rescue it from the loony fringe that is sending it over a cliff, says Scot Lehigh. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Kraft family is reportedly eyeing the site of the Bayside Expo Center in Dorchester for a soccer stadium home for the New England Revolution, which currently plays at Gillette Stadium. (Boston Globe) US Rep. Steve Lynch calls it a traffic-choking “bad idea.” (Dorchester Reporter)

Gov. Charlie Baker has waded into the fight over the potential ban on American lobsters by the European Union, sending off a letter criticizing Swedish scientists who determined the shellfish is an “invasive species.” (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

Lynne Mooney Teta, the headmaster at Boston Latin School, which has been roiled by controversy over race issues this year, announces she is resigning. (Boston Globe) The finger pointing begins, with some of it directed at Superintendent Tommy Chang. (Boston Herald)  Peter Gelzinis voices some sympathy for Teta, who he says clearly didn’t jump, but was pushed. (Boston Herald)

Of the 10 colleges and universities in the country with the highest student debt burden, five are in Massachusetts. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Gov. Charlie Baker says prescriber education and restrictions are key to reducing opioid abuse and overdoses. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The Registry of Motor Vehicles is shutting down its branch at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers because of air conditioning problems. The agency is now looking for a new location in Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, or Topsfield. (Gloucester Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Carl Gustin, a consultant to the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, says the region needs new transmission lines and a gas pipeline. (CommonWealth)

Mayor Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Mayor Stephanie Burke of Medford call on the state to up its renewable energy target. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A former Rockland selectman has been arrested for the fifth time after alleging violating a harassment prevention order by sending unwanted texts to an Abington woman although his attorney says the messages are coming from a “burner” phone unconnected to his client. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Facebook is paying millions of dollars to news outlets and celebrities to produce live video. (Fortune)

Dan Kennedy says the recent report from the Pew Research Center on the State of the Media in the digital age is not all doom and gloom — just mostly. (WGBH)