House unrest over harassment

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has vowed to make all things right in his chamber when it comes to the burgeoning issue of workplace sexual harassment. But when it came time yesterday for what was expected to be orderly adoption of new rules to strengthen protections against harassment, Diana DiZoglio and Angelo Scaccia broke with the script and declared that things have been very wrong in DeLeo’s House.

DiZoglio, a Democratic state rep from Methuen who was at the center of a gossipy 2011 incident while working as a State House aide, rose during yesterday’s session to charge that DeLeo’s office got her to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevented her from discussing the harassment she was subjected to in the wake of the episode.

“These silencing tactics have no place in this House. They cover up misdeeds by politicians and others and they empower perpetrators to move from one victim to the next,” she declared in her sharp rebuke to the powerful House leader.

A 2012 House investigation concluded that there had been no inappropriate conduct between DiZoglio and state Rep. Mark Cusack, with whom she was seen entering the empty House chamber during a late-night party in the Speaker’s office. But DiZoglio says she was subjected to gossip and rumors after the incident. She told Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham earlier this week that she was propositioned because of it and that there was widespread chatter about her sex life.

DiZoglio’s boss, then-Rep. Paul Adams, evidently wasn’t happy about having an aide who was the subject of so much gossip and wanted her gone. DeLeo says his office helped arrange a severance package, which included a non-disclosure agreement, for an employee who was improperly fired. He says the first he learned of the allegations she was being subjected to harassment came this week when told of the charges by the Abraham. DiZoglio insists she told his staffers about the harassment at the time.

As for the nondisclosure agreement that was part of the severance deal, DeLeo says there have been 33 such pacts with House employees during his reign and that none of the cases involved sexual harassment. The new rules adopted Thursday by the House free anyone who signed a nondisclosure agreement since 2010 to discuss their case.

DiZoglio wasn’t the only one to challenge DeLeo yesterday. Scaccia, the longest-serving member of the House, ripped DeLeo for silencing House employees who leave with severance deals and said none of the three previous Speakers used nondisclosure agreements. He said Attorney General Maura Healey should look into the issue.

“Mr. Speaker, you’ve been getting away for too long in this House with the sound of silence,” Scaccia said, riffing off the famed Simon and Garfunkel song.

He also taunted DeLeo for not showing up on the House floor to hear the debate.  “Mr. Speaker, where are you? Come out. Come out of your office and chair,” he said.

Tension was thick in the House chamber as DiZoglio and Scaccia spoke. The sexual harassment issue has become a lightning rod issue nationally, and the charge that DeLeo’s office played a role in silencing a young woman alleging harassment is a serious one.

But the stunned reaction to the reps may have had as much to do with the fact that two Democrats dared to challenge the speaker on an issue as it did with the subject of their ire.

“Debate in the House usually amounts to little more than political theater to introduce the results of backroom deals. The debate over new sexual harassment reporting and investigation rules, however, seems to have gotten out of DeLeo’s typically firm control and blew up in his face,” writes WGBH’s Mike Deehan.

Scaccia has long bristled at DeLeo’s iron-fisted rule, under which power in the House has become ever more concentrated in the hands of one man. His message seemed to be that it’s not enough for the House to address the broader #MeToo movement and that there should also be a new movement in House — #DemocracyToo.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a $1.5 billion proposal to deal with the effects of climate change including money to shore up communities along the coast that were walloped by the recent storms. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton state Rep. Michelle Dubois wants to change the name of the General Hooker entrance to the State House because it sounds sexist and demeaning, even though it’s named after Gen. Joseph Hooker and isn’t really a reference to streetwalkers. (The Enterprise) Keller@Large says the double-entendre that triggers snickers is cause for education, not change.

The Connecticut Lottery regularly taps the Massachusetts film tax credit. Is that a boneheaded move that costs Connecticut jobs and investment, or is it a smart, money-saving strategy? (CommonWealth)

Senate President Harriette Chandler is pushing legislation that would bring agricultural composting operations under state regulation. The bill was spurred by friction between a composting farm and the town of Northboro. (Telegram & Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston Planning and Development Agency approves $5 million in tax breaks for Amazon in exchange for bringing 2,000 new jobs to the city’s Seaport district. (Boston Herald)

Former Red Sox pitching star Jim Lonborg defended the team’s former owner, Tom Yawkey, at a city meeting over a proposal by the team’s current owners to strip Yawkey’s name from the street name outside Fenway Park because of his attitudes on race. Lonborg said Yawkey’s attitudes shifted over time and he became “a better man,” but the man who led hearings in 1958 and 1959 of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination into the Red Sox, Walter Carrington, said Yawkey was, “if not an absolute racist, generally an enabler of racism.” (Boston Herald)

Former Boston City Hall aide Felix Arroyo, who was fired by Mayor Marty Walsh following harassment allegations, is now being sued by the woman involved in the matter. In February, she dropped a claim she had filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Turnover in an already chaotic White House becomes even more chaotic. (Boston Globe)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization including many relating to the company’s business with Russia. (New York Times)

At least six people were killed when a new pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami collapsed just five days after it was opened. (New York Times) The engineering firm that designed the bridge also designed the Zakim Bridge, though company and state officials said the two are dissimilar in design. The Florida bridge was also built using the same “accelerated bridge construction” method used on the new Commonwealth Avenue Bridge near Boston University. (WCVB)

ELECTIONS

Paul Caccaviello was sworn in as Berkshire County district attorney. (Berkshire Eagle) The move was arranged in a backroom deal between Gov. Charlie Baker and retiring DA David Capeless to give him a leg up in the November election. (CommonWealth)

Rachel Rollins, a former federal prosecutor and Patrick administration official, jumped into the Suffolk County DA’s race. (CommonWealth)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial sides with the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and warns that passage of the millionaire tax in November could hurt the state’s economy.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Toys ‘R’ Us was done in by a “confluence of factors,” say industry analysts, including the move to online buying, being saddled with enormous debt by a 2005 takeover, and no longer being a fun shopping experience. (Boston Globe)

Fred Ledley and Jennifer Beierlein of Bentley University urge caution when tampering with National Institutes of Health funding, which provides the core foundation for all new drugs. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter has ordered police stationed outside the city’s middle schools after a video went viral on social media showing a student being dragged by her hair and beaten outside one of the schools. (The Enterprise)

A principal at a Swampscott school who came out as transgender is being dismissed. (Lynn Item)

A report from the US Department of Education says the incidence of students between the ages of 12 and 18 reporting being bullied is down by a third from a decade ago. (U.S. News & World Report)

Framingham officials are reducing allowance for excused absences for the observance of the Rosh Hashana from two days to one to minimize disrupting the academic calendar, a move that rabbis and parents say prevents students from attending all the Jewish New Year religious services. (MetroWest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

A Salem News editorial urges Gov. Charlie Baker to set aside a day and take the commuter rail into work from Swampscott.

An engineering firm that worked on a Miami bridge that collapsed also worked on the Zakim Bridge in Boston. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The United States has accused Russia of cyberattacks on American power plants. (New York Times)

A new report from researchers at Rutgers University says rapid warming in the Arctic may be part of the cause of the severe weather in the Northeast. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Former attorney general Martha Coakley, now a partner at Foley Hoag, which represents Wynn Resorts rival Mohegan Sun, says in a Globe op-ed that the state gambling commission should revoke Wynn’s license for an Everett casino in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations that forced the ouster of the firm’s CEO and founder, Steve Wynn.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear an appeal by Michelle Carter of her involuntary manslaughter conviction that was based on texts she sent to the victim, Conrad Roy. (Boston Herald)

Two high-ranking Boston police officers are under internal investigation over unspecified off-duty actions occurring last June. (Boston Herald)

A Herald editorial says Boston should move forward with full implementation of body-worn cameras for all police officers.

A lawyer for state troopers suggested other judges may have been involved in the bid to scrub the arrest report of the daughter of a state judge. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

Rachelle Cohen, the longtime editorial page editor of the Boston Herald, pens a farewell column in advance of Monday’s switchover to new ownership, but says the scrappy tabloid will “continue to vigorously compete in the marketplace of journalism.” That may be wishful thinking. Consider this piece on the paper’s new owner, Digital First Media, by Washington Post media writer Margaret Sullivan a preview of coming subtractions.