Labor pain for Walsh

Yesterday may have been the worst day of Marty Walsh‘s tenure as mayor of Boston. He can only hope that the same is still being said a year from now.

Walsh’s deep labor ties have always been his Achilles’ heel. It was so when he squeezed his way through a crowded field to snag an open state rep seat nearly 20 years ago as a young official with the laborers union. It was the issue that dogged him during his successful 2013 run for mayor. And it is the reason why a federal probe of union strong-arming has reached its way to Walsh.

The Boston Globe reported, in a five-byline story splayed across the front of the Sunday paper, that a “sweeping” federal investigation of union tactics now includes Walsh. The paper reported that the mayor, then a state representative and top union leader with the building trades, was heard on a federal wiretap in 2012 telling Anthony Perrone, an official with the laborers union local in Malden, that he told a developer a proposed Boston project could face trouble with the city’s Zoning Board Appeal if the company didn’t use union labor on a separate Somerville building project.

The paper says Walsh was not an early target of the investigation but “became drawn into it” through the wiretaps that recorded his 2012 conversation.

Whether Walsh will be ever be charged and face court proceedings is entirely unknown at this stage. The immediate worry for the mayor is how things play in the court of public opinion.

He was a bit halting in his responses to the Globe in a Saturday interview. Though his office told the Globe in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s story that he had not appeared before or testified in front a federal grand jury investigating the union activities, Walsh would not say in a Saturday interview with the paper whether he has appeared before a grand jury.

In a front-page follow-up story today, the Globe quotes Stonehill College political scientist Peter Ubertaccio saying his refusal to answer the question certainly doesn’t help Walsh’s case that he has brought a new era of openness to City Hall.

“If you can’t answer that question, you are only inviting greater scrutiny,” Ubertaccio tells the paper.

This morning, Walsh seemed to suggest he has not appeared before a grand jury looking into issues specifically involving the building trades unions.

His administration has already been nicked by a federal probe of Teamsters Local 25 that has resulted in the indictment of five union members charged with extortion in connection with dealings with executives filming episodes in the area of the TV show Top Chef without union production crews. Walsh won’t say whether he has appeared in connection with that case.

One sign that Walsh could be in for a rough ride in the press is that the Boston Herald, which had to decide quickly whether to ignore the whole business, as rival papers sometimes do when the other breaks a story, or jump in themselves, went with the latter.

The paper has an explainer today on the Hobbs Act, the federal statute that experts say would likely be used in pursuing any charges in the case. The law seeks to distinguish between lawful advocacy by unions and illegal coercion.

The Herald also has a story raising an angle we’re not likely to read in the Globe: That the information about Walsh’s wiretapped conversation could have been leaked by the feds as part of an effort to flush out more witnesses than they now have who can offer corroborating statements on union tactics.

Such a release by prosecutors would be illegal, but hardly unprecedented.

“I’ve seen agents leaking stuff to the press just to stir the pot and try and generate statements from witnesses where they don’t have any,” Michael Kendall, a former assistant US attorney, tells the Herald.

Walsh told the Globe this morning that he expects there will be indictments in the case but he is confident he won’t be among them “because I did nothing wrong.”

If he’s right, time will bear that out. But anytime your Monday morning starts with assurances to the press that you won’t be facing an indictment is not exactly the way you wanted to start the week.

–MICHAEL JONAS 

 

BEACON HILL

The House is scheduled to start budget deliberations today, with 1,300 amendments pending. (MassLive) A Herald editorial takes aim at amendments filed to tourism fund, most of which seem to have little to do with tourism and more to do with reps trying to get the state to pay for things municipal governments in their districts should be funding.

Renee Loth says there are lots of reason to go slow on the rush to legalize recreational marijuana. A Herald editorial tees up a new argument to do so: The apparent use of states where pot is legal to grow product that is then shipped to locales where it is not and where the profit margins are much bigger.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Nantucket Town Meeting voters will consider a proposal to allow tiny homes built on movable trailers to help ease the affordable housing crunch on the upscale island. (Cape Cod Times)

Natick officials are questioning the town’s relationship with a nonprofit organization that runs an organic community farm, asking whether taxpayers should subsidize the operation and at what level. (MetroWest Daily News)

Quincy city councilors are seeking answers to what’s being done to rid the city of its increasing rat problems, which was a major concern last summer with dozens of rodent sightings from increased construction and delays in trappings because of the long winter. (Patriot Ledger)

A smartphone app to cover meter costs is leading to a decrease in the number parking tickets issued in Boston, while overall parking meter revenue is up. (Boston Globe)

CASINOS

With Massachusetts ramping up its casino industry, Connecticut looks to add a third casino as part of the desperate effort by states to protect gambling revenue from slipping over their borders. (Boston Globe)

Horse racing returns after a 15-year absence to the Brockton Fairgrounds this summer after the developer of a proposed casino on the site gave the okay. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restores voting rights for convicted felons who have served their time in jail. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have reached an agreement to coordinate their campaigns by allowing each to focus on certain states in a last-ditch effort to block Donald Trump. (New York Times)

Now that he’s commandeered most of the slots on the Republican State Committee, you’d think Gov. Charlie Baker would be giving his minions marching orders on what to do during the upcoming process of selecting delegates to the party’s national convention in Cleveland. You’d be wrong, however, reports Politico’s Lauren Dezenski, who says Baker’s hands-off approach isn’t sitting well with some.

Charles Koch, one half of the billionaire brothers who finance conservative causes and candidates, said in an interview over the weekend he could support Hillary Clinton and said in some ways she’d make a better president than the Republican candidates. (ABC News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With many Cape Cod cemeteries at or nearing capacity, some are installing columbaria, permanent above-ground vaults to hold cremated ashes as a burial option. (Cape Cod Times)

EDUCATION

Charlie Chieppo writes that school closings are a tough, but necessary, part of “right-sizing” the Boston Public Schools and ensuring that money is devoted to student learning. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Ron Brace, a football star in Worcester and later with the New England Patriots, is found dead at age 29. The cause of death has not been announced. (Telegram & Gazette)

Hospitals in and near Lowell are upping executive salaries as they struggle to survive. (The Sun)

TRANSPORTATION 

Fifty-seven percent of Greater Boston residents say traffic is getting worse, according to a MassINC Polling Group survey. (WBUR)

A Globe editorial over the weekend said it is time to do away with the city’s taxi medallion system altogether in response to the emergence of the ride-hailing industry. The new app-driven transportation sector has sent the Cambridge cab industry reeling. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Globe editorial says it’s time to get off the dime and approve more hydro power for the state if Massachusetts is to meet its clean energy goals.

Paul Vigeant of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center says offshore wind can be cost competitive. (CommonWealth)

A push is on to ban certain flame retardant chemicals in the state because of concerns that they they may be contributing to elevated cancer rates among firefighters. (Boston Globe) In December, environmental scientist Kathryn Rodgers argued in CommonWealth that Boston’s fire code should be updated to ban use of the chemicals.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court is set to hear a case that could determine whether drivers pulled over for drunk driving are entitled to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to take a Breathalyzer. (Berkshire Eagle)

Two people were wounded and a man from Maine is under arrest after police said he went on a random shooting spree in Duxbury over the weekend. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

The Gannett Co. offers $815 million for Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. (USA Today)