Lelling plugs fed role on corruption probes

US Attorney Andrew Lelling stood on a podium at Moakley Courthouse on Tuesday announcing federal charges against Democratic State Rep. David Nangle for misusing campaign funds.

But for a few minutes, it seemed like the Republican Lelling – who the conservative New Boston Post speculated could be a potential GOP candidate for governor – had another target in mind: Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat widely speculated to be pondering her own gubernatorial run. Without being asked, Lelling seemed intent on answering the question of why he, rather than Healey, was prosecuting the state lawmaker.

Lelling said his office will continue to aggressively pursue public corruption, one reason being: “If we don’t do it, it might not get done.” He added: “We have the resources to pursue these cases and fewer or no ties to state and local government.”

During a question and answer session, Lelling expanded on his remarks. He reiterated that his office has more resources – more prosecutors and agents – to pursue public corruption cases. And, he added, “On some level it’s less awkward for us to do it.”

“We don’t have state level ties, our jobs are not beholden to state level authorities, there are no repercussions for federal authorities if state level authorities are annoyed about a particular investigation,” Lelling said. “It’s always easier for the feds to investigate state and local corruption than it is for state and local authorities to investigate state and local corruption.”

The Boston Globe editorial board picked up on the theme Wednesday, questioning whether Nangle’s case points to the failure of state officials to prioritize rooting out corruption. “This latest federal corruption charge against a state politician points to the obvious fact that somehow state and local laws and/or the officials who enforce them are not adequate to ferret out misconduct by those entrusted to do the public’s business,” the Globe wrote.

Healey disagrees. “Going after public corruption continues to be an important mission of this office,” a Healey spokeswoman told CommonWealth. “AG Healey has investigated and prosecuted dozens of cases of fraud and corruption by public officials and will continue to do so.”

The Nangle case was referred to the FBI directly by another agency in 2017 (the FBI would not say which agency). It was apparently not referred to Healey’s office. It involved federal issues including lying on federal tax forms and bank applications, as well as state level campaign finance issues.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance did investigate Nangle in 2008. It determined he was not complying with disclosure and reporting requirements, put his campaign committee on an enhanced reporting schedule through 2010, charged the committee $1,000, and required Nangle and his staff to undergo training.

While the Globe editorial writes that Lelling has taken the lead in prosecuting allegedly corrupt municipal officials in Boston and Fall River and state police implicated in an overtime abuse scandal, Healey’s office notes that she also prosecuted several state police officials for overtime abuse. Healey’s office prosecuted Bryon Hefner, the husband of a former Senate president, for sexual assault. She has prosecuted numerous other state and municipal employees, such as an MBTA employee who stole from fareboxes and UMass Amherst employees accused of accepting kickbacks.

The most “awkwardness” for now may be between the two senior law enforcement officials.





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