The Rollins rule: play straight with me

Here is one offense that clearly does not appear on Rachael Rollins’s “do not prosecute” list: A top official taking a tough swipe at her through the press without first raising the concerns with her directly.

For that, the recently-elected Suffolk County district attorney is ready to throw the book at any offender — and maybe a right hook as well.

The story here, of course, involves a letter raising concerns about Rollins’s plans for prosecuting certain crimes that the state public safety secretary, Thomas Turco, released to the press at the same that it was delivered to Rollins.

Rollins did not appreciate being blindsided by the move, and made that abundantly clear. She questioned whether a male DA would come in for the same treatment, and she defended her efforts to relieve the toll the criminal justice system exacts on minority communities by calling out the privilege she said families like Gov. Charlie Baker’s enjoy.

Rollins and Baker spoke by phone on Saturday and both suggested they were ready to dial things back. “I have nothing further to say about the matter,” Rollins told Globe columnist Adrian Walker.

But it turned out she had quite a bit more to say the following day, when Rollins addressed a roomful of activists and fellow elected officials who rallied at a Dorchester hall to show their support for her.

She told them she would have had no problem with Turco and the governor’s administration had they raised their concerns with her directly. “We are allowed to disagree with each other, but what you are not going to do is disrespect this office,” she told the crowd. (No one can accuse Rollins — who has called in to Howie Carr’s radio show and appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson — of being unwilling to talk to those she doesn’t see eye to eye with.)

She likened the recent dust-up to a situation “when someone slaps you in the face, and thinks you’re going to turn away and cry, and you take your earrings off, roundhouse kick them in the face, and then punch them to the ground.”

Some have said Rollins committed an unusual breach of standard protocol by which political figures haggle things out behind closed doors. But that doesn’t get the picture quite right.

After all, it was the Baker administration that took the fight public by releasing Turco’s letter to the press at the same that it was delivered to Rollins. That kind of sharp-elbowed move may not be common, but it’s certainly not unheard of.

The real shock to the political culture came when Rollins didn’t return fire with some kind of carefully wordsmithed riposte, but instead came at Baker with a two-by-four. Suggesting not everyone enjoys the sort of privilege his family does — by injecting into the mix the case of Baker’s son, who was alleged to have groped a woman on a flight to Boston last year — caused people to stop in their tracks.

Rollins crossed a line that most think should not be breached by bringing a fellow elected official’s family into a debate. That muddied up her broader message  — which is about racial disparities in how the criminal justice system treats people.

Rollins may have given insufficient thought to what it means to inject Baker’s son into the debate. But Baker and his team clearly gave insufficient thought to what it would mean to try kneecap Suffolk County’s newly-elected black district attorney over her vow to implement reforms aimed at lessening the weight of a criminal justice system that many believe has gone overboard in locking up black and Hispanic residents.

Rollins can be refreshingly blunt. Does that tendency sometimes get the better of her?

“I admit I could have handled things differently, too,” she told Globe columnist Kevin Cullen in reflecting on her Saturday phone call with Baker.

As a Globe editorial today says, there may be legitimate questions to debate about some details of Rollins’s approach, which she layed out in 65-page policy memo. But she made clear during her campaign the direction she was planning to take the office in — and some of those changes are, in fact, things her predecessor, Dan Conley, was already doing.

Jumping on her without warning for spelling out those policies seemed like an effort “to nullify the Suffolk County district attorney’s race,” Peter Kadzis said in a new episode of WGBH’s podcast “The Scrum.”

Less than four months into her term, that doesn’t seem like a winning case.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Legislators are vowing to try to bring changes following a Globe report that the state’s foster care system is overwhelmed with more cases than placement slots for children.

The House Ways and Means Committee unveils its budget today, and Eileen McAnneny of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation urges lawmakers to be cautious on spending because winter is coming. (CommonWealth)

Bills banning handheld cell phone use by drivers start moving. (CommonWealth)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas wonders whether Juul hired Martha Coakley to help fend off an investigation by Attorney General Maura Healey.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards said the city council will need to change its Trust Act ordinance following an incident where Boston Police coordinated with federal immigration officials. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said he doesn’t like that the incident has received a lot of media attention. (WBUR)

Falmouth is rejecting a zoning measure that would have restricted the ability of substance abuse clinics to operate. (Cape Cod Times)

Quincy Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Burchill says six people, including two police officers and a firefighter, were taken to the hospital Tuesday evening after an 81-year-old man put his car in reverse and crashed into a gas pump at a Franklin Street gas station. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

As mayors, Martin Walsh of Boston and Yvonne Spicer of Framingham say they need Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s housing bill. (CommonWealth)

Massachusetts Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark sponsored a bill dubbed the Be HEARD in the Workplace Act that aims to reduce sexual harassment and sexual orientation discrimination by requiring reporting, ending the tipped minimum wage, and banning pre-employment non-disclosure agreements. (WBUR)

Many Americans can file their tax returns online for free, but relatively few are doing it. (ProPublica, Quartz)

ELECTIONS

The Democratic Party is dominated by moderates, which would suggest the stampede to the left in the presidential race might be a losing strategy. (New York Times)

City Councilor at-large Jean Bradley Derenoncourt has announced his candidacy for mayor of Brockton. Derenoncourt, a 28-year-old native of Haiti, who became a US citizen in 2016 before getting elected to City Council the following year, is challenging three-term incumbent Mayor Bill Carpenter. (Brockton Enterprise)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Town Meeting in Saugus bans residential short-term rentals offered by such companies as Airbnb. (Daily Item)

Quincy city councilors will assess a 68-page proposed land deal drawn up by Mayor Thomas Koch that would give a slice of downtown to FoxRock Properties. The private developer plans to build a 200,000-square-foot medical facility, 110 affordable apartments and a 140-unit hotel at the spot. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

Emails shed light on behind-the-scenes lobbying in connection with Worcester’s sex education curriculum. (CommonWealth)

The search committee for a new Boston school superintendent could name up to four finalists for the post by next week. (Boston Globe)

Federal prosecutors have filed new charges against actress Lori Loughlin and more than a dozen other wealthy parents in connection with the college admissions scandal. (Boston Globe)

Hoping to bring new people into the fishing industry, Joe Sanfilippo is teaching a course called Extreme Gloucester Fishing covering subjects such as net-mending. (Gloucester Daily Times)

ARTS/CULTURE

A sculpture that celebrates Fall River’s diversity is planned for an exterior cornerstone of Government Center by city native and artist Barney Zeitz. (Herald News)

TRANSPORTATION

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has asked the MBTA to hold off on charging higher fares for commuters affected by traffic-snarling work on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 until those projects are complete. (Gloucester Daily Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

There are lots of questions about the plans of the New Jersey company that plans to acquire the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth — but not many answers have been forthcoming from the firm’s leaders. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

After the controversy surrounding Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins plans not to pursue criminal cases for several low-level crimes, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said the department works in partnership with prosecutors, but clarified: “You will not get a free pass because you misinterpreted what the district attorney put on her list.” (WGBH) Kevin Peterson of the New Democracy Coalition says Rollins brings welcome change. (CommonWealth) Attorney General Maura Healey says it’s Rollins prerogative to prosecute as she sees fit. (State House News)

The 37-year-old grandson of the Mattapan woman killed in a hail of gunfire outside her house on Saturday is under arrest for being part of the shootout. (Boston Globe)

Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington says domestic and sexual violence has reached a “crisis point.” She is launching a crackdown on perpetrators and forming a task force to help. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Supreme Judicial Court shoots down a new challenge to union authority in public workplaces. (MassLive)

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian claims a client of his was sexually abused by Peter Gori, a priest at St. Augustine’s church in Andover, and William Waters, a priest who had been assigned to St. Augustine’s in Lawrence, in the mid-1990s. (Eagle-Tribune)

Arlington Police Lt. Rick Pedrini can return to work months after calling for police to “meet violence with violence” in a column for the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter, but he will have a desk assignment and he will need to issue a public apology. (WBUR)

MEDIA

Media critic Dan Kennedy weighs in on the New York Times magazine’s 20,000-word piece about the Murdoch family