Here’s Everything We Learned About Boston 2024 from City Hall’s Emails, Part II

At what point does 'grassroots' become AstroTurf?

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

City Hall has released all emails between between Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff Dan Koh and Boston 2024 organizers, fulfilling the third of three crowdfunded public records requests filed by No Boston 2024’s Jonathan Cohn.

Whereas Cohn’s first request for former Chief of Operations turned Boston 2024 Chief Administrative Officer Joe Rull’s email depicted City Hall’s early maneuverings in the bid’s infancy, the Koh emails provide a deeper look into the bid’s leadership and interplay with city officials.

Here are all the revelations a $386.32 request can buy:

1. Boston 2024 ran a draft roster of its executive committee past Mayor Walsh for approval—which included Celtics legend Larry Bird—along with a list of guidelines and expectations for members.

In a March 8 email, Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey asked Rull to make sure Walsh had seen the list. The list included Larry Probst, Scott Blackmun, and Angela Ruggiero of the USOC; IOC member Anita DeFrantz; once and future Boston 2024 chairmen John Fish and Steve Pagliuca; MassMutual CEO Roger Crandall; former Gov. Deval Patrick; Boston College Vice President Tom Keady; Brian Doherty of the Boston Building Trades; Chris Collins; Carol Fulp, CEO of The Partnership, Inc.; former U.S. Sen. William “Mo” Cowan; Bentley University President Gioria Larson; Paralympic wheelchair racer Cheri Blauwet; 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi; Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan; and three-time NBA champion Larry Bird (“[Celtics co-owner] Steve Pagliuca to confirm possible availability”).

Per an attached document titled “Expectations for Members of the Executive Committee,” members must stay onboard until 2017, when the IOC will select a host city. In addition to “maintaining the confidentiality of Boston 2024 information and conflict of interest disclosure procedures,” members’ responsibilities include:

  • “…identifying groups and events at which Boston 2024 staff might speak on behalf of Boston 2024.”
  • “…participate in donor cultivation events hosted or sponsored by Boston 2024.”
  • “…identify potential new donors and to help build support for Boston 2024 in the community, especially the corporate giving community.”

2. As the bid increasingly came under fire from local and national media outlets, city officials attended a “communications workshop” put on by the three global PR firms retained by Boston 2024—one whose client list includes the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan—all with extensive experience in international sports. They talked about, among other things, “grassroots community work.”

“Please see the attached agenda for our two day communications workshop,” Davey said to Koh in an April 7 email, less than a week after the Herald reported that Walsh wanted Fish out as chairman (a report he denied). “I apologize that you did not know about this, you should have received an invite a couple of days ago. We welcome your participation, or others as you feel appropriate, during any or all of the discussion.”

The first day of the workshop included a “Boston 2024 Brand Development” session led by Teneo, a New York-based communications firm, followed by “Boston 2024 Communication Protocols and Strategy,” wherein JTA—a UK-based PR firm whose client list includes the 2014 Sochi Olympics—outlined “the communications protocols and process/phases for the development of the Boston 2024 communications strategy and plan.” Dinner was held at Empire, at the foot of Boston 2024’s offices at 1 Marina Park Drive in the Seaport District. On the second day, Weber Shandwick, the global communications firm retained by both Boston 2024 and Fish, led a “discussion on [a] 180 day local plan, grassroots community work and how all these tie together.” The last item on the agenda (“optional if time permits”), is “Media Training,” led by JTA.

As first reported by the Boston Business Journal, city officials participated in this workshop. In an April 8 email, Koh told Davey that Fitzgerald would attend the entire workshop, while he would make appearances with Chief Communications Officer Laura Oggeri at the first day’s brand development, communication strategy, and bid update sessions, and the first half of the second day.

3. An early, confidential study on Boston 2024’s economic and fiscal impact performed by the UMass Donohue Institute anticipated the key points of contention the bid would face in a scant few months.  

In an October 3, 2014 email, Mary Jo Meisner, vice president at the Boston Foundation—you may remember a previous email that had her cutting a phone call short to finish her March Madness bracket—sent Koh an overview of the research the Institute was preparing. In a section titled “Net Economic Impact Analysis,” UMDI researchers Dan Hodge and Mark Melnik listed a few points to consider, including “venue construction funded by public sector,” “potential cost over-runs covered by city/state,” and “crowding out/displacement effect during Olympics.”

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4. Meisner received a January 26 newsletter from the Boston Teachers Union, whose property at the rear of the Bayside Expo Center in Dorchester has been eyed by Boston 2024 organizers as a home for the Olympic Athletes’ Village. The newsletter contains a searing rebuke of these plans, which Meisner passed along to Boston 2024 leadership.

“Olympic 2024 [sichas determined that our BTU property, the one our Health and Welfare Fund bought in the 1970s after the peninsula had been abandoned by others, would make an excellent dormitory, facility or village for the estimated 15,000 Olympic athletes,” wrote BTU president Richard Stutman in the newsletter. “And oops—they forgot to tell anyone, though their proposal says they did.”

This was problematic for all involved, as the BTU Health and Welfare Fund had just filed plans with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to build a new facility on its property. “This will be an ongoing story for the foreseeable future,” Stutman said prophetically.

Meisner forwarded this newsletter to Boston 2024 Vice President Erin Murphy, who passed it along to architect David Manfredi, Davey, and Fish. Fish asked Koh if he had any advice on the matter. “Rich and MJW connected on this today,” Koh replied.

5. Joe Rull couldn’t pass up a chance to make a joke at the expense of Boston 2024’s opposition.

Earlier this week, No Boston Olympics released its first-quarter finances, as well as a list of donors with contributions greater than $500. For months, the opposition group’s organizers said opening their books was a policy they were still evaluating.

Kyle Sullivan of Northwind Strategies— the politically wired public relations machine found to be operating closely with City Hall on the Boston 2024 effort—emailed a March 10 Globe article on No Boston Olympics’ initial refusal to disclose its finances to Davey, Rull, Murphy, Doug Rubin and Dave Wedge of Northwind, and several others. Rull forwarded the story to Koh and Oggeri, quipping, “Where is the transparency?”