The Boston Globe vs. Robert DeLeo

The speaker and the broadsheet are in a war of words.

Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Photo by Garrett Quinn

Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Photo by Garrett Quinn

It began Wednesday morning when the Boston Globe splashed an exclusive across its front page about House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s sealed deposition from the 2010 investigation of patronage hires in the state’s probation system.

The language contained within the parts the Globe released was not flattering for DeLeo.

During his deposition with independent state counsel Paul Ware, Deleo indicated he was not aware of the budget for the probation department, how the agency hired employees, or the practice of legislators sponsoring potential hires.

According to the Globe, DeLeo told Ware he could not recall even speaking with former probation commissioner John O’Brien during his four years as the head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

“I can’t — directly, I can’t remember but I wouldn’t be surprised if I — I might have done so,” said DeLeo.

Prior to the Globe’s story, DeLeo’s deposition had never seen the light of day, as it was sealed by federal and state orders.  It’s unclear how the Globe obtained the deposition, but Commonwealth hints it was probably leaked by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

In 2014, DeLeo said Ortiz was inappropriately dragging him through the mud as one of 34 “unindicted co-conspirators” in the case to “permit hearsay testimony by an immunized witness.”

Commonwealth editor Bruce Mohl, a formerly Globie himself, called on the broadsheet to release the entire transcript, something Globe editor Brian McGrory indicated is not needed in a statement.

DeLeo has always maintained his innocence in the probation patronage hiring scandal that resulted in the conviction of O’Brien and two others, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke. None of the three served jail time.

As the fallout from the story percolated through the day, DeLeo’s office issued a statement blasting the Globe for running the story:

The Globe article that appeared today distorts completely my testimony on the Probation Department investigation by the Supreme Judicial Court and selectively quotes my testimony out of context.

For example, the article claims that I didn’t have a clue about the probation budgets being considered by the legislature.

The actual questions and answers involved one specific line item included in 7 years of state budgets, each state budget being for approximately $29 billion and each containing more than hundreds of line items and hundreds of pages. I was asked if the numbers for the probation budget appeared to be correct. I answered from memory that I didn’t have a clue. That I could not speak to the specifics of any one line item in multiple state budgets of that magnitude is certainly understandable.

The article points out that I was unaware of a patronage system within the Probation Department that involved rigged hiring and promotional policies. That is accurate. I testified that I knew elected officials and others recommended candidates to the Probation Department but did not know how many were recommended or how many were hired.

The article repeats what has previously been reported on by the Globe, that Charles Murphy testified that he was told to spare the probation department of any budget cuts, a statement about which I have no memory. What the Globe conspicuously fails to report was that Mr. Murphy further testified he sought a budget cut of 10% from the probation budget but, in fact, the budget was cut 14% that year. It is clear, under those circumstances, that the probation budget was not spared nor did I take any action to protect it from cuts. Unfortunately for the Globe, the facts don’t support its narrative.

The article also suggests that O’Brien played a role in my election as Speaker of the House and that jobs in the Probation Department were used to influence the votes of individual legislators. Yet, not one legislator testified that their vote was secured by a job in probation or they were influenced in any way by a job offer for a constituent. All testified under oath that no such action occurred. Neither the Globe nor the United States Attorney has any evidence to the contrary because such conversations never occurred.

I testified truthfully and without immunity before Paul Ware and stand by the testimony I gave under oath.

It is quite disturbing that transcripts of testimony that were unavailable to me and under protective orders of the United States District Court and the Supreme Judicial Court are in the possession of the Boston Globe. I ask that those violations of these Court Orders be investigated by the proper authorities.

In short: DeLeo is furious and wants an investigation, the Globe is satisfied with its major scoop, and outside observers are eager to see the full transcript.