Walsh Aide Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Extortion Charge

Kenneth Brissette appeared in court Thursday afternoon.

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Kenneth Brissette, Mayor Marty Walsh’s tourism czar, pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday afternoon after he was charged with “union-related extortion” in relation to the Boston Calling musical festival production company.

Brissette, who appeared at the courthouse in a grey, Michigan Wolverines shirt, is accused of withholding permits from Boston Calling organizers until they hired stagehands from International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 11. In a statement on his behalf, Brissette called U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s claims “factually and legally flawed.”

“I intend to fight these false charges with everything at my disposal,” Brissette said. “I look forward to my ultimate vindication in the United States District Court.”

Much of the eight-page indictment discusses a 2014 incident, in which Brissette allegedly pressured a non-union production company filming an episode of Top Chef in Boston into hiring union workers.

“I am deeply concerned about today’s news,” Walsh said in a statement. “Everyone who knows Ken knows him to be a good and hardworking person. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to get to the bottom of this. Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way.”

Brissette, who has been placed on paid administrative leave, was ordered to surrender his passport and post a $25,000 unsecured bond. He exited the courthouse through the rear, giving a thumbs-up to photographers on his way out.