Walsh to take key union post; plans to keep House seat

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Dec. 1, 2010

State Rep. Marty WalshState Rep. Marty WalshStarting in January, state Rep. Marty Walsh will be taking on a new job as high-profile official at a regional union umbrella group. He was elected to the post – secretary-treasurer and general agent of the Boston Building Trades Council – this fall.

The Dorchester legislator intends to keep his House seat after he assumes his new responsibilities.

Walsh has held down a lower-profile union job while a state representative for the last 12 years, serving as president of Local 223, a construction and general laborers’ union, a position he also intends to keep. He receives an annual $1,500 salary and runs a meeting of the local once a month.

The Dorchester Democrat and union officials said the new job has been vetted for potential conflicts of interest with his position as a state representative. He is awaiting a final response from the state Ethics Commission, which has given an initial okay, he said. He has retained an attorney from Boston law firm Mintz Levin to help with the vetting.

James Coyle, the current secretary-treasurer and general agent, is stepping down after holding the job for the last five years. “The job description is that you are pretty much a public relations trouble shooter for the various affiliated trades,” Coyle told the Reporter this week.

“Overall, this should not affect my performance as a state representative,” Walsh said, describing the job as dealing with “relationship-building.”

He added: “My whole focus up here is creating opportunities and trying to create jobs and good wages. It just seemed like a natural fit.”

Business agents generally make over $100,000 a year. State lawmakers receive a $61,440 base salary. Walsh’s salary at the Trades Council is expected to be set at a meeting of the council’s board this month.

The Boston Building Trades Council includes electricians, ironworkers, painters, pipefitters, and plumbers, among others. The council covers Boston and the communities in between Reading and Wakefield on the North Shore and Walpole and Canton.

Walsh said if any matters come up at the State House dealing with the construction industry, he will ask the Ethics Commission for a sign-off. “I’m not going to do something that’s going to jeopardize my district, my career,” he said.

If there is a conflict, the Building Trades Council’s president, Mark Fortune, will step in, Walsh said.

Walsh said he has had some experience checking in with the state Ethics Commission, asking for their opinion when charter school issues have come up because he is a trustee of a neighborhood charter school in the Pope’s Hill neighborhood.

Pam Wilmot, head of the good-government watchdog group Common Cause, said most state legislators hold down second jobs. Many are attorneys or small business owners.

“I think there are inherent issues with any second jobs,” Wilmot said, but added that based on Walsh’s description of the job, there did not appear to be many differences between a state representative who holds down a job as a general agent and a lawmaker who is also an attorney or small business owner.

“There are conflicts that come with having a life” outside the State House, she said.

Local lawmakers and colleagues say the job is similar to what Walsh currently does as a state legislator. “From my perspective, this is a continuation of the work he is already doing,” said City Councillor Maureen Feeney, who represents Dorchester. “I think it’s a perfect fit for him.”

Walsh, 43, has served as state representative since 1997. He was re-elected in November with no Democratic or Republican opponents.

“The office is in Dorchester so my duties as a state representative won’t be affected by it,” Walsh said of the new job. “I’m still going to be in Dorchester every day. If I’m not in Dorchester, I’ll be at the State House.”

Though stepping down from the union post, Coyle, 64, said he will be staying on the board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the state Board of Higher Education, and the State College Building Authority.

“It was just time to move on, get some young blood in here,” he said.