Reporter’s Notebook: Vignettes aplenty on corruption beat

This was the account from the Boston Globe, of the words of the gentleman from Hyde Park to the reelected speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, and his team of lawmakers: “Shield them, as much as possible, from the outside world. … This institution is being battered from all sides, within and without, and we have to follow that leader,” Rep. Angelo Scaccia said during the Democratic caucus.

Soon afterwards, three former House speakers, each indicted, and two of them felons, including Thomas Finneran of Mattapan on obstruction of justice charges, and Charles Flaherty of Cambridge on tax evasion charges. Next to them was Salvatore DiMasi, a North End Democrat whose alleged corruption case goes to trial this spring.

The picture of them laughing and smiling was described in a federal courtroom the following afternoon, and served as a litmus test for those who seek to defend former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, and those who believed she should do hard time. Here was Wilkerson, sentenced to 3.5 years in jail, while three former speakers, also accused of crimes against the state, received handshakes and hugs on the floor of the House, her supporters said. Here were three former speakers welcomed back into the State House with open arms, and Beacon Hill pols needed to be sent a message, federal prosecutors said.
But Finneran, of course, was never caught on a surveillance tape stuffing a U.S. Census redistricting map up into his shirt. And both he and Flaherty had been hit with first-time offenses.

For Wilkerson, more than a decade after the Roxbury Democrat was convicted of federal tax evasion charges, it was strike two. The FBI surveillance images of the senator stuffing cash into her bra, released to the media immediately after her indictment, rocked the State House and City Hall.

The federal judge, Douglas Woodlock, in a half-hour long explanation of his sentence that veered into both the history of England’s Lord High Chancellor Francis Bacon and Massachusetts politics, cited her “established pattern” of breaking laws and he “systematic way” she took the bribes. In order to do business in the Second Suffolk Senate District, individuals had to pay a “Wilkerson tax,” Woodlock said.
Inside the courtroom, Wilkerson was contrite, and before the sentencing, she told the judge she had always sought to help her community and was not interested in money.

But outside the Moakley Courthouse and after the sentence was handed down, she dropped contriteness and, in a prepared, single-spaced statement, lashed out at the U.S Attorney’s office, calling them “outrageous” and “despicable.” In a clipped tone, she defended herself and former City Councillor Chuck Turner, who was convicted of accepting a $1,000 bribe in a related court case. She accused the FBI’s informant, Ron Wilburn, of being at the heart of a “criminal enterprise.”

But U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz noted that the evidence against Wilkerson, who must report to prison by March, was “overwhelming,” and said the former senator did not learn her lesson from the first conviction and numerous campaign finance and ethics violations. “Political corruption is a serious crime,” said Ortiz. “It’s sort of like a cancer. It may start out small but then it spreads. And you could see that in her, where she got involved in a pattern of systematic behavior, of obtaining money, cash for favors in exchange for that.”

Menino’s elder affairs chiefheading to New Profit Inc.
Mayor Menino’s elderly affairs chief is leaving the administration. Eliza Greenberg, who has served as elderly affairs commissioner since April 2004, has been hired as a partner by the Boston-based New Profit Inc.

Greenberg is the latest administration official to step down in recent months. She follows Judith Kurland, the mayor’s former chief of staff, who left in December to start up a center focused on community democracy at UMass-Boston. Menino’s budget chief, Lisa Signori, left in September for a post at the Perkins School for the Blind.

Before she was appointed to Elderly Affairs, Greenberg oversaw the city’s Emergency Shelter Commission for two years.

“I have loved my time here, been honored to serve our city’s homeless and elderly residents, learned an immeasurable amount from my boss, and thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with many of you,” she wrote in a letter last week to city councillors.

New Profit Inc. funds nonprofits, including Teach For America, Citizens Schools, and Year Up.
“Most of the organizations in our portfolio rely on successful partnerships with elected city, state and federal officials to accomplish their work,” Doug Borchard, managing partner and chief operating officer at New Profit. “To have someone who knows how to best create and maintain these relationships and can use her experiences to serve as a sounding board and advisor is a true asset.”

Greenberg has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.

Quote of Note: Mayor Menino on libraries
In between musing in the city’s top two dailies about U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s chances for re-election (“There’s nobody that can beat him” he told the Herald) and his schedule despite some trips to the hospital (“I’ve done more events than most people”), Mayor Menino appeared to set up another battle over whether the city will be closing libraries. “I believe we have too many branch libraries,” Menino told the Globe on Tuesday. “As a politician I shouldn’t say that because it makes people mad. But if we really want to be honest with ourselves and the public, you have to say that.” The comments come after state lawmakers had appropriated $350,000 to keep open four libraries slated for closure – including the Lower Mills branch – for the rest of the fiscal year. Fiscal forecasts for the coming budget cycle remain grim.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Material from State House News Service was used in this report.