By Andy Metzger and Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON — Rep. Michael Moran, a Brighton Democrat, said he often jokes that his district is the “Eighteenth Suffolk Employment Agency” because all of the constituents who reach out to him for work.
“A lot of people ask you if you can help them gain employment, at least in my district they do,” Moran testified Wednesday in the trial of three former probation officials accused of rigging hiring in the public safety agency so that applicants backed by lawmakers would receive work regardless of whether they were most qualified.
Moran was third in a stream of four current and former House members who testified Wednesday in one of the final days of the prosecution’s case against former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III.
Much of the testimony has involved Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has forcefully rejected the theory presented by prosecutors, that O’Brien gave him probation jobs to dispense to shore up support for his ultimately successful bid for speaker.
“And again, let me just be very, very clear. Any statements or any innuendos that there were any quid pro quo in terms of jobs or money or whatever is false and untrue. And anyone who says that knows it’s untrue,” DeLeo told reporters Wednesday at the State House. Asked about the phone calls some House members say they received from his office about probation jobs, DeLeo said, “There has not been one lawmaker who’s stated that they were promised a job for a vote, okay?”
>>> For video of DeLeo’s press availability, go to: http://statehousenews.com/video/14-07-09deleo/ <<<
In the spring of 2008, after speaking to DeLeo’s former aide, Leonard Mirasolo about a job opportunity in the probation department, Moran said, he connected his friend and sometime campaign helper Kenneth Weiand, who was given a job two days after he applied.
Prosecutors contend that O’Brien gave the jobs to DeLeo to dole out to House Democrats to help DeLeo in his ultimately successful run for speaker. Moran said he originally backed Rep. Ron Mariano, but in December 2007 the Quincy pol dropped out of the running and “a large group of us that were Ron supporters went to Bob DeLeo.”
DeLeo rejected the notion that his work on the budget was part of a “quid pro quo” with O’Brien, as prosecutors have contended.
“I will tell you that during the recession probation probably was treated just like everyone else,” DeLeo told reporters Wednesday. He said, “It was just kept in mind that the public safety and the constituents of the Commonwealth were always my main concern and nothing further.”
After releasing a blistering statement rejecting “scurrilous” claims Wednesday, DeLeo spoke with reporters after a nearly two-hour caucus about pending gun legislation. Representatives said the probation trial did not come up.
“As I stated in my statement today, there was never a quid pro quo, whether it’s for jobs, for hiring, you know, for anything, quite frankly,” DeLeo said. “And I’m calling upon whether it’s the federal prosecutors or anyone else who would make such a statement to cease to make those types of statements, because they’re untrue.”
DeLeo said he was not called before a grand jury, and when asked if he would like to testify in the trial DeLeo said he has not been called as a witness, and then said he cooperated with the investigation into probation hiring by independent counsel Paul Ware.
On Wednesday, former House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy gave a somewhat muddled account of how the probation department was treated in the midst of the fiscal crisis. Murphy, who had just been granted the chairmanship by the new speaker, DeLeo, in early 2009, presented his budget proposal to DeLeo and said he was told not to cut money out of the probation budget.
Murphy, who was pushed out of leadership in 2011 and now works for a Dorchester health agency, said the only line item he recalls DeLeo telling him to preserve in that discussion was the probation department.
Revenues had collapsed with the nationwide recession, and Murphy said he had proposed cutting the probation budget about 10 percent along with other cuts throughout the budget.
When defense attorney William Fick showed Murphy other budget documents, however, he acknowledged the House Ways and Means proposal that was submitted to members included a 12 percent cut to probation, larger than the one he said DeLeo had previously rejected.
“It wasn’t cut as much as the number I put forth,” Murphy said. He said, “He told me we are not cutting probation, and I didn’t. I followed his guidance.”
On Wednesday, DeLeo said he had “no memory” of telling Murphy not to cut probation.
In 2011 DeLeo showed Murphy the door, moving him to majority whip and then pressuring him to resign from that position after the Burlington Democrat spoke privately about his desire to one day seek the speakership.
Murphy said he had originally supported Mariano for the speakership, and after Mariano dropped out he joined a clutch of 10 lawmakers who met weekly seeking to tie up votes for DeLeo.
“You know who the reps are, and it’s easy math,” Murphy said. He also threw some cold water on the notion DeLeo offered jobs in exchange for votes, saying the strategy meetings “never involved any discussion about jobs available at probation.”
Rep. Garrett Bradley, a Hingham Democrat, testified Wednesday about a short-lived attempt to shift some budgetary authority from O’Brien to Chief Justice of Administration and Management Robert Mulligan.
Rep. Kevin Honan, a Brighton Democrat, testified that he also received a call from Mirasolo in the spring of 2008, after he had already committed to DeLeo, asking him if he knew of anyone who wanted to work in the electronic monitoring program.
Honan recommended his aide, Gavin Flanagan, a West Roxbury resident, who Honan said always wanted to work in the court system. He listed his father as a court officer at West Roxbury District Court.
Moran said he never viewed Mirasolo’s offer as a gratuity for aligning with DeLeo. Honan was not asked the gratuity question but could be when he is cross-examined Thursday.
“In December of 2007, I shook his hand and told him that I would be supporting him in the speaker’s race coming up,” Honan recalled of an encounter with DeLeo. Honan is chairman of the Housing Committee, while Moran is a division leader on the House floor.
Weiand, who listed a Walpole residence on his application, wrote that he worked for Boston City Councilors Steve Murphy and Brian Honan, and managed the Stockyard restaurant, a Brighton eatery, from 2000 to 2006.
Moran said he helped people seeking work in the public and private sector, including the Red Cross.
“I often make the joke that it’s the Eighteenth Suffolk Employment Agency,” Moran said under cross examination.
The testimony from the lawmakers was limited to O’Brien and could not be used against the other two defendants, Judge William Young instructed.
Both Moran and Honan are being represented during their testimony by Tom Kiley, who represented former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi in the bribery trial that resulted in a conviction and an eight-year federal prison sentence.