City Council tables Boston 2024 subpoena bid
By State House News Service | July 23, 2015, 8:11 EST
Written by Andy Metzger
BOSTON Boston City Council President Bill Linehan on Wednesday blocked a move to immediately issue a subpoena to Boston 2024 after frustrated councilors called the group pushing to host the Olympics in Boston “arrogant” and asserted they’ve been “disrespected” by Olympics advocates.
“I’m disappointed, but we’ve been disrespected as a body,” said City Councilor Tito Jackson, who offered the subpoena order. Jackson says Boston 2024 has stonewalled him and the council by failing to disclose financial and political support documents the group submitted to the U.S. Olympics Committee.
“I don’t know where this thing is headed other than off a cliff,” City Councilor Stephen Murphy said. He said he finds “the tone that comes from Boston 2024 to be off-putting, arrogant, condescending.”
Linehan objected to Jackson’s request to suspend council rules to bring the subpoena order to a vote, and the matter was referred to the council’s Committee of the Whole, which includes all councilors.
Boston 2024 is seeking to bring the summer Olympics to Massachusetts in nine years. The organization is pledging not to use public resources for the games, promoting a budget featuring $128 million worth of insurance and a projected surplus, and touting worldwide exposure for the city as well as thousands of jobs and the potential to expedite development with lasting positive benefits for the region.
After the meeting, Jackson said in a statement: “I am encouraged by the support of many of my colleagues on the City Council in our attempt to seek complete transparency and full disclosure to protect the interest of the city of Boston. It is my expectation that we have an expedited meeting to vote and move forward with the issuance of a subpoena to [Boston 2024 CEO] Richard Davey to appear and provide the full, unredacted Bid 1.0.”
Linehan said the delay is in keeping with a recently adopted rule that requires summons orders to be sent to the Committee of the Whole and his objection was “purely procedural.” Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Linehan said subpoenas are subject to scrutiny from the courts and the committee process will allow councilors to determine if Jackson’s subpoena passes “muster.” Jackson announced his subpoena order on Monday.
Several councilors announced their support for the subpoena and for Jackson’s more immediate approach toward demanding documents that were included in Boston 2024’s winning bid at the USOC, which Jackson said may have included promises.
Jackson said that Boston 2024 has not been in touch with him since he proposed subpoenaing the documents, and Linehan said he had spoken to Boston 2024 since that time.
“They said that they were going to get back to me,” said Linehan, who said he asked why the non-profit had not supplied the council with the documents Jackson first requested at a June hearing. He said Boston 2024’s chairman, Stephen Pagliuca, would appear before a city council hearing in the near future.
Jackson’s order for summons would require Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey, the state’s former transportation secretary, to discuss the redacted portions of the initial bid submission and provide a complete copy of the document.
The group that has been angling to bring the games to Boston could potentially avoid the spectacle of another City Council hearing and the possible issuance of a subpoena by volunteering the information.
Boston 2024 officials did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Jackson’s call for a subpoena, which followed his receipt on Friday of a letter from Davey, has played out while Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a backer of the Olympics proposal, was out of town, making an audience to the Pope Francis. The mayor plans to return to the city on Thursday and a spokeswoman when asked for Walsh’s position on a subpoena, deflected, writing, “The Mayor is in Rome.”
Jackson’s proposal arrives about a month from when Gov. Charlie Baker said analysis from The Brattle Group would likely be made public. It is also less than two months away from the Sept. 15 deadline for potential host cities to notify the International Olympic Committee if they will be submitting a bid.
Davey’s letter stressed that bid 2.0, which was released at the end of June after meetings held around the state, is the more relevant document and should be the focus of discussions around the proposal.
Davey’s letter said information was redacted to “protect the privacy interests of Boston 2024’s donors,” and the new bid includes “greater detail and more rigorously tested data about the Olympic Bid.”
City Councilor Frank Baker, a Walsh ally, was the lone member of the council to argue against the proposed subpoena and defend Boston 2024 at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The subpoena looks as if we’re being antagonistic toward Boston 2024,” Baker said, noting that the Olympics proposal could bring transformative development to Columbia Point in his district.
Councilor Matt O’Malley, who said he thought a well done Olympics could be “a boon” for the city, said Boston 2024’s decision to disallow the sharing of pertinent financial information from the first bid “feeds the cynicism that unfortunately this group has earned.”
“This is not an anti-Olympics stance. This is a pro-Boston stance,” said Jackson. After the meeting, Jackson said, “The final sign-off around where dollars go in the city of Boston lies with the City Council.”
After the meeting, Murphy told the News Service the council had adopted a more deliberative process for issuing subpoenas after he “summonsed” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans to talk about the state of the force’s mounted patrol.
“I let the genie out of the bottle when I summonsed Commissioner Evans . . . And then all of the young hotshots decided they were going to throw subpoenas everywhere,” Murphy said. Linehan said in recent months councilors had subpoenaed a Boston University official and a Boston landlord to testify, and Murphy said everyone had voted for the new rule laying out a more extended process for issuing summons.
The Boston Globe, which covered the contentious June 2014 meeting on the mounted police unit, reported that Murphy had read passages of state law that grants the council subpoena power and then ordered a messenger to gather the commissioner.
And the long defunct mounted police unit that Murphy supports? “They’re coming back. They’re in the process,” Murphy told the News Service.
Members of the U.S. Olympic Committee met with Walsh and spoke with the governor last Thursday discussing the process surrounding the effort to bring the games to Boston.
In a joint statement that followed their “productive meetings,” the USOC and Boston 2024 Partnership described the plan for the 2024 Boston Summer Olympics as shielding taxpayers from risk.
“Referred to as Bid 2.0, which is the next phase of Boston 2024’s Games Concept, the plan for building Olympic venues and operating the Games relies on private financing. It also includes safeguards to make sure tax dollars are not put at risk,” the statement said.
In a radio interview last Thursday, Baker said Boston 2024 wants the state to “give up” its air rights at Widett Circle, where Olympics backers want to build the games’ marquee stadium. Baker said the air rights are valuable and questioned whether that would “violate the notion of taxpayer funding?”
The joint statement said USOC and Boston 2024 officials discussed with Baker “the status of its ongoing cooperation with the Brattle Group’s analysis of Bid 2.0.”