Walsh hires ex-prosecutor to aid City Hall probe tied to Teamsters case
By NBP Staff | October 2, 2015, 19:48 EDT
BOSTON – An extortion indictment that recalled an earlier era in Boston labor history reportedly prompted Mayor Marty Walsh’s hiring of a former federal prosecutor to aid an ongoing investigation of a City Hall tie to the case that broke open this week against several Teamsters union members.
Four members of Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 were arrested Wednesday on charges connected with the attempted extortion of a television production company last year, according to Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Among those charged are Mark Harrington, 61, of Andover, the union’s secretary-treasurer, she said in a statement. The company was reportedly producing Bravo network’s “Top Chef” reality show.
The indictment says a “representative of the City of Boston” called the Omni Parker House hotel downtown to say that members of Local 25 planned to picket the next day, when the out-of-town production crew planned to shoot scenes for a reality show there. The indictment says the same person from City Hall “made similar calls” to the Menton restaurant, in the city’s Fort Point neighborhood, where the production company had also planned to shoot.
The Parker House canceled its deal with the production company the next day, according to the indictment. The shoot was relocated to an unnamed Milton restaurant, where Ortiz said “a group of rogue Teamsters employed old school thug tactics to get no-work jobs” from the production company. She said the tactics included physical violence and threats of more were used to pressure the company as it tried to shoot at the Milton location.
Walsh, a former head of the Boston Building Trades Council, which includes Local 25, said he was “concerned about the allegations that are out there,” the State House News Service reported. Walsh, speaking to reporters after an event Friday, denied directing anyone to call the establishments where the production company planned to shoot, the news service said.
The mayor said he brought in an outside lawyer, identified by the Boston Globe as Brian Kelly, a former corruption prosecutor, “so we can work with the United States attorney’s office on anything they might need moving forward,” the news service reported. The Globe said Kelly, now with Nixon Peabody, helped prosecute James J. “Whitey” Bulger as well as members of Local 25 while working for the U.S. Justice Department.
Walsh, a Democrat, won election with solid union support, including $14,999 from Local 25, the Globe noted. No one from City Hall was indicted in connection with the incidents cited by Ortiz. Harrington and the other defendants have entered not guilty pleas and have been released on bail, according to several reports.
Members and former leaders of Local 25 have been tied to corruption allegations involving the film and TV industries since at least the 1970s. A 2001 probe by former Superior Court Judge Robert Barton, requested by then-Gov. Paul Cellucci, documented movie-makers’ claims that the union’s demands led to increases in production costs of as much as $2 million for films shot in Massachusetts.