Sen. Joyce refutes latest report amid calls for sanctions

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BOSTONState Sen. Brian Joyce on Tuesday fired back at a new report that challenges his ethics while brushing off calls for punitive sanctions against him.

Joyce, a lawyer, denied allegations in a Boston Globe report Tuesday that painted an all-too cozy relationship he had with a local drycleaner. It said the Milton Democrat, his family and an aide never had to pay for cleaning over at least 18 years at a Randolph drycleaner.

Describing the report as false in a statement released Tuesday, Joyce said he provided the shop’s owner, Jerry Richman, with “uncompensated legal services” through the years that “far exceeded any dry cleaning offered,” noting that Richman couldn’t otherwise afford the services.

“It was a barter arrangement that he had not only with me, but with two other local lawyers,” Joyce said. Apparently referring to interactions with Globe reporters, he said, “I provided evidence of this to the extent permitted within the constraints of attorney-client privilege but that evidence was ignored.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, in an appearance on WGBH-FM, said the allegations warrant a State Ethics Commission investigation.

“This is the sort of thing that certainly flies in the face of what most people would consider if it’s borne out to be trueproper behavior,” said Baker, a Republican in his first term. He appears monthly on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” show.

“I certainly think in a situation like this where you have a private citizen speaking so forthrightly about a continuing pattern with respect to this activity, I think this is the sort of thing the Ethics Commission should take a really hard look at,” Baker said in the Tuesday morning appearance.

The top official in the state Republican Party went a step further, calling on Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) to remove Joyce from his committee assignments, including his role as chairman of the Special Senate Committee to Improve Government. The panel’s mission is to enhance government transparency.

“The people of Massachusetts are sick and tired of the culture of corruption in the Democratic Legislature, where conflicts of interest and abuse of power appear to be fringe benefits,” Kirsten Hughes, the state party head, said in a prepared statement.

“Senator Brian Joyce is Exhibit A demonstrating why Senate President Rosenberg is flat wrong to want to weaken state ethics rules,” Hughes said  “Instead, he should make an example of Senator Joyce by removing him from all Senate committees until a thorough investigation can determine the full extent of Joyce’s wrongdoing.”

Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a nonprofit watchdog  group, Tuesday urged Joyce to resign his senate seat.

“Brian Joyce clearly lacks a moral compass,” Craney said in a prepared statement. “He has used his Senate office for personal financial gain. No amount of dry cleaning will remove this stain.”

Joyce, whose statement didn’t respond to Baker, Hughes or Craney, took to his Twitter account to slam the Globe even harder:

In his statement, Joyce pointed out that an earlier Ethics Commission probe over how he obtained dozens of high-price pairs of sunglasses that he gave to fellow lawmakers, and what he paid for the headgear, determined that no action was warranted. Joyce said he expects a resolution of an investigation by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to be resolved soon.

Last month, Rosenberg described the “regulation and application” of state ethics law as “way overreaching,” a quote state Republican leaders have not forgotten, particularly when it comes to Joyce’s actions:

Tuesday’s report is not the first time the Globe has published allegations questioning Joyce’s ethics. Last year, the paper reported on the sunglasses gifts, in which Joyce doled out the $234 designer eyewear to Senate colleagues. The report said the senator didn’t pay for the gifts until reporters began asking him about it.

Another Globe report examined the relationship between Joyce and a Peabody-based firm specializing in selling insurance to energy companies.  

In May, as media reports raised questions about the ethics of his actions, Joyce agreed to step down temporarily from his leadership post in the Senate, where he was assistant majority leader, and from his position as chairman of the Bills in Third Reading committee. At that point, Rosenberg requested a full investigation by the Ethics Commission into Joyce’s conduct.