Rosenberg credited for candor while pressed to expel Sen. Joyce

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BOSTON – The executive director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance praised Senate President Stanley Rosenberg for his openness in talking Thursday morning about embattled state Sen. Brian Joyce but disagreed with the Amherst Democrat’s decision to hold off on calling for Joyce’s expulsion.

“It’s uncomfortable for any leader to talk about these things,” said Paul Craney, who started the fiscal alliance in 2012. “Everyone deserves their day in court but there comes a point when you have to tell your colleagues that enough is enough.”

Craney, who waited outside Rosenberg’s office Thursday morning in order to speak with him, said the senate leader told him he’d share Craney’s hand-delivered letter with his legal counsel.

On Wednesday, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service raided Joyce’s law office in Canton. A U.S. Justice Department spokesman said the search warrant they obtained is under seal.

Joyce in the last few years has drawn scrutiny for his management of campaign cash and whether he unethically used his position of power on Beacon Hill to drive business to his law practice. The Milton Democrat has steadfastly insisted he has done nothing wrong. Last month, Joyce was quick to dismiss a Boston Globe report probing a cozy relationship he enjoyed with a local dry cleaner, in which the lawmaker and his family allegedly  enjoyed years of free service in exchange for legal work.

After requesting an ethics investigation of earlier activities, Joyce settled that probe by the state Ethics Commission by agreeing to donate $5,867 in personal funds to various charities.

“I was steadfast all along that I acted entirely appropriately,” Joyce said in an interview with the New England Cable News network shortly after the settlement was announced. “I think there’s a little bit of an unfortunate part of politics which is increasing – I’ve been in the Senate now for 18 years, and it’s worse every year – the whole ‘gotcha.’”

Joyce quickly took to social media to claim victory in that probe:

Yet ever since Wednesday’s federal raid, Joyce has remained silent. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, like Rosenberg, expressed “concern” in a brief statement issued Wednesday. But he didn’t go so far as to call for Joyce’s resignation.

“Voters ultimately get to make the call with respect to whether someone’s allowed to continue to serve or not on election day, and I think that’s probably as it should be,” Baker told reporters.

But Republican party leaders demanded action Wednesday.

“With federal investigators raiding his office after a series of deeply troubling corruption reports, it is time for Senator Brian Joyce to resign from office immediately,” Kirsten Hughes, the state GOP leader, said in a statement. “Joyce’s remarkable disregard for the law is a byproduct of the Democratic culture of corruption on Beacon Hill, where abuse of power appears to be a fringe benefit.”

“There are plenty of people willing to serve as the state senator in that district,” Craney said. “Sen. Joyce can always serve the public in the future once they clear this up, but right now Sen. Rosenberg has an opportunity to do differently than what’s been done in the past.

“This behavior should not be tolerated,” the activist said.

Craney also pointed to the case involving disgraced ex-state Rep. Carlos Henriquez, a Roxbury Democrat. Henriquez became the first member of the state House of Representatives to be expelled by his peers in nearly 100 years after being convicted in 2014 of assaulting his girlfriend. He hinted earlier this month on Twitter that he’s eyeballing a reelection campaign:

“That’s the problem too,” Craney said, referencing the Henriquez case as a sign of Beacon Hill entitlement. “Even to this day he’s talking about running for office. That’s indicative of the behavior up there.”

Craney may be onto something.

Another case that raises the hackles on Beacon Hill’s sparsely-populated right side of the political aisle involves a former Democratic state senator from Boston who spent years evading political punishment until she was finally indicted on bribery charges in October 2008.

First elected in 1993, former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson’s past includes a house arrest sentencing in 1997 after being found guilty of owing more than $50,000 in federal back taxes, a $1,000 fine from the ethics commission in 2001 for failing to disclose receiving $20,000 from a bank in consulting fees while lobbying for that bank as a senator, a $10,000 fine for failing to report more than $27,000 in campaign donations, lying under oath in 2005 during a court hearing regarding a nephew’s manslaughter charge and finally her 2008 public corruption arrest.

Wilkerson did not face a backlash from her Democratic colleagues until after the 2008 arrest, when her Senate peers stripped her of committee assignments and passed a resolution calling for her resignation. Wilkerson initially vowed to wage a write-in campaign before deciding to suspend her reelection bid. She resigned that November, one day before the Senate was slated to vote on her expulsion.

Shortly after her release from prison, Wilkerson was honored at an event hosted by Hub Democrats, including Mayor Marty Walsh, as one of “18 women of color who have changed the world,” according to a February 2014 Boston Globe report. State Rep. Gloria Fox, also a Roxbury Democrat, remarked that she and Wilkerson had been “an unbeatable team.”

When it comes to Joyce, even GOP lawmakers have stopped short of calling for his ouster.

“A federal investigation of this nature is very troubling,” Sen. Bruce Tarr, the Republican senate leader from Gloucester, said Thursday in a statement. “These events are serious and cannot be ignored.”

Craney called on Joyce to end his silence, while praising Rosenberg for his candor.

“It’s good at least someone is out there talking to folks because Joyce isn’t doing that right now,” Craney said.