Ex-Worcester Rep Steps Back on Stage to Define His Story of Political Demise

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Worcester state rep John Fresolo was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee when he resigned on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.  He waited almost a year and a half to offer the public an account of the events that led to his resignation, which he did in a guest column published on Thursday, November 6, in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

I quote now from that column, adding italics to make his words stand out from mine:
The investigation was started when my aide approached House leadership with a request to be transferred to work in a different office.  I knew about this request as she was interested in a full-time position, which would include maternity leave, something that she didn’t receive as a legislative aide.

What I didn’t know at the time was that to reinforce her need to transfer she told the legal office in the Statehouse that she had discovered a photo on an email.  She had found it while looking at sent messages while searching for some information relevant to a constituent issue.  Her discovery of the image was accidental and its existence in the Statehouse electronic file system was unknown to me at the time.
The image had been taken on my personal cell phone at my home, by the woman I was seeing at the time, and she texted it to her own personal phone.  It was a bit of foolishness between the two of us, but it was a private image that she took and sent to herself.

Neither of us thought much of it at the time, and it didn’t occur to us that as a result of my personal cell phone being linked to my Statehouse computer, it was stored in a computer.
When my aide was doing some research of sent messages, and opened this file, she was startled – as you might well expect – to see the picture.  She closed the file and for months said nothing to myself or anyone, except some personal friends with whom she worked at the Statehouse.

As her pursuit of a transfer continued, and she was asked why she wanted to be transferred, she made the claim that inappropriate material had appeared on a Statehouse computer and she felt she needed to work somewhere else.
She had no way to know that the image had been a private picture, sent accidentally through a system that parked the image on the Statehouse computer.  But, having raised the tantalizing prospect that I was engaging in inappropriate behavior with Statehouse property, those in leadership who have made no secret to a dislike for me saw the opportunity to embarrass me – or worse.

As it turned out, in order to defend myself I would have had to drag the woman I was seeing and others into a sordid investigation process, most likely filled with graphic depictions of the image and our personal foolishness.
My defense rested upon the possible humiliation of many people, not just me.  I did not want to have to go through that process.  My female friend had no intention of showing this to anyone else.  My aide had no intention of seeing the texted image, but was understandably shaken by seeing it, not knowing how it came to be there.

Her consultation with friends about it would mean they would have to testify, and my enemies in leadership would have the chance to unload any other vitriol they wanted to, while I was left with little to defend myself.
It was a lose-lose-lose proposition.  Thus, I decided to let it drop with my resignation.

At the time of his resignation, John Fresolo was 48.  He’d been in the House for 15 years and was serving his eighth consecutive term.  Politics and public service were his life. 
The departure had to have been doubly traumatic, first because he was leaving a way of life he loved, second because he was going away on a downward path, a way made slick by vague and “tantalizing” ethical questions.

The House Ethics Committee was not required to issue a report on its investigation of Fresolo. 
Unless a matter the committee is investigating is brought before the full House, for example, to gain the approval of the House for a committee-proposed sanction on a representative, House rules stipulate that the subject and content of an Ethics Committee proceeding be kept secret.

With the matter permanently sealed, Fresolo decided to fill in some of the blanks, using as his sketch pad the pages of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  The question is, why now?
Was he hoping to remove the cloud over his head just to facilitate entry into a new field?  He’s still a fairly young man, with many years of earning potentially before him.    

Or was he hoping, more boldly, to lay the groundwork for a political comeback?
In either case, his narrative of personal “foolishness,” as opposed to violations of ethical and legal strictures, and of resigning to spare many people from “possible humiliation," is potentially quite useful.

Perhaps it’s best simply to view the narrative as a trial balloon. 
A lot of time has passed since Fresolo resigned.  Memories have faded, emotions cooled.  People have moved on.  No longer is he serving as a human lightning rod.

So he puts out the best possible version of his story and holds his breath. 
If no one close to the case shoots holes in the story -- and, so far, no one has publicly -- he will have taken a step successfully toward vindication and regeneration. 

If things remain quiet, the next step would be for Fresolo to have friends spread a story, say late in 2015, that he’s going to be a candidate for the legislature in 2016.  (Watch out, Dan Donahue.)
If the press was unable at that point to elicit facts and comments contrary to Fresolo’s narrative -- if the woman who took that compromising photo and the woman who found it declined invitations from newshounds to revisit the case -- Fresolo could convince himself the time is ripe to regain his life on Beacon Hill.



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