This Month in Corruption: Two Ex-Cops to Gain New Perspective on Iron Bars

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Embezzler.  On November 14, Glenn P. Pearson, a former sergeant on the Whitman police force, was sentenced (a) in connection with the misappropriation of funds from the accounts of disabled veterans while serving as a fiduciary appointed by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and (b) for the preparation of false income tax returns for clients of his tax preparation business.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patti B. Saris sentenced Pearson, 62, to four years in prison and three years of supervised released.  She also ordered him to pay $252,992 in restitution to the VA and $826,865 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. 
Back in May, Pearson had pleaded guilty to wire fraud, misappropriation by a federal fiduciary, preparation of fraudulent tax returns, and obstruction of the IRS.

The Extortionist.  On November 17, John R. DeSantis, a former Lawrence police officer, was sentenced in connection with an attempt to use his position to extort cocaine from a drug trafficker. 
U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV, sentenced Methuen resident DeSantis, 45, to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release.

Back in August, DeSantis had agreed to plead guilty to one count of extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear.

NOTE: Above information derived from press releases issued by Office of Acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.

Senate Republicans Don't Notice or Don't Care What Baker Thinks of Their Tax Bill

Ten days ago, late on the afternoon of November 20, I printed out a State House News Service article headlined, “Mass. Middle Class May Take ‘Biggest Hit’ Under Federal Tax Reform, Baker Says.” 

It concerned an appearance earlier that day by Governor Charlie Baker on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” show, which is hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and airs Monday through Friday, 12:00 to 2:00 P.M.  Once a month, there’s an “Ask the Governor” segment, with Baker speaking and answering questions the entire two hours.
The article rested atop a pile on my desk until this morning, when I picked it up, read it again, and shook my head, marveling anew at how strange this time of the Trump ascendancy in U.S. politics is.

Here we have a popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, telling the world that his feelings on a major component of Republican tax reform legislation are the same as those of Elizabeth Warren, a liberal Democrat member of the U.S. Senate loathed by multitudes within the GOP.
And here we have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate that does not give a fig that GOP moderates like Baker are worried sick about how that legislation will affect their states and are rushing head-over-heals to pass a tax reform bill -- possibly as soon as today or tomorrow. 

“If you really want to do something for the middle class, this is not it, because the middle class – in Massachusetts – will probably take the biggest hit,” Baker told Braude and Eagan on November 20.  “This is just a big shift, as you point out Jim, to the haves, at the expense in many cases of working people and the have-nots.  And I don’t support that.”
Baker also said:

“There are all kinds of things in this bill that will just make life for middle-class families in Massachusetts dramatically more expensive. And one of the things that Senator Warren said about this that I thought was spot on was she said, before we start taking things away from middle class families to support tax cuts for big corporations, we should be talking about what we’re going to do to make life easier for middle class families first.  And I agree completely with her on that point.”

The national press is reporting today that several Republican senators -- including Susan Collins of Maine -- who were on the fence about tax reform, are coming around after lunching with Trump the other day and receiving verbal assurances from the president that their concerns would be addressed in various ways.
Collins has not yet firmly committed herself to the bill, the New York Times said, “but is more optimistic after the lunch.”  The Times quoted her as saying, “I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be getting the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor.”

In his November 20 interview with Braude and Eagan, Governor Baker happened to mention that he communicates regularly with Senator Collins in Washington.  Said Baker, “I talk to Susan Collins quite a bit about a lot of stuff that’s going on down there, A) because she represents New England, and B) because she’s somebody I’ve known for a long time and I can have a conversation with.”
I have this wild hope. Senator Collins is on the Senate floor. In a few minutes, she’s going to have to cast her final vote on tax reform.  Standing by her desk, she closes her eyes, puts her fingers to her chin and silently asks, “Who am I going to believe, Charlie Baker or Donald Trump?”

FOOTNOTE: In a statement late this morning to the State House News, House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressed "deep concern" about the GOP tax plan.  "I thank our congressional delegation for its advocacy against this ill-conceived legislation, which is built on specious economic arguments.  It is abundantly clear that the plan would be detrimental to hardworking residents of many backgrounds and income levels.  Additionally, it would negatively impact the Commonwealth's fiscal health, which would have sweeping ramifications on our ability to provide both essential services and programs that have given Massachusetts a competitive edge."  DeLeo said he was "particularly concerned" about the state's colleges, universities and research institutions.  "In addition to the short-term economic losses for Massachusetts, these cuts would stymie the nation's preeminent role in innovation and discovery.  That's not a loss we can afford, financially or for the morale of this country." 

 

 

Dems Needed to Fully Exploit Neal's Slow-Walk Response to Tax Reform

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Springfield’s Richie Neal clearly saw what the Republicans in the U.S. House were up to with their shock and awe approach to tax reform.

The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal sent a letter on November 1 to the chairman of the committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, urging him “in the strongest possible terms to slow this tax reform process to a pace that will allow for reasonable, informed deliberations.”
Neal, a former high school history teacher who has represented the First Massachusetts District in the House since 1989, reminded Brady that the last time a major federal tax reform bill was enacted, in 1986, the full Ways and Means Committee held 30 separate public hearings and the subcommittees of Ways and Means held 12 hearings before the bill was voted on.  Neal pointed out that “more than 450 witnesses testified” in Congress before the bill was put to a vote.

“…it would be reckless in the extreme to rush this process through committee next week,” Neal wrote.  “…let’s slow down and get this right – the stakes are too high to bow to self-imposed deadlines and procedural gimmickry.  It is better to do this right than to do it fast.”
Sixteen days after Brady received Neal’s letter, the House passed the tax reform bill, all 400-plus pages of it, without having held a single hearing on it.

Yesterday, eleven days after tax reform passed in the House, a key Senate panel approved a tax reform bill and set the stage for a vote on it by the full Senate next week.  The Republican leadership in the Senate is increasingly confident of enacting a bill next week and then quickly reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of tax reform.  The federal tax code could be completely changed by mid-December.
For four weeks now, there’s been so much arguing and so much noise about what the multiple big components of the Republican tax reform plan would do or not do that the GOP strategy of legislative blitzkrieg hasn’t received nearly the attention it should.

The Democrats should have followed Neal’s lead and made the Republican rush to enactment, so unseemly and suspicious on its face, THE issue.  They should have kept it simple. Their every-day/all-day messaging should have been as short and understandable as one, two, three: 
ONE, we are boycotting the entire legislative process on tax reform until the Republicans agree to provide the American people with enough time to find out what’s in this bill and to make their views on it known to their representatives and senators in Washington.

TWO, we do not seek an open-ended process; rather, we are prepared to commit to a six-month period for review and voting on tax reform.  For a bill that will affect every citizen and enterprise in our country, half a year is not too short and not too long to get it right.
THREE, we beg our fellow Americans: Do not spend even one minute a day thinking about the president’s latest tweet and the hullaballoo that inevitably follows. He’s the guy on the crowded subway platform who distracts you while his accomplice picks your pocket. Take a minute instead every day to phone a different member of the Congress and tell him or her to stop this needless and dangerous dash to tax reform.

The Republicans adopted one of the oldest and best strategies in the world. More than two thousand years ago, Sun Tzu said that “speed is the essence of war.” 
You have to hand it to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell.  They knew from the beginning that the contents of this gigantic bill could not stand the test of time and acted accordingly.  But did they know that Democrats would hand them an enormous advantage by failing to respond with an obvious (and consistent) counter-strategy?

In war, Sun Tzu said, you must “first attack the enemy’s strategy.”  [This is something Bill Belichick has perfected on his way to five Super Bowl victories: from the kickoff on, he is focused on preventing the opposing coach and team from executing what they do best.]
The Democrats did not first mount an effective attack on the Republican strategy of speed above all else, nor have they adhered to any other simple, coherent and memorable mode of attack.   

I have heard, seen and read a lot of stuff about why the Republican tax reform agenda is bad and deserving of defeat, but nothing quite so good and succinct as several lines from an online comment at the bottom of a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times, “Lies, Incoherence and Rage on Tax,” 11-20-17.  The commenter was Mike Iker of Mill Valley, California, who wrote, in part:
“What’s not to like in the GOP tax plan?  It will further enrich the ultra-wealthy.  It will lead to federal deficits that will not only justify but compel cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and ultimately Social Security.  It will damage post-graduate education by making grad students pay taxes on tuition waivers, money they never received with money they don’t have.  It will directly attack the endowments of our better universities with an excise tax on the donations they receive, despite their non-profit status.  It will exacerbate the already existing transfer of wealth from the Blue States and their often successful Democrat citizens to the unsuccessful GOP takers in the Red States.  It will further the dynastic ambitions of families with last names like Trump and Koch and other would-be oligarchs.  So, what’s not to like?  Maybe the future of the American dream.”

 

 

Not for the Birds, I Hope: a Thanksgiving-Themed Blogster's Miscellany

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I’m Thankful I Don’t Have to Drive. More Americans are travelling on Thanksgiving than any other holiday, and man is it ever dangerous out there.  Last year at this time, six persons were killed in road accidents in Massachusetts.  Hundreds of persons were likely hurt in crashes that extra-long weekend, some no doubt seriously and/or permanently.  According to figures cited yesterday by the office of our governor, roadway fatalities rose overall in 2016 by 12.8 percent, to 389 from 345 in 2015. Alcohol-related driving deaths increased by 9.2 percent, to 119 from 109 in 2015.  Wow: We had an average of slightly more than one death every day in traffic accidents in 2016. 

I'm also Thankful that...

My Co-Workers Play it Safe. I’m thankful that no one I currently work with in the Boston office of Preti bicycles to work or uses one of those easy-rental bikes that we see all over to get from one in-city meeting to the next.  A lot has been done to make Boston and the metropolitan area more bike-friendly and more bike-safe. But when I’m walking the sidewalks of our congested capital’s streets, filled as they are with cars, tall trucks, long trucks, construction vehicles, tour buses and duck boats, I cringe each time I see someone in a business suit pedal blithely by, like a junior high football player who has blundered, McGoo-like,  into an NFL game.  The latest bicyclist fatality data I could find was for 2015, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  It showed that there were nine bicyclists killed on Massachusetts roads that year, including three in Boston. I agree with a gentleman from Walpole, Stephen R. Tarbell, who wrote as follows in a letter to the editor  of The Boston Globe on October 13, 2016: “I don’t want to die…and I certainly don’t want to kill anyone.  That’s why I don’t play on railroad tracks, or play chicken with oncoming traffic.  It’s why I always wear a seat belt and look both ways before crossing the street.  It’s why I would never point a gun at anyone else or play Russian roulette.  It’s also why I would never consider riding a bike in Boston and think people who do are crazy.”

Shrinks Will Flout the ‘Goldwater Rule.’  Speaking of accidents, our Electorally-gifted President continues to be dogged by Ed Markey, our state’s junior U.S. senator, and many other Democrats in the Congress who want to legally limit Donald Trump’s ability to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea.  Last month, they introduced “The No Unconditional Strike Against North Korea Act,” which would prohibit the spending needed to fund such a strike.  “As long as President Trump has a Twitter account,” says Markey, “we must ensure that he cannot start a war or launch a nuclear first strike without the explicit authorization of Congress.  It is time for the legislative body to act and reassert its constitutional role as the branch of government with the sole power to decide when the United States goes on the offensive.”  It’s not just Dems in D.C. who are worried about Trump having the man with the football at his beck and call.  This is giving some mental health professionals, gasp, nightmares.  The other day in Salon, I read a description by a psychologist of Trump as a “malignant narcissist.”  There has never been a malignant narcissist who got to be in charge of a country who did not start a war, this psychologist warned.

Our Governor Is Kindly and Fair.  After the North End Columbus Day Celebration Committee bestowed its public service award last month on former North End legislator and House Speaker Sal DiMasi, Governor Charlie Baker was asked by a reporter if it was appropriate for the group to honor DiMasi in light of his 2011 conviction on federal fraud and conspiracy charges, and his subsequent multi-year imprisonment.  Baker cited DiMasi’s work in helping to pass the state’s universal health coverage law in 2006 as one valid reason for anyone to pay homage to Sal.  Here’s the operative Baker quote from the State House News Service: “First of all, the Massachusetts health care law, which has been a big success here in the Commonwealth, is something that the former speaker had a lot to do with.”  Amen.  Baker also noted that “Who people choose to give awards to, that’s kind of up to them.”  As of today, November 22, DiMasi has been out of prison for one year.  He was released on this date in 2016 on compassionate grounds because of poor health, and now resides with his devoted wife, Debbie, in an apartment in Melrose.  I live in Melrose but haven’t yet encountered DiMasi.  If I do, I’ll shake his hand and wish him well.  He made a big mistake, paid a big price, and deserves forgiveness.  There has to be mercy/forgiveness in this world.  Some who have seen him on the sidewalks and in the stores and restaurants tell me he’s gained weight and strength, and is in good spirits, an extrovert as always.  Sal DiMasi is now 72 years old.  

Lawmakers Have a Sense of Humor.  There’s some opposition to a bill pending in the legislature that would create a statewide septic license for anyone who installs and/or repairs septic systems for the disposal of human waste, House Bill 146, An Act to Create a Statewide Septic License.  During a hearing on the bill early last month, some who work in the business told the members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure that  they are worried the bill could be applied to other septic-system-related tasks, thereby making it harder to find the workers needed to drive pumping trucks and perform other icky tasks.  “It’s just not an appetizing job,” one septic pro said.  According to a State House News Service account of the hearing, the only member of the committee who asked a question of the H.146 witnesses was Rep. Stephen Howitt, R-Seekonk.  Said he, “Does a straight flush beat a full house?”

 

 

Incoming Mayor Was in Good Position to Laugh as GOP Took Aim, and then...

Friday, November 17, 2017

PREFATORY NOTE: I have the timing of a clumsy brother disowned by a family of trapeze artists.  Not one hour after I put up this post, word came from the State House that the main character in this story had, after all, decided to resign from the House of Representatives.

Paul Heroux, the Democrat state representative in the 2nd Bristol District, was elected the next mayor of Attleboro on Tuesday, November 7, ousting a 14-year incumbent, Kevin Dumas, by a margin of 54% to 46% -- what you call a strong showing.  Ever since, Heroux’s been fending off attacks from Republicans who object to his continuing to serve in the House through 2018 while also holding down the mayor’s job, as Heroux has long said he intended to do.  The people of Attleboro knew this before the election.

“I think it’s incredibly insulting, to the voters and to the mayors and to the legislators who take their job as a full-time job seriously, that he would even consider this,” Governor Charlie Baker has said of Heroux.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones announced this past Tuesday that he and his Republican colleagues will soon file a bill that, if enacted, would force Heroux to choose between serving either as Attleboro’s state rep or its mayor.

Jones and other members of the GOP have been citing what happened in November of 2009, when Democrats filed a bill that would have prohibited anyone from serving simultaneously in the legislature and in the chief executive position of a city or town.  The bill was aimed at William Lantigua, a Democrat rep who had just been elected mayor of the City of Lawrence and was planning to hold both jobs through 2010. 

Many of Lantigua’s fellow Democrats did not like or trust him.  Due to his, uh, “controversial” ways, they felt “Willy” made the rest of them look bad. They wanted him and his sketchy reputation gone from Beacon Hill.  Lantigua ended up relinquishing his House seat before the bill against him was acted upon.  He saw the handwriting on the wall.
Republicans are also pointing to state Senator Tom McGee as someone in the same situation they feel is doing the right thing.  Right after McGee won the November 7 mayoral election in the City of Lynn, he announced his resignation from the Senate, effective January 2, 2018.

Today, New England’s largest newspaper, The Boston Globe, published an editorial urging Heroux not to hold both positions.  The editorial was headlined, “Mayor or state rep – Heroux should do one job or the other, not both.”  Just because it’s legal in Massachusetts to serve in some dual offices simultaneously, the Globe huffed, doesn’t mean someone should.
Heroux, age 41, has termed the Republican initiative to drive him from the House “laughable.”  As long as his fellow Democrats keep standing firmly behind him, which they’ve quietly been doing, he can keep laughing.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo is on record as preferring to leave the decision on holding both jobs entirely up to Heroux.  Questioned the other day by the State House News Service, DeLeo cited what happened back in 2009 with Mayor-elect Lantigua. 
“Ultimately,” said the Speaker, “it became Representative Lantigua’s decision what to do and I would say it would be the same with Representative Heroux.”

Heroux has made no bones about wanting to stay in the House next year, in part, to give a putative Democrat replacement a better chance of winning his seat.  The thinking goes that (a) the 2d Bristol District has a lot of Republicans; (b) Republicans hold several House seats in the immediate vicinity of the 2d Bristol (Hello There, Jay Barrows, Shaun Dooley, Joe McKenna, Shauna O’Connell, Keiko Orral & Betty Poirier!); and (c) a Republican candidate would have a better chance in a special election to replace Heroux because of traditionally lower turnouts in special elections.
Why would Speaker DeLeo want to do anything to push Heroux out of the House if the resulting special election to replace him gave Republicans a leg up? 

Minority Leader Jones fully appreciates that, of course, but why would he pass up an easy opportunity to put a lit match to Democrat posteriors through the media attention he gets when promoting a bill to jam Heroux?   
I don’t buy the argument that a person cannot be simultaneously both a mayor and rep.  Yes, Massachusetts legislator is generally seen as a full-time job, and, yes, many legislators put more than full-time hours into it.  But the times when the legislature is actually in session do not come close to being full-time. 

As of this past Wednesday, November 15, for example, the legislature formally adjourned until after the new year; there will be only brief, intermittent informal sessions, attended by only a rotating handful of reps and senators, from now until then.  Likewise with legislative committee work: At any given time, there can be a lot of it, or a little, depending upon the number of committee assignments one has, how much work one wants to do, and how long one is willing and able to slog through it all. 
No one makes a legislator, except for those who serve as committee chairs, do anything.

Every state rep has at least one staff person to help with constituent services, among other tasks.  Heroux, no doubt, is thinking he’ll still be able to cover a lot of ground at the State House when he’s mayor because his staff will be on the job every day.  He’s right.
In our country, the typical citizen does not work at two different full-time jobs every day.  But plenty of citizens do.  They’re admired by the rest of us.  We call them go-getters.  We marvel at their work ethic. We maybe praise them for their big dreams of entrepreneurial success and willingness to pay the dear price of success, in toil and stress.

To say that one cannot be a good legislator and a good mayor is to sell the human spirit short.
On a less lofty level, I can argue that Heroux is doing the right thing for the treasury and taxpayers of Attleboro by not quickly resigning from the House, since it will cost the city tens of thousands of dollars to hold a special election to choose the person who will serve out the remainder of his term. 

I don’t know how much exactly a special election would cost Attleboro. Based on what I’ve seen such elections cost in other communities recently, it could easily top $40,000.  The result would be a freshman legislator who’d hold the job for less than a year and be pre-occupied with getting re-elected most of that time.
When, in the coming days, you read and hear about the pressure directed at Heroux to quit the House, I ask you to reflect upon the following observations, which were expressed so well in a State House News Service article published last Friday, November 10.  The article, a round-up of last week’s legislative actions, was written by the estimable Craig Sandler, the top guy (in more ways than one) at the SHNS. It began as follows, and all I need to quote is the first four paragraphs:

You know the old saying: “There’s no time like the last possible second!”
That’s the time-honored credo of the Massachusetts Legislature, and it was in complete effect as the last full week (Nov. 6-10) of formal legislative sessions arrived – for 2017 that is.

Why it should be necessary to wait 10 months to pass statutes for which everyone acknowledged a need in January can only be explained by the legislators themselves, and let’s face it, the explanations are never really that good. “Many stakeholders” and “input from the members” and “listening sessions” are the canards of choice under the Dome – the legislative equivalent of “giving 110 percent.”
Whatever the ultimate reason (human nature, justification for a full-time Legislature, and a lack of absolute deadlines are suspected), the House and Senate again headed into the final few days of formals for the year having put off for November what they could have accomplished in February, May or September.

 

Wouldn't It Be Great if Judicial Watchdog Lost Its Mind and Actually Said Something?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a customarily cryptic press release about a misbehaving judge.

The press release made a news blip via the State House News Service. However, when I went looking for the release on the web yesterday, I was unable to find it.  My electronic ferreting skills are not impressive.     
Anyway, here’s a quote from a story based on the release, said story having been posted this past Thursday, Nov. 9, on the State House News Service site (open to paying subscribers only):

“The Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a judge for treating a party who appeared before the judge discourteously and for otherwise behaving in a manner that was unbecoming a judicial officer and that brought the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of M.G.L., c. 211C, sec. 2(5).  Through this conduct, the judge failed to be patient, dignified, and courteous to a person appearing before the judge, in violation of Canon 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct then in effect.  The judge agreed to be monitored by the commission and meet with a mentor judge for a period of one year from the effective date of the Agreed Disposition.”
The brief story contained this exchange between a State House News Service reporter and Howard V. Neff, III, executive director of the commission: 

“Asked why the commission did not disclose the name of the judge, commission executive director Howard Neff, III, told the State House News Service, ‘I’m not going to discuss that.’  Asked if there was any additional information available on the case, Mr. Neff said, ‘There is none.’ “ 
It’s better to be a judge in trouble in Massachusetts than an average citizen because your neighbors, skeptical in-laws, creditors, and high school classmates are more likely to find out about your bad moment in the sun if you’re an average citizen.

For instance, if you live in a small town and are arrested on a Saturday afternoon for, say, idle and disorderly conduct outside your local supermarket following a verbal confrontation with a crusty old gent over a parking spot, there’s an excellent chance your name will appear in the next edition of your hometown weekly, well before you would get the opportunity to clear your name in court.  Guilty or not, you’d be known forever as the old man abuser. 
The stated policy of the Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding a judge in their crosshairs is not to release the judge’s name unless and until formal charges are filed against him/her with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Back in June, I wrote about this policy in a blog post headlined, “Official Report Leaves One Eager to Know More about ‘Racially Insensitive’ Judge.”  That post was based on the case of a judge who had reportedly made “insensitive racial comments” to another judge, as described in the commission’s 2016 annual report.  The judge to whom the comments were made reported the conversation to his supervisor. The commission then began an investigation, at the end of which the judge who had allegedly been insensitive retired.  “Because of this complaint and for family health reasons,” the 2016 annual report said, “the judge retired and agreed not to seek appointment as a recall judge.” That post may be found at:
http://pretiminahan.blogspot.com/2017/06/official-report-leaves-one-eager-to.html

As I was messing around on the Internet yesterday, I happened upon a commission press release headlined, “Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct Resolves Complaint Against Retired Judge Michael C. Creedon through Agreed Disposition.”  The complete text of that release follows:

BOSTON, MA (October 17, 2016) – The Commission on Judicial Conduct has entered into an Agreed Disposition with the former First Justice of the Falmouth District Court, retired Judge Michael C. Creedon, pursuant to M.G.L. c.211C, sec. 8(1), in response to a complaint alleging that he made insensitive racial comments to another judge while in the judges’ lobby of the Falmouth District Court, in June of 2016, in violation of Rules 1, 2, 2.2, 2.3(A), 2.3(B), and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Because of this complaint and for family health reasons, Judge Creedon retired as a judge on September 19, 2016 and has agreed not to seek appointment as a recall justice.

The Commission’s statute and Rules are available on the Commonwealth’s website: www.mass.gov/cjc
I found this quite interesting because:
ONE, there is a statement, under the heading “Confidentiality,” in the commission’s 2016 annual report that goes, verbatim, like this: “The statute and rules that govern the Commission on Judicial Conduct require that the complaint and all Commission proceedings remain confidential, unless and until the Commission files Formal Charges with the Supreme Judicial Court. (There are certain limited exceptions to this requirement.) This strict confidentiality includes all communications made to and by the Commission or its staff...”
TWO, the commission included an account of the investigation of the racially insensitive remarks in its 2016 annual report, which came out on April 28, 2017.  Pointedly, that account did not provide the name of Judge Creedon, leading one to infer that the name had been omitted because formal charges were never filed against the judge with the state’s top court.  And yet, the commission had issued a press release (copy above), apparently on the date of Oct. 17, 2016, in which Judge Creedon was identified.
Was this one of those “certain limited exceptions” to the commission’s confidentiality rule? Or was something else going on? 
I will not wait by my phone for an explanatory call from the not-exactly-garrulous Mr. Neff.

This Month in Corruption: Short Rebates, Costly Supplies, Pricey Medicaid Services, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Medicaid Shortchanged on Epi-Pen Rebates. Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Oct. 3 that Mylan, the pharmaceutical company, will pay $20.3 million to the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) to resolve allegations that it knowingly underpaid rebates owed to the program for EpiPens dispensed to program members/recipients.  The payment is part of a “global settlement” with all of the 49 other states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia.  “Mylan knowingly misrepresented this drug to MassHealth in order to underpay on rebates and make a profit at the expense of our state,” said Healey.  “This settlement brings critical funds back to our MassHealth program.  Companies that receive payments from taxpayer-funded programs must be held accountable when they abuse this system.”

Massport Overcharged for Supplies.  Interline Brands, a New Jersey company, will pay a settlement of nearly $2 million to resolve allegations it overcharged the Massachusetts Port Authority hundreds of thousands of dollars for cleaning supplies, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Oct. 10.  The investigation into Interline’s pricing methods began with a complaint from someone who walked into the office of the state’s Inspector General Glenn Cunha one day.  Under the terms of the settlement, Massport will receive $958,000 in damages, and other entities that were over-billed will receive more than $22,000.  Cunha’s office will receive $60,000 to defray the costs of the investigation, and the balance – roughly $960,000 – will go to the state’s general fund.
Arrest Made in Medicaid Overbilling. The owner of a home health agency, Hellen Kiago, 47, of Sturbridge, was arrested on the morning of Oct. 11 by Massachusetts State Police officers assigned to the office of Attorney General Maura Healey for allegedly stealing approximately $2.7 million from the state’s Medicaid program (MassHealth) by routinely overbilling and falsely billing for services that were not authorized, according to Healey’s office.  Kiago was identified by the authorities as the sole owner of Lifestream Healthcare Alliance, which has offices in Worcester and Dracut.  Kiago pleaded innocent at her subsequent arraignment.  Healey’s office began an investigation into Lifestream after receiving complaints from several former employees “alleging misconduct and fraudulent billing practices.”

Police Officer Indicted on Larceny, Money Laundering Charges. On Oct. 12, a Suffolk County grand jury indicted Joseph Nee, 44, a Boston police officer assigned to the department’s Evidence Management Unit in Hyde Park, on charges of larceny over $250 and money laundering (one count each).  Nee is accused of stealing money from the evidence room and attempting to launder it at the Plainridge Park Casino.  Authorities allege that Nee stole approximately $2,000 from the file of a closed bank robbery case.  The stolen money was identified by the traces of red dye left from an anti-theft dye pack that discharged during the robber, according to the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey.
Sheriff Employee Snared in Cash Smuggling Case. Jamie Melo, 45, of North Dartmouth, a captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted on Oct. 25 by a federal grand jury for allegedly helping Carlos Rafael, the owner of one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the U.S., smuggle the profits from an illegal overfishing scheme to Portugal.  Melo was charged with one count each of bulk cash smuggling, structuring, and conspiracy, according to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb.    

Five Go Down in False ID Scheme. Five individuals charged in connection with a scheme to produce false identification documents through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) have agreed to plead guilty in federal court, according to an Oct. 2 announcement from Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb.  The defendants in the case have been identified as: Evelyn Medina, 56; Annette Gracia, 37; Kimberly Jordan, 33; David Brimage, 46; and Bivian Yohanny Brea, 41.  All of the defendants reside in Boston, with the exception of Jordan, who is from Randolph.  Each has agreed to plead guilty to one count of producing without lawful authority an identification document or a false identification document, Weinreb announced.  At the time of their arrests, Medina, Gracia, Jordan and Brimage were all employed as clerks at the Haymarket RMV office in Boston.  The scheme involved the production, for cash, of Massachusetts driver’s licenses and identification cards for illegal aliens.
Falsifying Records? IRS Employee Says ‘Guilty.’ Erik Santiago-Then, 36, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston on Oct. 10 to ten counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation, the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts William D. Weinreb reported.  Santiago-Then was working as a paid cooperator for the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) unit when the falsifications occurred.  He is due to be sentenced on Jan. 3, 2018.  Here’s how Weinreb’s office described the crime:

“As part of his work uncovering evidence against the perpetrators of a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, Santiago-Then was given IRS-CI funds and authorized to set up a controlled meeting for the purpose of purchasing fraudulently-obtained tax refund checks.  However, Santiago-Then set up a sham meeting with a cohort during which time he obtained a list of personal identifying information, rather than tax refund checks.  Following the controlled meeting, and unbeknownst to IRS-CI, Santiago-Then split the IRS-CI funds with his cohort.  Santiago-Then subsequently engineered several recorded phone calls during which his cohort posed as someone else and purportedly gave Santiago-Then the run-around concerning the purported mix-up regarding the tax refund checks.”

Probe Requested by Senator Warren Reveals Losing Move by Trump Administration

Friday, October 27, 2017

On January 26, less than a week after President Trump had been inaugurated, his administration canceled key portions of a federal outreach campaign informing the public of the open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) then under way. 

The Trump administration stifled the outreach even though it would have ended anyway on January 31, the date the open enrollment was scheduled to close.
On January 31, two U.S. Senators, Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts and Patty Murray, D-Washington, called upon the Inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an independent authority, to investigate the impact of stopping Obamacare outreach and give a report to the Senate on what they found.  The study was done; the report was written.

This past Wednesday, October 25, Senators Warren and Murray released the IG’s report.  Among other things, it found that:
  • The Trump administration first became aware of the outreach campaign on the evening of January 25.
  • The administration gave the order to cancel key portions of the campaign on the morning of the next day.
  • HHS staff members warned the administration that cancelling the outreach campaign when it was almost over “would have detrimental effects” on the risk pool for the individual insurance market and the administration cancelled it anyway.
  • $1.1 million in taxpayer funds was lost when payments already made for cancelled open enrollment ads could not be recouped.

“The HHS IG report shows,” said Senator Warren, “that the Trump Administration came into office with one goal: to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.”

She added, “The cancellation of these ads was malicious and destructive, and wasted over $1 million in taxpayers’ money.  This was a blatantly political decision, with no regard for its impact on American families and their access to affordable health care.”
This report and the comments on it by Senators Warren and Murray did not make even a minuscule dent for one moment this week in the consciousness of the country.  Too many outrages emanate constantly from Trump and the persons around him.

Wasting a million bucks and trying to keep citizens from obtaining one of life’s necessities, health insurance, is but a single grain in The Donald’s sandbox.

 

Boston Municipal Research Bureau 'Update' Has Me Thinking Thoughts of PILOTS

Monday, October 23, 2017

I always thought that hospitals and universities owned most of the tax-exempt land in the City of Boston.  Boy was I mistaken.

The total area of Boston consists of 47.84 square miles.  Of that total, 49 percent, or 23.44 square miles is tax-exempt.  And of those 23.44 tax-exempt square miles, only 4.98 square miles are owned by institutions devoted to medicine and health care, higher education, cultural pursuits and worship (churches, synagogues, mosques), etc.  The rest is mainly owned by the government.
I got this information from the latest (10-3-17) “Bureau Update” from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, an independent organization that’s been keeping tabs on Boston’s finances since 1932.  Thank you, BMRB.

Here are some other things I gleaned:
  • The state government owns 48.5% of all the tax-exempt land in the city.
  • The city and federal governments own, respectively, 28.6%  and 1.6% of all the tax-exempt land.
  • The total assessed value of all the property in Boston is $190.3 billion.
  • Of all the property in Boston, the value of the taxable property is $138.1 billion, whereas the value of all of the tax-exempt property is $52.2 billion. (That’s a 72.6 to 27.4 percentage split.)
Many large owners of tax-exempt property in Boston make annual payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) to the city.

Every once in a while, an elected official at the local or state level will complain that PILOTS to Boston are way too small.  They will demand that the largest non-profits, for example, Massachusetts General Hospital, increase their PILOTS substantially; or, they will call upon the legislature to pass a bill stripping them of their tax-exempt status altogether. 
After a bit of media coverage, the issue dies down without anything having changed.

The City of Boston is doing very well today, so much so that its bid to be the second headquarters of Amazon is seriously considered as one of the two or three strongest in a nationwide competition.
Boston’s economy is really cranking and the city today is a far wealthier place than it was 25 (never mind 50) years ago.  To those of us who grew up in this area during the Fifties and Sixties, there is an almost OZ-like quality to Boston’s current wealth, appeal, confidence and national standing. 

I’m no economist.  But given how well Boston is doing, and given how much its hospitals, medical research centers, universities and cultural institutions contribute to the city’s success and appeal, I’d say there’s no case for increasing PILOTS or eliminating anyone’s tax-exempt status. The whole mix of property uses and tax categories in Boston, as old and idiosyncratic as it may be, seems to be working just fine.

You can find the complete update at:

http://bmrb.org/government-owns-79-of-bostons-exempt-area/
 

Let's Hope Moulton's View on Gun Slaughter Moments of Silence Is Contagious

Monday, October 2, 2017

Seth Moulton has the right idea about those weak and perfunctory and unproductive moments of silence at the Capitol after mass shootings like the one Sunday night in Las Vegas.

“As after #Orlando, I will NOT be joining my colleagues in a moment of silence on the House Floor that just becomes an excuse for inaction.  Now is not the moment for silence; it’s a time for action.” Moulton tweeted earlier today.
The action he referred to is voting on new gun control measures.  I like what Moulton’s doing but have to say good luck with that voting thing.

After more than 20 first graders were mowed down by a deranged young loner in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012, many thought it would be the atrocity of atrocities that finally spurred Congress to ban the sale of assault weapons.  Of course, we all underestimated the ability of the Republicans running D.C. to take massacres in stride.
Moulton, an Iraq War hero who represents the Sixth Massachusetts District, also tweeted, “Thinking of everyone in #Las Vegas, and praying Congress will have the courage to do more than stand in silence to commemorate them.”

Amen.

Moulton has been a Congressman for only three years, but he has a smitten national following so large and a buzz about him so insistent that many Millenials (Americans born from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s) are talking seriously about him as a Democrat candidate for President of the United States.
In the Sunday New York Times yesterday, Moulton was mentioned in an article in the Opinion section headlined, “Who Can Beat Trump in 2020?”  Here’s what the Times said about him:

“Seth Moulton…is a charismatic, intelligent Iraq war veterans who isn’t afraid to call out party elders like Nancy Pelosi.  He’s only 38, and it’s almost certainly too soon for him to have much of a chance of winning the nomination, but it doesn’t hurt to put his name into the 2020 veepstakes.”
Wouldn’t it be something if this exceptional man from Salem made it to a national political ticket.

FOOTNOTE: The online satirical newspaper "The Onion" had the most apropos headline on the horror in Las Vegas: 'No way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

 

 

This Month in Corruption: Improper Billing, Double Dipping, Disability Faking, etc.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Dream Most Improper.  On September 4, announcements came from the offices of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Attorney General that Dental Dreams, a national dental chain with locations in Massachusetts, had agreed to pay $1.375 million to resolve allegations that it improperly billed the Massachusetts Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, for unnecessary and unjustifiable dental procedures.

"Dental Dreams enriched itself at taxpayer expense by improperly billing Medicaid," said Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.  "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that federal and state health care dollars are spent properly."

Dental Dreams "took advantage of a vulnerable patient population when it submitted claims to MassHealth for medically unnecessary and unreasonable dental procedures," said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division.  "Today's settlement underscores the FBI's commitment to investigate health care providers who overbill federal and private health insurance programs to maximize profits.  We urge anyone with information regarding overbilling practices to contact us."

A Different Kind of Vacation for Police Officer.  On September 7, a former lieutenant with the Quincy Police Department was sentenced in federal court in Boston after a jury found him guilty of collecting double pay in 2015.

According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, Thomas Corliss, age 52, was sentenced  by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to one year and one day in prison and one year of supervised release  In June, 2017, Corliss was convicted following an eight-day jury trial of 10 counts of mail fraud and one count of fraud involving federal funds.

A press release from Weinreb's office states that an internal investigation  by the Quincy Police Department revealed that Corliss had "double dipped," or collected double pay for working multiple details and/or police shifts that overlapped on multiple occasions in 2015.

While on vacation in the Bahamas and on Martha's Vineyard in 2015, the release states, Corliss left himself on the daily roster rather than using vacation time.

In total, Corliss defrauded the Quincy Police Department (and, by extension, the taxpayers of Quincy) of more than $8,000, according to Weinreb.

A 'Disabled' Officer Quite Able in Business. On September 8, Richard A. Mariani, age 76, a resident of Dennis and a former transportation security officer at the Barnstable Municipal Airport, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in obtaining federal employee compensation, according to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb. 

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelly sentenced Mariani on that day to six months of probation and ordered him to pay $38,052 in restitution to the federal Department of Labor.

Here's how Weinreb's office described the case against Mariani:

"From February, 2002, to February, 2011, Mariani was employed as a transportation security officer at the Barnstable Municipal Airport.  After a workplace injury in 2011 that he claimed rendered him unable to work and imposed severe limitations on physical activities, Mariani began collecting workers' compensation benefits.  However, in August, 2015, Mariani began providing lawn irrigation services to various clients who paid him in cash for his work.  In doing so, Mariani was engaged in many of the physical activities he previously claimed to be unable to do.  In addition, he lied on a form to the U.S. Department of Labor stating that he did not earn any income other than his disability benefits.  For August, 2015, to August, 2016, Mariani fraudulently received $38,052 in federal benefits."

A Shady Transaction at Social Security.  On September 29, Julio Klapper, age 40, a resident of Worcester and a former Social Security Administration (SSA) employee, was sentenced in federal court, Boston, to 15 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution of $70,337 and forfeiture of $17,800, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.  Klapper had pleaded guilty in June, 2017, to one count of bribery "for accepting a payment for submitting a fraudulent claim for payment to SSA on behalf of a beneficiary," Weinreb's press release stated.

The press release explained that: "Between Aug. 30, 2016, and Sept. 27, 2016, Klapper used his position with SSA to submit a request for release of Supplemental Security Income Disabled Child (SSIDC) funds by falsely claiming that the person representing the child was purchasing a car for the benefit of the SSIDC beneficiary, even though Klapper knew that the child's representative was not intending to purchase a car with the SSIDC funds.  Klapper provided false documentation to the SSA in support of the submitted claim.  In exchange for Klapper's submission of the false claim and documentation, Klapper received $2,000 from the child's representative."

After Hurricanes, the MA-Puerto Rico Connection Comes into Sharper Focus

Friday, September 29, 2017

This past Wednesday, Jeff Sanchez of Jamaica Plain, a proud son of Puerto Rico and one of the most powerful members of the legislature, came to the podium in the House chamber to call attention to those in the Caribbean suffering greatly because of recent hurricanes.

“I stand here to ask for a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and the affected regions of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico in particular: 3.5 million United States citizens are crying for help right now in a way that so many of us would expect to be heard from this commonwealth if we were in the same situation,” said Sanchez, who was recently appointed chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. 
“Puerto Rico is a United States territory, a commonwealth,” Sanchez continued, “and the U.S. citizens there are seeking help.  I want to thank all of you for the outreach and the outpouring of help so many have come to us offering.  Make no mistake, the (electric) lines are down, the communications are down, people are crying, people are hurting.  Hospitals are inundated with water.  I want to recognize this travesty with a moment of silence.”

That same day, Governor Charlie Baker telephoned Ricardo Rossello, Governor of Puerto Rico, to offer assistance in the island’s recovery effort.
Puerto Ricans are not just citizens who reside in a distant U.S. territory.  They have been, for generations, our neighbors here in Massachusetts.  According to the 2010 U.S. census, the last definitive national population count, two of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest Puerto Rican populations are in Massachusetts. Springfield is Number 4 on the list with 50,798 Puerto Ricans, (exceeded only by New York, Philadelphia and Chicago), and Boston is Number 9 with 30,201. 

The 2010 census pegged the total Puerto Rican population of Massachusetts at 266,125 -- 5.76% of our entire population at that time.    
I thought that the unprecedented damage done to Puerto Rico by Irma and Maria might bring the subject of statehood to the fore again, but so far that has not happened. 

Not four months ago, on Sunday, June 11, the latest in a widely intermittent series of plebiscites on whether Puerto Rico should try to become the 51st state was held.  Ninety-seven percent of the Puerto Ricans who voted that day favored statehood.  
Only the U.S. Congress can grant statehood. With Republicans controlling both branches of the Congress, nothing will be done any time soon to advance the cause of statehood because Puerto Rico would be entitled to two U.S. Senators and three U.S. Representatives. Republicans know that Democrats would be likely capture most if not all of those seats.

I think that’s too bad, not for partisan reasons, but rather for peace and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere and for the security of our nation.
A long time ago, a very astute person, my older brother, Jim, said to me, “I don’t know why we (the U.S.) spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year stationing troops overseas and keeping the sea lanes in the Middle East open for oil shipments.  We’d do way more for our security by building the best possible relationships with our neighbors in the Americas.  Think about it.  If the Canadians and the Mexicans and all of the people in the Caribbean love us and trust us, who could ever defeat us militarily -- or economically?”

Elevating the status of a strategically important island some one thousand miles from our shores, an island whose residents are already citizens of the U.S., would make us a stronger and safer nation in the long run.  It would also convey respect for all of the Spanish-speaking nations in the region, strengthening the peaceful bonds we have with them.

If anyone’s interested in contributing to the relief and rebuilding of Puerto Rico, one of the organizations worthy of donations is “United for Puerto Rico.”  For more information, go to:


 

  

 

It's Inevitable that MA Legislature Will Give us 'End of Life Options'

Forty-five of the 200 members (22.5%) of the Massachusetts legislature are sponsoring a bill, An Act Relative to End of Life Options, that would allow persons with terminal illnesses to get prescriptions for suicide drugs.

You will not find the words “suicide drugs” in the bill.  That’s my term. The bill calls these pharmaceuticals “aid in dying medication.”  To get them, a person would have to fill out a form that goes like this:
“I, [Insert Name], am an adult of sound mind and a resident of the State of Massachusetts.  I am suffering from [Insert Deadly Condition], which my attending physician has determined is a terminal illness or condition which can reasonably be expected to cause death within 6 months.  This diagnosis has been medically confirmed, as required by law.

“I have been fully informed of my diagnosis, prognosis, the nature of the aid in dying medication to be prescribed and potential associated risks, the expected result, and the feasible alternatives and additional treatment opportunities, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
“I request that my attending physician prescribe aid in dying medication that will end my life in a peaceful manner if I choose to take it, and I authorize my attending physician to contact any pharmacist to fill the prescription.

“I understand that I have the right to rescind this request at any time.  I understand the full import of this request and I expect to die if I take the aid in dying medication to be prescribed.  I further understand that, although most deaths occur within three hours, my death may take longer and my physician has counseled me about this possibility.  I make this request voluntarily, without reservation, and without being coerced, and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
The person seeking such medication would have to sign this form in the presence of two witnesses, who would also have to sign it.  The person would also have to be adjudged by a mental health professional fully capable of making the decision to end her life.

That so many legislators are sponsoring An Act Relative to End of Life Options does not mean the bill is an odds-on favorite for enactment during the 2017-18 legislative session.  But I would not be surprised if it does become law. 
When a referendum question to legalize physician assisted suicide appeared on the statewide Massachusetts ballot in 2012, it came within 2.3 percentage points of passing.  Physician assisted suicide -- again, my term; it is not found in the bill text -- has the feel of recreational marijuana prior to the election of November, 2016: an idea whose time has come. 

Laws like this are already on the books in California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
The Joint Committee on Public Health conducted a hearing on An Act Relative to End of Life Options on Tuesday of this week.  Among the many witnesses who testified in favor of the bill were Framingham State Rep. Christopher Walsh, who is undergoing treatment for Stage 4 Lymphoma, and Allison Scobie-Carroll, Massachusetts President of the National Association of Social Workers.  As reported by the State House News Service:

Walsh said, “I had to come to terms with this idea when I got this diagnosis, which is: Am I afraid of dying?  I’m much more afraid of not living well.”
Scobie-Carroll said, “Those facing a prognosis of death in just a matter of months, secondary to an illness that will erode their personal agency and quality of life should be afforded the ability to decide the manner in which they wish to die.”

The case against An Act Relative to End of Life Options is fundamentally theological -- and theology has never occupied a comfortable spot in our constitutional system.
Traditional Western theology holds that life is a gift from God, that human beings are incapable of comprehending God’s ultimate nature and purposes, and that human beings must not expropriate the powers of God but rather submit to God’s will and design, or else risk eternal damnation.

I or any number of my fellow citizens may bow to tradition, but so what?  America in its founding document committed itself to the pursuit of happiness (and, by implication comfort). 
Human beings have always had the ability to end their lives by means violent (rope ) or passive (self-starvation) any time they chose.  Today, however, we possess the blessings of pharmacology and may bring about our deaths quickly and nearly painlessly.  The desperation and fierce will needed to self-inflict fatal damage are no longer required.  Thus, it is only a matter of time before An Act Relative to End of Life Options or something like it is enshrined in Massachusetts law and more people start taking their own lives.

 

Voters Don't Seem to Be Holding Social Media Slip Against Rep in Mayor's Race

Thursday, September 21, 2017

If you’re running for public office and make a slip on social media, even a small one, it can take months to live it down.  Just ask Paul Heroux, who’s running for mayor of Attleboro and is the favorite in the race after Tuesday’s preliminary election in the town.

Three months ago, on Facebook, Heroux sent this message to a former girlfriend, thinking it was for her eyes only: “What you don’t know was behind the scenes I applied for a couple of jobs.  I have several job opportunities available to me in New York.  I don’t want to run for mayor.  I’d much rather go down there and rebuild with you.  I’m pretty sure that’s not an option though, for you that is. What do you say?”
Heroux accidentally posted the message publicly.  Within minutes, his political adversaries learned of it, and, within an hour, they were distributing print copies of it around town.  Heroux found out and promptly removed it from Facebook.  This all happened in the early morning hours of June 22.

With his commitment to a mayoral campaign questioned, Heroux did the best he could to explain away the situation.  According to an account in the Sun Chronicle newspaper, he said that he had made it clear when he first announced he was running for mayor that it was not a move he ever envisioned for himself. There are other goals in life he wanted to pursue, he told the Sun Chronicle, but he saw it as his duty to run.
The question dogged Heroux’s campaign and will continue to pose a problem for him until the final election on November 7, although probably not a fatal one.  On Tuesday, he topped the ticket in the preliminary, receiving 2,217 votes -- 251 more than the incumbent, Mayor Kevin Dumas, who received 1,966 votes.  The third-place candidate in the preliminary, retired Attleboro Fire Chief Ronald Churchill, got 587 votes.

You can be sure that Dumas, who’s been mayor for 14 years, will campaign hard to hold onto his job and not hesitate to remind voters that, mere weeks ago, Heroux was musing about starting a new life for himself in New York, so how seriously can he be taking this mayor thing?
On the last day before the preliminary, Heroux, interestingly, turned to Facebook to demonstrate how much he wanted to be mayor, posting an account of how he had just been bitten by dog while out on the streets campaigning.  The story was accompanied by photos of a bloody, torn sock and of Heroux in a medical office. 

“I have been bitten six times knocking on doors,” Heroux wrote.  “I still love dogs.  But if anybody ever questions whether or not I want to be mayor, they really should think again.”
Paul Heroux is one of the most highly educated members of the legislature.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from the University of Southern California, a master’s in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in international relations from the London School of Economics, and a master’s in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  He’s 41 years old and has been in the House since January of 2013.  He’s at the point in life where most men and women do some very hard thinking about the direction of their lives and careers.  By deciding to stay in politics, he may well be closing down permanently routes to some very lucrative and exciting alternatives to public life.  I don’t feel bad for him because his political adversaries have been tormenting him with questions about his commitment to public service.  He brought the problem on himself. 

But it’s no big deal, and certainly no evidence of a character flaw, that he was privately weighing other options.  (Who, by the way, reading the message to the former girlfriend cannot be touched by the cautious hope of a reignited romance and a new life together in the capital of the world – the idea that he’d ditch politics for the woman he still loved but who may not love him?  Heroux, of course, is a Democrat.)  If I were a resident of Attleboro, I would not hesitate to give him my vote for mayor.

 

This Month in Corruption: Different Schemes to Yield False IDs, Free Cocaine

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Last December, with just a few days left in 2016, I decided to devote some time each month during the upcoming year to tracking new cases of public corruption and providing a summary of those cases in an end-of-the-month blog post for an entire year.

Out of simple curiosity, I’d been reading, for years, every press release out of the offices of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the Massachusetts Inspector General, and the United States Attorney for Massachusetts, a habit that always left me shaking my head.
I’d be amazed by how much corruption “business” these offices had and by how few of the corruption cases, whether they were at the point of indictment or sentencing or somewhere in between, were reported upon in the mainstream media. 

With the opportunity to be a breaker of news, albeit a modest one, I could not help but unleash “This Month in Corruption” on an indifferent world.  It’s been an interesting exercise, bordering at times on the comedic.  [Think “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”]  More often it’s been rather depressing, which is why I’ll close it down on 12-31-17. 
Now to our fleet-footed Month 8:

Aggravated Identity Theft.  Who Knew There Was Such a Thing?  This month was only two days old when word came from the U.S. Justice Department that four employees of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) were among six persons arrested and charged with aggravated identity theft in connection with an alleged scheme to produce false identification documents. 
According to the State House News Service, federal authorities allege that Bivian Yohanny Brea, 41, and Rafael Bonano, 32, also known as “Flako,” conspired with four RMV clerks, who were identified as: Evelyn Medina, 56; Annette Gracia, 37; Kimberly Jordan, 33; and David Brimage, 46.

The Department of Justice claims that Bonano sold Puerto Rican birth certificates and U.S. Social Security cards to Brea for about $900, and that Brea then sold the stolen identities for more than $2,000 to clients seeking legitimate identities in Massachusetts.  The department further alleges that the employees in question accepted cash to use the stolen identities to illegally issue authentic RMV documents, including driver’s licenses and state ID cards.
There’s a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for persons convicted of aggravated identity theft, which none of the above have yet been.

Shady Cops Squeezing Drug Dealers.  Everyone Knows There Is Such a Thing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced earlier today (8-31) that John Desantis, Jr., 45, a resident of Methuen and a member of the Lawrence Police Department for 16 years, had agreed to plead guilty to the crime of using his official position to extort cocaine from a drug dealer.  The charge against him is one count of “extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear.”
U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Saylor, IV, deferred acceptance of the guilty plea until Desantis’s sentencing hearing on Nov. 17.

According to federal prosecutors, Desantis purchased small amounts of cocaine from a drug trafficker once or twice a week for 10 months to a year without identifying himself as a police officer.  However, during a drug deal at his home on May 16, 2016, federal prosecutors said, Desantis displayed his badge and firearm, seized his drug dealer’s cocaine, and threatened to arrest the trafficker if he did not continue to supply drugs to him. 
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Desantis will be sentenced to no less than 12 months and no more than 18 months in prison, should the court accept his plea.