A prominent Dorchester minister said Thursday night that “there was no attempt to shake down” the state’s incoming commuter rail operator as part of a plan to help the company work with and hire members of minotiry groups.
Reading from prepared remarks, the Rev. Bruce Wall told more than 50 supporters at his Global Ministries Christian Church that he and a local advisory group did nothing illegal in dealings with Keolis North America, the company hired to take over commuter rail service July 1 under an eight-year, $2.68 billion contract.
Wall was responding to Globe reports detailing a $105,000 invoice that the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, another high-profile Boston minister, delivered to a Keolis representative in March on behalf of the DRM Advisory Group, which Wall chaired at the time. Rivers was not a group member but served as an adviser, Wall said.
The invoice bore Wall’s signature. Keolis maintains it never contracted for the services listed in the invoice, and a company representative later told a Globe columnist that the meeting felt like a shakedown, with Rivers allegedly saying he could cause problems for the firm.
At a prayer rally Thursday, Wall said the advisory group — which was formed to help minority communities and businesses obtain jobs, contracts, and other economic benefits from the rail pact — began developing a “working relationship” with Keolis in January.
“And we have documents to prove it,” Wall said. “The invoice submitted to Keolis was done on the legal principle of quantum meruit, that professionals are paid for value-added services.”
Wall, reiterating previous statements, also said the advisory group did not expect compensation when it sent the invoice. He said the group wanted to “communicate our seriousness” to Keolis.
After the invoice was delivered, Wall said, the group received e-mails from company representatives indicating that “they want to continue to work with us” and expected to strike an agreement soon.
A Keolis spokesman did not respond directly to Wall’s assertion that the company had been negotiating an agreement with DRM, which stands for Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan.
“Keolis is committed to diversity in the workplace and in the hiring of qualified, minority-owned subcontractors,” spokesman Alan Eisner said in a statement. “We have been and continue to be actively engaged in recruiting an ethnically diverse workforce.”
In addition, Wall said that Michael J. McCormack, a lobbyist retained by Keolis, told him in January that DRM’s nine-point plan for working with the company was feasible.
Among the provisions was a proposal for the MBTA and Keolis to “contract with the DRM Advisory Committee to guarantee access to contracts for businesses based in the black community,” according to copies of the plan circulated Thursday.
Wall also said that roughly three weeks after the invoice was delivered and days before the Globe first reported on it, McCormack informed him that he wanted to bring a Keolis diversity officer to Wall’s church to meet with him.
Attempts to reach McCormack, a former Boston city councilor, were unsuccessful Thursday night.
An April 9 Globe column quoted McCormack as saying in an e-mail that “at no time during our initial meeting, subsequent meetings, or exchange of messages was there ever a discussion of money payments to . . . DRM or anyone else for ‘services’ which appear in this purported invoice.”
Rivers, who has denied any wrongdoing, did not return a call for comment Thursday.
Wall stepped down as chairman of the advisory group shortly after the Globe column was published. He said Thursday night that he would not rejoin the leadership team, but also that he continues to support the group’s mission.Milton Valencia and Adrian Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report.