A retired probation supervisor who oversaw hiring panels for the department told a federal jury Thursday that he saved a series of voice mails from 2000 in which he was directed to advance job candidates who were preselected by John J. O’Brien, the department’s former commissioner.
Edward P. Dalton, a regional administrator who retired in 2010, told jurors that he advanced O’Brien’s preferred candidates through the hiring process roughly two dozen times, and he kept the voice mails out of fear that he would be investigated.
“I thought this would be a means to show how I got the names and why I got the names and so I wouldn’t be held responsible,” Dalton told jurors. “I was concerned that at one point in time that I would be held accountable for any actions I took as chair of a committee to allow these things to happen.”
Dalton testified in the public corruption trial of O’Brien and two of his former deputies who are accused of corrupt hiring practices at the Probation Department. Prosecutors sought to use Dalton’s testimony to show that he was working on O’Brien’s behalf and that he knew that advancing the preferred candidates over more qualified applicants was wrong.
“I was told what to do,” Dalton told jurors.
Prosecutors allege that O’Brien, the Probation Department’s commissioner from 1998 to 2010, and top deputies Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III ran the department like a criminal enterprise by favoring job candidates who were sponsored by legislators.
In exchange, prosecutors say, legislators routinely boosted the department’s budget, helping O’Brien build his political clout. The jobs were considered “political currency.”
The defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison on charges including racketeering and mail fraud. Prosecutors say the defendants created an organized scheme, making applicants go through a bogus hiring process.
O’Brien then falsely certified to judges that he followed proper policies and procedures in making appointments, prosecutors allege
Defense lawyers argue that O’Brien and his deputies did nothing illegal, saying such patronage hiring was typical of Beacon Hill politics. They plan to show through cross-examination of Dalton that the phone calls he received occurred before O’Brien was given authority over hiring in 2001. Prosecutors allege the calls were made at the beginning of O’Brien’s conspiracy to bribe legislators.
In the voice mails in October 2000, Janet Mucci, then an aide to O’Brien, can be heard telling Dalton that “there are people that have to be finalists.”
Dalton was about to conduct a hiring panel for positions at Dedham District Court, and Mucci told him that some people were there only for courtesy interviews, while some candidates had to be finalists for the positions.
She gave him five names to list as finalists, out of the 16 he was supposed to submit to a judge for final appointment.
One of them “looks good on paper,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s really like.”
A week later, Mucci called to say she would give Dalton about six names for eight finalist positions for a job in another court. Mucci told Dalton that O’Brien had a meeting at the State House and that “he has no choice.”
A day later she told Dalton, “Jack had a meeting over at the State House yesterday . . . and you know he got everything he wanted this year in the budget moneywise, so they feel like they did that for him, you know, and obviously he needs to do this for them.”Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.