Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan criticized her opponent in the Democratic primary Thursday, saying his decision to consult for a private developer while serving in public office showed a “callous disregard for integrity and ethics.”
Michael Sullivan, the Middlesex clerk of courts, received between $75,000 and $130,000 from 2007 to 2009 for consulting work he performed for the developer of a large project in Cambridge. Ryan, who was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2013, will face Sullivan in the Democratic primary.
“I think it’s unconscionable that a full-time, public court official would accept tens of thousands of dollars from a real estate developer who could eventually wind up with business before the court,” Ryan said in a statement. “As public servants, we have a duty and a responsibility to spend our days protecting the public safety of our communities, not helping to secure new business for private developers.”
The Globe reported Thursday that Sullivan had earned more than $1.6 million between 2009 and 2013 from the consulting work, from referral fees from a personal injury case he directed to a friend’s law firm, and from a family snowplow business.
Sullivan, 54, told the Globe he was not a lobbyist for the consulting firm, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a developer that built a series of office and apartment buildings around Kendall Square. Sullivan said he was asked for his perspective on the projects and that he would have recused himself if any lawsuits related to the project had been filed in Middlesex courts.
In her statement, Ryan said that while Sullivan reported the consulting work on statements of financial interest he filed with the State Ethics Commission, he should have made it clear it was for a developer doing work in his county.
“It’s clear that my opponent never disclosed to the public or to the court system that he was working for a private developer on the side, and that is unacceptable,” Ryan said. She also noted the referral fee Sullivan received from the personal injury case, roughly $1.2 million in a case that settled for more than $6.2 million. Ryan questioned why he received such a large fee when typically, attorneys who make referrals receive one-third of the amount received by the plaintiff’s attorney.
“I think voters should take a hard look at Sullivan’s terrible record of ethical violations and question whether he is qualified to be district attorney,” Ryan said.
Michael Goldman, Sullivan’s campaign consultant, dismissed Ryan’s criticisms, saying Ryan has scant knowledge of the private sector. Goldman said that while the referral fee is high, it is not unusual for lawyers to receive such an amount.
“This hysterical and legally unsound diatribe from the embattled Middlesex DA proves that Marian Ryan doesn’t have the legal temperament to be DA,” Goldman said. “Nothing in Clerk Sullivan’s private consulting work could or would ever have involved his separate role as clerk of courts.”
Sullivan said the work he did for the consulting firm was after business hours as clerk.
Goldman compared the consulting work to Ryan’s job as an instructor at Lasell College, where she has earned $10,000 to $20,000 a year from 2010 to 2013, according to state financial statements she has filed.
“Just as DA Ryan’s teaching over the years hasn’t interfered with her full-time job . . . neither has Michael’s work outside the court interfered with his work as clerk,” Goldman said.