Would-be John Tierney challenger Richard Tisei acknowledges family legal problem

Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei, whose potential Democratic opponent, Representative John Tierney, has been dogged by his family’s legal problems, has acknowledged his own sister was arrested for cocaine possession.

In a statement last night, Tisei said he “had no idea” his sister, 48-year-old Donna McHale of North Reading, had been arrested in August until he was contacted about it by reporters on Tuesday.

The nature of those inquiries was not immediately available, but according to a police log posted in the Reading Patch on Aug. 31, McHale was arrested on Aug. 26 following a traffic stop in Reading.


“8:36 p.m.: Following a traffic stop, officers arrested Richard Verro, 47, of Georgetown and Donna McHale, 48. ...Officers charged Verro with illegal possession of a Class B substance, possessing an open container while driving, violating the road’s marked lanes, and violating a red light. Verro was later released on $240 bail. Officers charged McHale with illegal possession of a Class B substance. She was later released on $140 bail,” read the entry.

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Tisei, who was the GOP’s 2010 nominee for lieutenant governor, said in a statement: “It was very upsetting news to both my mother and me, to put it mildly. I’m not familiar with the circumstances, but spoke with Donna and urged her to be honest and forthcoming and to resolve this situation. If she needs help, I want her to get it.”

The Wakefield Republican also tried to put some distance between himself and his sibling, adding, “I haven’t lived with my sister since 1981, but want the best for her and for her family.”

The point was reiterated by Paul Moore, Tisei’s campaign manager and a former federal prosecutor.

“Richard last lived with his sister 30 years ago and he has strongly urged her to honestly and forthrightly deal with this matter, and he’s done it as a loving brother. I think that’s pretty admirable,” said Moore.


Tisei is running in a primary campaign against Boxford attorney Bill Hudak.

The GOP nominee is expected to face off against Tierney, whose wife pleaded guilty last year to aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns, and whose brother-in-law was found guilty in federal court of Monday of federal racketeering and gambling charges.

The eight-term congressman has said he was unaware of his wife’s illegal activities, and she testified she, too, was unaware of the extent of her brother’s gambling venture.

Hudak has seized on the Tierney family’s problems, saying voters have a right to determine if the congressman has maintained his integrity. Tisei has noted voters often bring up the issue in conversations with him, but he has said he will let them decide whether Tierney should be held accountable for his family’s problems.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party appeared to try to innoculate Tierney from further criticism, wishing Tisei well and expressing the hope “all candidates can get back to discussing the issues that matter most to the people of the Sixth District.”


Democratic Chairman John Walsh added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Richard Tisei’s sister and his family today. While we hope she gets the help she needs, her personal struggles do not impact the choice facing voters in the Sixth Congressional District.”

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.