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Warren, Moulton want Walsh to disclose more on Dennis White controversy

Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh spoke during a news conference after touring the construction site atop the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh spoke during a news conference after touring the construction site atop the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.Drew Angerer/Getty

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Seth Moulton said Thursday they want to know more about Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh’s role in his final weeks as Boston mayor in the appointment of Dennis White as the city’s police commissioner.

Moulton, in an interview Thursday, was the most pointed, saying Walsh should resign from President Biden’s Cabinet if he knew of domestic violence allegations against White when he appointed him in February. White and former police commissioner William Gross said in court affidavits Wednesday that Walsh was aware of the domestic violence allegations.

Walsh has denied any knowledge, and his account of events was backed up by William Evans, who served as police commissioner before Gross.

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“There are a number of questions that everybody wants to know about this whole situation,” said Moulton, a Democrat from Salem, who called on White to resign as commissioner. “We obviously need to know all the facts about his vetting. If it turns out Secretary Walsh is lying, he should resign as well.”

Warren didn’t go that far, but said she also wanted more information about White’s vetting and the subsequent investigation.

“I believe in transparency and that means we need to hear everyone’s story, including that of the former mayor,” Warren said in an interview. Asked if she was worried by some of the recent developments in the controversy, she reiterated, “I want to hear everybody’s story.”

“Let’s get the information out there and find out exactly what happened,” Warren added.

Warren and Moulton are the first members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to comment directly on the role of Walsh, a fellow Democrat and a Cabinet member, in the White controversy. They and other members of the state’s delegation have called for more police accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, with Warren and Moulton both cosponsors of legislation by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Boston to end legal protections for officers known as qualified immunity.

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On Thursday, Pressley declined to comment specifically about Walsh as she entered the US Capitol for a House vote, pointing to a statement her office released over the weekend about White calling broadly for more police accountability. “We’ve given a statement on that,” Pressley said.

Representative Richard Neal of Springfield also declined to comment outside the Capitol on Thursday.

“I don’t actually know enough about it, to be frank,” Neal said. ““He was a very fine mayor, and I think that he’s going to be a terrific labor secretary.”

Biden nominated Walsh, a longtime friend, in early January and Walsh’s nomination was moving through the Senate when he appointed White on Jan. 28. But six days later, on the night before his confirmation hearing, Walsh announced he was placing White on leave and said the city would conduct an outside investigation following Globe inquiries about the handling of a 1999 allegation of domestic violence against White.

The controversy was not brought up at the hearing or during debate on Walsh’s confirmation by the full Senate about six weeks later. But since then, new questions have been raised about his decision to appoint White and how he handled the subsequent investigation. An independent investigator’s report released Friday said the Walsh administration attempted to end a probe into White shortly after the former mayor had launched it. A Labor Department spokesperson denied Walsh tried to halt the investigation.

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Walsh was drawn deeper into the controversy Wednesday night with the affidavits from White and Gross, who said the mayor would have gotten a full briefing on White’s background as part of his promotion to the department’s command staff in 2014.

At a Suffolk Superior Court hearing Thursday in which White was seeking to block Acting Mayor Kim Janey from firing him, White’s lawyer said his client couldn’t be fired based on past domestic violence allegations in part because Walsh knew about that history when he appointed him in February.

Walsh denied any knowledge of the allegations in a statement released by the Labor Department Wednesday night. Evans, who was police commissioner in 2014, said neither he nor Walsh knew of the domestic violence allegations against White at that time.

A Labor Department spokesperson on Thursday declined an interview request for Walsh and referred back to Wednesday night’s statement. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Pressley and Warren each issued statements over the weekend saying the investigator’s report, which showed a pattern of alleged domestic violence by White and a culture of fear and coverup within the Boston Police Department, demonstrated the need for more police accountability and transparency as well as an end to qualified immunity. Neither statement directly addressed Walsh’s role.


Jim Puzzanghera can be reached at jim.puzzanghera@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera.