Police Commissioner Dennis White, fighting for his job on the eve of a termination hearing, released a sworn statement Tuesday in which he recounted telling former mayor Martin J. Walsh that he had been the subject of a restraining order when he was accused in the late 1990s of threatening to shoot his former wife.
White’s claim directly contradicted statements issued by Walsh, who is now US labor secretary and has maintained for months that he was unaware of the allegations when he appointed White commissioner. The sworn statement was released in the form of an hourlong video of White being interviewed by his attorney, the latest part of an effort to dissuade Acting Mayor Kim Janey from ousting White at an administrative hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
The video marked another twist in an increasingly ugly drama that has damaged the nation’s oldest police department, pitted top law enforcement brass against each other, and ensnared an acting mayor and a sitting US Cabinet secretary. On Tuesday, White also released internal police records, as well as a sworn statement from a retired superintendent who oversaw internal affairs. The former superintendent said he had prepared a brief on White’s past, among other candidates’ histories, for then-Commissioner William Evans, shortly before the mayor promoted White to the command staff in 2014.
Walsh placed White on leave in early February after the Globe inquired about the handling of domestic violence allegations against White in the late 1990s. The then-mayor said in a statement issued Feb. 3 that “these disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been.”
In the video released Tuesday, White described lengthy conversations with the mayor in which both men shared candid details about their past struggles. White did not provide a specific time frame for those conversations or detail a single discussion, but said over his seven years working with Walsh he told the mayor “about my divorce and the things that I went through.”
“I mentioned that I had a restraining order put on me with false allegations I tried to shoot somebody,” White said in the video. “He was very sympathetic to what was going on with me as I was about his past and how we had overcome some hurdles in our lives to move on.”
The Labor Department did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Walsh’s longtime adviser Michael Goldman spoke on behalf of the former mayor and vigorously denied White’s claim.
“At no time was there ever a conversation when Marty Walsh was told by him of any problem he might have had,” Goldman said, noting that White did not provide specifics about when the discussion took place. “Marty has no memory [of it]. I don’t know what [White] is talking about.”
The campaign to save White’s job, led by his attorney, Nicholas Carter, has sought to counteract a 19-page report that painted White as a serial abuser enabled by a department that overlooked or covered up his behavior. White has vigorously maintained his innocence and his attorney has sharply criticized the use of unidentified sources in a city report that damaged his client’s reputation. Except for details about conversations with Walsh, White had recounted much of this same information in an interview with city investigator Tamsin Kaplan, according to White’s attorney. Kaplan, whose report noted that White refused to submit to a second interview, has not responded to requests for comment.
White’s counterattack has included sworn video statements from one of his daughters and another relative, who described his former wife as the aggressor. However, White’s other daughter has been critical of her sister on social media and alleged that the commissioner “ain’t innocent.”
Employment experts described White’s series of video affidavits as a public relations campaign designed to pressure City Hall. But ultimately, experts said, Janey must decide if she wants White as her police commissioner, not whether he was guilty of domestic violence in the 1990s.
“How could he possibly assume the position, so tainted by the controversy?” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail. “For sure, he had every right to want to clear his name, and a legal right to do so, but ... having done all of this, how confident would Janey or any other mayor be in his taking a position of such responsibility?”
In his video statement, White said that Walsh called him May 14 after Janey first moved to remove him as commissioner. The two men spoke for 10 minutes, White said, and Walsh recounted that he had spoken to Janey the night before and told her, “You can’t do this to this man.”
“He kept stating that he didn’t believe that Acting Mayor Janey had the authority to terminate me,” White said. “He said, ‘But Dennis, you know, again I apologize and this is going to cost the city a lot of money if she does that to you.’”
On Tuesday, Janey said city authorities on Wednesday will hear what White has to say and take everything into account.
“My team is looking at these videos as we speak,” Janey said during an appearance on Boston Public Radio. “We will certainly consider all information. I’m not sure why this information wasn’t captured in the investigation, where folks had an ample opportunity to make their case there.”
White’s lawyer has criticized the city’s investigator, alleging she did not interview White’s daughter and another relative, both of whom support White’s version of events. The Janey administration did not address whether the daughter was interviewed, but said in a statement that the investigator reached out to “a number of individuals” with connections to White and “interviewed all those who were responsive.”
The private Zoom hearing, set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, will include only Janey, White, and their lawyers, and will be limited to an hour. “Dennis White will have an opportunity to present information he would like the Mayor to have as she considers his removal,” the Janey administration said in a statement.
To bolster his client’s case, White’s lawyer also released a 10-minute video Tuesday of retired police superintendent Frank Mancini, who recalled under oath that he accessed White’s internal affairs files, among those of other command staff candidates, in 2014 and summarized the material for the chief of staff of then acting commissioner Evans. Department records released by White confirm that Mancini accessed White’s internal affairs files.
Evans said last week that White’s “troubling domestic violence past was never made known to me, as such, I could not have informed the Mayor.” Reached Tuesday, Evans stood by his assertion.
”No one ever told me about his past,” Evans said during a phone interview, adding, “If other people were briefed, it never made it to me,” and therefore never made it to Walsh.
In the video, Mancini said that as the department’s chief of professional standards he vetted all candidates for command staff, which included a slew of promotions shortly after Walsh became mayor in 2014.
Mancini recalled that he was at his son’s hockey game on a Sunday when he received a call from the commissioner’s chief of staff, Sharon Hanson.
“She told me on that initial phone call on Sunday that ‘Billy wants you to check some names or check some people for the command staff,’” Mancini said in his statement. “To the best of my recollection, I communicated information on all of the vetted candidates ... verbally or in some written fashion.”
Mancini did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Hanson said she had “absolutely zero recollection of that conversation” with Mancini and “zero recollection” of receiving an internal affairs briefing on White or anyone else.
“It’s not something that as chief of staff I would have done,” said Hanson, who now works for former commissioner Edward F. Davis’s security firm. “It would have been done out of the legal adviser’s office.”