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OPINION

Are George Regan’s fingerprints on Dennis White’s media strategy?

The longtime PR mastermind is a friend of the fired Boston police commissioner. Whether or not White is an official client, this media playbook is classic Regan.

Public relations operative George Regan in 2016.
Public relations operative George Regan in 2016.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

If fired Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White wanted to discredit his former wife, hurt former Boston mayor and current Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and make life unpleasant for Acting Mayor Kim Janey, his take-no-prisoners media strategy worked beautifully.

But if he wanted to convince people he should remain commissioner — it was a disaster.

During a public relations campaign to keep his job, White offered no reasons to think of him as a change agent who can fight crime and put the city ahead of himself. It was all about whether he physically abused his former wife or she abused him decades ago and whether Walsh knew about such allegations when he appointed him commissioner in March. For good measure, White, Boston’s second Black police commissioner, accused Janey, the first person of color to serve as acting mayor, of racism by questioning his fitness for the commissioner’s job. On Monday, she made it official and terminated him.

So, whose advice has White been taking? While dusting for fingerprints, I received this statement from longtime PR strategist George Regan last week via e-mail: “Boston is not a communist country, but we are on the verge of a kangaroo court. Acting Mayor Kim Janey is not exactly acting like a mayor. Commissioner Dennis White is a man of color and integrity who has worked hard for the past 30 years to make Boston safer. Commissioner White should be thanked, not humiliated as Mayor Janey is doing.” In the statement, Regan identified himself as “chairman of Regan Communications Group and co-chairman of Friends of Boston Police.” According to Open990, a database of US tax-exempt organizations, the Friends of Boston Police is a nonprofit “formed to further support the additional needs of the Boston Police.”

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Via telephone, Regan said White is not a client, “just a friend.” “So White isn’t following your advice?” he was asked. He answered, “I’m not saying that … we’re good friends, period.” Asked about Friends of Boston Police, Regan said it raises money for wellness, gym equipment, and uniforms and is his platform for supporting law enforcement. He also said the nonprofit paid for newspaper ads to support White after allegations of domestic abuse were first reported by the Globe and Walsh suspended him from the job. Regan said he also has a personal friendship with William Gross, the former police commissioner whose decision to leave that post led to White’s brief tenure.

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Whether or not White is an official client, this media playbook is classic Regan. Remember when he undertook a battle to oust Margaret McKenna from the presidency of his alma mater, Suffolk University, in part because she questioned his influence there? McKenna came to Suffolk after taking Lesley University from a small college to a respected university. Yet Regan told Commonwealth magazine “that woman has no right being the leader.” When that saga ended with McKenna’s dismissal, Regan’s role in it became a big part of the story.

The White saga is another old-school Boston rumble. Janey has consultant Doug Rubin making the case that she has done more to call out the blue wall of silence and change police culture than any previous mayor. For Walsh, there’s consultant Michael Goldman vouching for the US labor secretary’s integrity. Unhappy that his honesty is in doubt, Walsh also told WBZ-TV “it’s disappointing” that anyone believes he knew of White’s domestic issues before he appointed him.

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White made his case to the public through a sworn affidavit in which he said he personally told Walsh about the allegations; and also insisted that he, not his wife, was the victim of domestic abuse. Through his lawyer, Nick Carter, he’s also accusing his former wife, a Boston police officer, of corruption. A quest for money is the most charitable explanation for White’s tactics. His testimony, along with other supportive testimony, was released by Paul D. Boynton, director of marketing and business development at Todd & Weld, Carter’s law firm. Boynton did not respond to an e-mail asking if White or his firm is also working with Regan Communications.

Carter also told the Globe that White is an ideal candidate for commissioner who “has been terribly wronged.” If true, White has no one to blame but himself, his lawyers — and his friends.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.