Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday defended his actions surrounding the appointment of former Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White to lead the Boston Police department in his final days as Boston mayor, a decision that has been the subject of scrutiny after allegations of domestic violence against White surfaced within days of his appointment.
Republican Representative Bob Good of Virginia on Wednesday pressed Walsh on the appointment during a hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor, suggesting he should resign and accusing Walsh of ignoring allegations of domestic violence.
“I didn’t ignore anything. I didn’t,” Walsh said during the hearing, which was held to grill the new Labor secretary on the priorities of his department. “I wasn’t aware of the situation until quite honestly after I appointed him, and it was pointed out to me in the newspaper.”
Months after leaving Boston, Walsh has been dogged by controversy over his hasty appointment of White during his final days in office, apparently without proper vetting. Walsh has said he relied on the advice of Gross, who recommended his longtime friend and top deputy. Two days after White took office, when the Globe inquired about decades-old domestic violence allegations, Walsh immediately suspended his commissioner.
Good referenced an affidavit released by former police Commissioner William Gross in which Gross said Walsh was briefed on the internal affairs history of candidates being brought into the Boston Police command staff, arguing Walsh knew about White’s history of domestic violence allegations no later than 2014.
Walsh countered that Gross “never clearly stated that I got the file” and reiterated that he wasn’t aware of White’s history.
“From what I understand, Mr. Gross’s sworn affidavit said that there was a recommendation of file review and never clearly stated that I got the file, and I never received the file on Dennis White,” Walsh said.
Gross’ affidavit came as White waged a weeks-long legal battle to hold onto his job as commissioner, one that came to an end last week when a Massachusetts judge cleared the way for Acting Mayor Kim Janey to fire him. She announced his termination on Monday. Still, the turmoil has followed Walsh to D.C. where he has faced questions about his decision to name White to lead the force.
Good’s questioning Wednesday was the first time Walsh has been asked about his role in the White controversy during a Congressional hearing. Though news of White’s domestic violence allegations broke the day before Walsh’s Senate confirmation hearing, he was not asked about it. On Wednesday, questions to Walsh from Republicans were noticeably more pointed, with some pressing him for to end enhanced unemployment benefits and another, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, questioning him about his handling of records related to former Boston Police union chief Patrick Rose.
The exchange between Walsh and Good became testy at one point as Good, a conservative supporter of former president Donald Trump, referenced baseless allegations made against President Biden’s son, Hunter, as he asked how the American people can trust Biden to appoint Cabinet secretaries.
“I’m not going to comment on that. I’m not going to justify that,” Walsh said.
Previous Globe reporting was used in this story.