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Who else should be accountable for Rachael Rollins’s brazen abuse of power?

We need to talk about Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo’s role in the scandalous revelations about the former US attorney.

Then Suffolk district attorney Rachael Rollins in the library at her office in Boston, on Oct. 29, 2020. Right: Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo.Cody O'Loughlin/The New York Times; Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

When Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo was running for Suffolk district attorney last year, he corresponded repeatedly with his “deep and personal friend,” US Attorney Rachael Rollins, in damning text-message exchanges that form the heart of the bombshell reports that led to Rollins’s resignation in disgrace this week.

The messages are notable for many reasons, including one thing they lack — any indication that Arroyo was uncomfortable with Rollins’s flagrantly unethical efforts to swing the election in his favor through media leaks and attempts to create the impression that Arroyo’s opponent for district attorney, Kevin Hayden, was under federal investigation. Far from it: Arroyo seemed eager for any help she would give.


Now, Rollins doesn’t deserve sympathy here — she should have known better.

But Arroyo shouldn’t escape unscathed from this scandal either. He’s a lawyer. He should have known that what Rollins was doing was wrong — and that by appearing to suggest that her office announce an investigation of his opponent, he was asking for an inappropriate favor. And as he runs for reelection to his council seat, the way he conducted himself is fair game for his opponents.

The Office of Special Counsel report states that “On multiple occasions during the campaign, Mr. Arroyo raised with Ms. Rollins the possibility that her office announce an investigation of Mr. Hayden.” For instance, Arroyo texts Rollins on August 22, 2022: “Are y’all announcing an investigation into [the alleged misconduct] situation with Hayden? Would be the best thing I can have happen at this moment.”

To be sure, there is no indication that Arroyo did anything illegal or that he broke any laws or regulations. In an interview with me, Arroyo denied any wrongdoing and said that Rollins “never once told me that she was trying to leak anything.” Nor, Arroyo said, did he ask “her to leak anything.” Arroyo said that he was asking Rollins about “an investigation” because he had heard chatter elsewhere that there might be a probe. “She never told me that there was a potential investigation,” Arroyo said. “There’s not a single text where I say, ‘Hey, can you create an investigation where there isn’t one? Hey, can you do an investigation?’ I never did that, I would never in a million years ask” that of anybody, Arroyo said.


Arroyo, unlike Rollins, wasn’t subject to the Hatch Act, the law that limits political activities by federal employees. But you don’t have to be a lawyer — which, again, Arroyo is — to understand why a US attorney helping a political candidate in the way that Rollins did is wrong.

The councilor from Hyde Park contends that when he was communicating with Rollins, though, he wasn’t thinking of her as the US attorney.

“I’m going to be very honest about this because I think it’s very difficult for people to understand,” Arroyo told me by way of an explanation. “Rachael to me was not the US attorney.” At the time, he said, he was talking to Rachael Rollins, his friend.

But as one former federal prosecutor put it to me, Arroyo knows what Rollins’s job entails. And if he were truly a friend, he would have steered her differently, the person said.

Two of Arroyo’s colleagues in the Boston City Council, Erin Murphy and Ed Flynn, have criticized Arroyo’s connection to Rollins’s misconduct and said that city constituents “have a right to more ethical representation.” The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative group, wrote a letter to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance calling for an investigation on whether Arroyo broke “campaign finance law by coordinating his activities with Rollins and receiving something from Rollins of significant value to the benefit of his political campaign,” the letter read. Arroyo called those allegations “pretty outlandish.”


While Rollins probably won’t face federal prosecution for her abuse of authority and violations of the Hatch Act, she may end up losing her law license.

A CommonWealth Magazine article Friday raised the possibility that Arroyo’s license could be in jeopardy as well, under the “rat rule” — the notion that lawyers have an obligation to report other lawyers’ unethical behavior.

Meanwhile, Arroyo is currently running for a third term as a city councilor representing Boston’s District 5.

So, what do the Rollins reports say about Arroyo’s integrity, character, and judgment? Abuse of political power has many faces and covers a wide spectrum of actions. Something doesn’t have to be illegal or deemed a criminal or civil violation to raise concerns about a politician. And when elected officials participate in unethical practices, they need to be held accountable, too.

Marcela García is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her @marcela_elisa and on Instagram @marcela_elisa.