Former mayor Thomas M. Menino often boasted that he was squeaky clean in his 20 years in office. The late mayor was right, according to documents released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation this week under the Freedom of Information Act.
Menino’s FBI file numbered 28 pages and included one perfunctory corruption investigation that was ultimately declared unfounded. The alleged offense? Menino was captured on camera supposedly trying to shake down the telecommunications giant Sprint — to donate $25,000 to buy T-shirts for a youth basketball league.
“It is amazing,” said Menino’s last spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, “that after 20 years, the only investigation or hint that there could have been any issues was around Mayor Menino pushing big business for more donations for young people.”
The FBI file, which was obtained by the Globe and other media outlets, was first reported on the website of WGBH.
Agents launched the corruption investigation in June 2002 after a television documentary showed Menino speaking on the telephone with a lawyer for Sprint. During the call, Menino told the lawyer that he was awarding a lucrative city contract to one of Sprint’s rivals.
“You got a problem,” Menino said, according to a Boston Herald account at the time. “AT&T is sponsoring a whole summer program with me, and you want Sprint to come in and you did diddly-dink.”
The phone call made headlines when the documentary aired, and the FBI launched its review after a story in the Herald “questioned the appropriateness of Mayor Menino’s televised conversation,” according to an FBI memo.
But as the Globe reported at the time, there was no city contract at stake. The Sprint lawyer was Stephen V. Miller. He and Menino both told the Globe that the conversation was a joke, bluster for the camera.
“He’s been a friend of mine for over 20 years, a good friend,” Miller said of Menino. “There was nothing pending. There was no money that ever changed hands.”
At the time, Massachusetts’ acting inspector general, Greg Sullivan, said his office determined there was no quid pro quo because “there was no pending competition at the time that could have been compromised.”
Initially, a federal prosecutor told the FBI that the case had “prosecutive merit,” according to an FBI memo dated June 11, 2002. After an investigation, prosecutors declined to file charges and the case was closed in September 2003.
The phone conversation had been filmed for the ABC documentary “Boston 24/7,” which aired nationally and caused an immediate headache for the then third-term mayor.
“I’m so frustrated,” Menino told the Globe after it aired.