Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration announced Thursday it has hired a former top public corruption prosecutor to investigate City Hall’s role in a local union’s alleged extortion scheme.
The former prosecutor, Brian T. Kelly, helped convict gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and is the former head of the public corporation unit in the US attorney’s office. Kelly, now a partner at Nixon Peabody, also prosecuted members of Teamsters Local 25, the union accused in the extortion scheme.
“I see my role as assisting in an internal review of this matter and assisting the city in its dealings with the federal authorities,” Kelly said.
When asked why the city needed a lawyer, he said, “There are serious allegations involved here, and the city is simply being prudent and wants to make sure it gets to the bottom of the situation.”
Walsh’s spokeswoman, Laura Oggeri, said the city hired Kelly “to handle an internal review as to what happened and to facilitate any necessary cooperation between the city and the US attorney’s office.”
Five Teamsters are accused of trying to force officials with “Top Chef,” the Bravo network cooking show, to hire union workers for a local film shoot. The Teamsters are accused of yelling profanities, hurling racial and homophobic slurs, slashing tires, and making “threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set.”
The federal indictment said an unidentified member of Walsh’s administration made phone calls to a hotel and restaurant, and said that, if they hosted film crews that included nonunion workers, Teamsters Local 25 would picket the sites. The identity of the city employee has not been made public.
“Mayor Walsh is not currently aware of who made the call or what was said,” Oggeri said Thursday in an e-mail. “He was fully supportive of the ‘Top Chef’ filming and was happy to participate in the show.”
Kelly prosecuted members of Teamsters Local 25 in the 1990s in a case that involved an elaborate sting by the FBI, which set up a phony film company to uncover corrupt labor practices.
He helped win the 1994 conviction of William Winn, a former Local 25 transportation captain who was found guilty of conspiring with Mafia figures to accept bribes from an undercover agent posing as a filmmaker. In exchange for the payoffs, Winn and others agreed to let the purported filmmaker make movies in Providence while using nonunion labor.