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Mayor Walsh tells reporters: I will not be indicted in federal probe of organized labor

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Monday that a far-reaching federal probe into organized labor in Greater Boston may end someday with criminal charges — but not for him.

“If there is an investigation, I’m assuming at some point there will be indictments coming down,’’ Walsh told reporters in South Boston, in his first public statements since the Globe published a story on the investigation. “I will not be getting one of those.’’

Walsh, who led the Boston Building Trades — an umbrella organization of labor unions for laborers, electricians, Teamsters, and others — before his 2013 election win, told reporters at appearances Monday that he has done nothing wrong, and defended his record as a labor leader.


“No prior developer said that when I was at the building trades it was unfair to deal with Marty Walsh,” he said.

The mayor continued to parse his words when asked whether he had appeared before a grand jury: He said he had not appeared before a grand jury investigating the alleged strong-arming of developers into using union labor, but would not issue a blanket denial that he has appeared before any grand jury.

The administration has also refused to say if federal authorities have subpoenaed city documents and other materials, but the state supervisor of records — in a ruling made public Monday — said that the city must reveal within 10 days if prosecutors have sought city documents with subpoenas.

The Globe reported Sunday that an investigation into allegations of strong-arm tactics has led to a wave of subpoenas to labor leaders and developers and has brought scrutiny to City Hall and to Walsh’s work as a labor leader before taking office in 2014.

At issue in the investigation is whether labor officials threatened the projects of developers and business people who hired nonunion workers on their projects, the Globe reported.


A member of Walsh’s administration was cited in an indictment last year of five Teamsters accused of extortion for allegedly harassing a “Top Chef” television production crew that was using nonunion workers. Walsh did not address whether he had been contacted by federal investigators on that issue.

The mayor also declined to say who is paying for the Rasky Baerlein public relations firm, which is helping Walsh deal with inquiries about the investigation. He said only: “Not the taxpayers.”

As questions swirled, Walsh continued his mayoral duties Monday. At a breakfast honoring Boy Scouts, Walsh was greeted by a standing ovation after being introduced by construction mogul John F. Fish as a “role model for all Bostonians.” The crowd included not only Scouts in uniforms but business executives, elected officials, and labor leaders.

The applause continued at another public appearance at the Fort Point nonprofit Artists for Humanity, which celebrated a major expansion proposal. Liberty Mutual Insurance chairman and CEO David H. Long feted Walsh as “an exceptional leader.”

Reporters swarmed Walsh after both events with questions predominantly focused on the investigation.

The mayor said he had not spoken to investigators regarding the building trades, but he would not say if he had appeared before a grand jury on the “Top Chef” case or another topic.

“You’ve asked that question about five times now. So this is going to be the sixth time,” Walsh said. “The answer is the same. You can talk to [mayoral spokeswoman] Laura [Oggeri] about it later on.”


In a statement Saturday, Oggeri said that “the mayor feels he has an obligation to protect the confidentiality and uphold the integrity of any investigation that may be ongoing.”

Walsh will not say how many staff members have been asked to testify. Testifying before a grand jury is not an admission of wrongdoing, and witnesses are not bound by grand jury secrecy rules.

In the ruling made public Monday, state supervisor of records Shawn A. Williams said the city failed to meet the legal burden for withholding records in a denial of an April 1 Globe request for subpoenas and other documents related to the US attorney’s investigation.

The city rejected the request April 11, saying, “If the city were to receive a subpoena from law enforcement and provide information . . . we would be requested by law enforcement to keep it confidential to preserve the integrity of their investigation.” In a second response on April 20, the city — without acknowledging it received subpoenas — cited an exemption to the public records law meant to protect material compiled by law enforcement.

Williams wrote that based on the city’s responses, “it is unclear how disclosure of the responsive records would probably so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest” — a standard required by the law enforcement exemption in the law.

The city, Williams said, must say within10 days whether it has received federal subpoenas for documents or has provided records since January 2014, when Walsh took office. If the city has exchanged documents with federal investigators, it must produce copies or cite specific exemptions from the state public records law to justify withholding them, Williams wrote to Oggeri, in a ruling dated last Friday.


Oggeri, in an e-mailed response Monday evening, said, “The city will review the state ruling on the document request to ensure that we comply with the law in a timely manner and that any records we provide do not impede an ongoing investigation. The city will also continue trying to balance the confidentiality of the public employees and private citizens who may be caught up in the sweeping nature of the Boston Globe’s document request.”

Walsh, though apparently not an early focus of the federal probe, became drawn into it through wiretaps on which he was recorded in 2012 saying he had told a development company it would face permitting problems on a planned Boston high-rise unless it used union labor at another project in Somerville, according to people familiar with the tapes.

Walsh said Monday, as he told the Globe last weekend, that he has not been contacted about the tapes by investigators. He said he did not know if he was tape-recorded in 2012.

“I don’t know if I was or not [recorded on a wiretap]. I have not been contacted by any authority,’’ he said. “The federal government has not contacted me to say that ‘There is an investigation here and you were overhead on a conversation.’ I don’t know anything about that.’’


Walsh has said he did not threaten developers. “I would never say something like that even when I ran the Building Trades five years ago. That was not my style,’’ he said.

He suggested he may have ruffled feathers of powerful interests as the city’s first new mayor in a generation.

“There might be some people who used to have access to City Hall and don’t have it today and they’re upset about it,” he said. “I think there are probably developers and contractors and a whole host of people that might be upset, and maybe even some union officials that aren’t happy it’s not the same way it used to be.

“I run a more open, transparent process here in city government . . . . That’s what I’m all about. When that developer comes out and says I’ve been unfair to them, then we can have a conversation.”

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com