fb-pixelCity officials still mum when asked about subpoenas - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

City officials still mum when asked about subpoenas

Despite a state official’s ruling, the administration of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh refuses to divulge if federal authorities have served subpoenas on City Hall.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File 2016/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration on Monday again refused to divulge if federal authorities have served subpoenas on City Hall, despite an order from the state supervisor of records for the city to disclose whether it has the documents.

Instead, the administration restated a position it has held for several weeks: that the city is not legally required to publicly say whether it has received subpoenas or to reveal if it has provided material to federal investigators.

“The city maintains that such disclosure could interfere with an ongoing investigation and is simply unwilling to take that risk,” the administration wrote Monday, in a letter explaining why it would not fulfill a Globe public records request for subpoenas and other records.


The dispute dates to April 1, when the Globe filed a request to the city under the state Public Records Law, seeking:

■  All subpoenas, memos, letters, requests for records or interviews, and other documents from the US attorney’s office served on the City of Boston since Jan. 6, 2014, the day Walsh took office.

■  All documents, recordings, e-mails, text messages and other materials provided to the US attorney’s office since Jan. 6, 2014.

The city denied the request and the Globe appealed to the state supervisor of records, Shawn A. Williams.

On April 22, Williams ruled that the city had failed to meet the legal burden for withholding records from the public, and ordered the city to acknowledge within 10 days if it had received any federal subpoenas.

“The response must contain a statement as to whether the city possesses any responsive documents,” Williams wrote. “If the city maintains that any portion of the responsive records are exempt from disclosure it must, within 10 days provide . . . a written explanation, with specificity, how a particular exemption applies to each record.”


On Monday, the administration released a seven-page response, reiterating that it would neither confirm nor deny receiving federal subpoenas, and citing exemptions to the public records law. The letter was signed by Adam Cederbaum, the city’s chief of government services, and Caroline Driscoll, senior assistant corporation counsel.

Globe editor Brian McGrory, in response, said: “We’re obviously disappointed in the city’s response, but we’ll continue to pursue the information through all means possible — including the state courts.”

The Globe reported on April 24 that Walsh had been drawn into a widespread federal investigation into actions of local unions, which has brought scrutiny to Walsh’s time as a labor leader before he was elected mayor.

Investigators have also issued subpoenas to City Hall staffers as part of an ongoing case of alleged union extortion and harassment of a nonunion production crew for the TV show “Top Chef” in 2014, the Globe has reported. That case last fall led to the indictment of five members of the Teamsters. Those cases are pending.

And last Friday evening, the Globe reported that federal authorities are also looking into whether a member of Walsh’s administration — Kenneth Brissette, the city’s director of tourism, sports, and entertainment — warned the Boston Calling music festival that it could face problems if it did not hire union members.

The Walsh administration confirmed Friday that federal authorities have sought information about the music festival.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 11, issued a statement over the weekend, saying it is “fully cooperating with the inquiry surrounding the Boston Calling music festival, an event that our members have been proud to work on.”


In its letter responding to the Globe’s records request Monday, the city noted that grand jury subpoenas typically come with a cover letter asking the recipient not to discuss the subpoenas — though the letter also usually states that the recipient is not required to keep it secret.

The administration contended that it must weigh its duty to provide public records “against the competing duty to the public to cooperate with law enforcement by maintaining the secrecy of the grand jury.”

The city further argued that producing any records sought by investigators would “alert the public to the nature of an investigation.” And it said it cannot be specific about how any documents sought by a grand jury subpoena are exempt from the public records law, because “the grand jury proceeding is secret.”

Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed. Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BostonGlobeMark.