Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh took questions from reporters Thursday afternoon about the arrest of the city's director of tourism, sports, and entertainment, Kenneth Brissette. Federal authorities charged Brissette with "union-related extortion," for allegedly withholding city permits to force a music festival to hire union stagehands. What follows is a rough transcript.
QUESTION: What was your reaction to the arrest?
MAYOR MARTIN J. WALSH: Certainly very sad. Surprised this morning. I found out through a tweet from the United States attorney's office. You know, we're going to work cooperatively with the United States attorney's office to make sure, to get to the bottom of this investigation. I don't condone any of this type of behavior or anything like this alleged in my administration. I tell everyone to be honest, and I'm fine and very open.
QUESTION: How was a top official doing this under your nose?
WALSH: Again, that's something that we're going to wait and see what happens with the investigation.
QUESTION: Did you have any knowledge that he was allegedly strong-arming any of these production companies?
WALSH: Again, that's alleged and we're going to work cooperatively with the US attorney's office to get to the bottom of it.
QUESTION: Did anyone complain to you about it?
WALSH: I've already answered these … all these questions.
QUESTION: Did you ever instruct Mr. Brissette to try and help the unions get jobs on specific projects in your administration?
WALSH: Absolutely not. And I know the one thing, as far as me personally, that would never happen in my administration. I'd never do that.
QUESTION: You've never had a conversation with him about specific projects?
WALSH: No, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that.
QUESTION: Mayor, you have called him a great guy. If this pans out that he did do this, is he a great guy?
WALSH: I mean again, I'm going to wait and see what happens with the investigation, and obviously he's being indicted today, I think, around 3 o'clock this afternoon. There will be a court case that follows, and we'll see what happens then.
QUESTION: How did [attorney] Brian Kelly miss this?
WALSH: I don't know. I don't think he missed anything. I think this is certainly … again, this has been an ongoing investigation, from what I understand, for a while, so again, we'll see what happens.
QUESTION: Do you think your investigation was any kind of a whitewash and overlooked things that the US attorney found?
WALSH: No, again, I'm not clear in the indictment what this is all -- it seems to be that this is around Boston Calling, and Brian Kelly just got involved in that recently.
QUESTION: He also talks about things being done on the Top Chef show and they came to a different conclusion than he did.
WALSH: Certainly, Brian Kelly's report was very clear that he felt in his report after talking and interviewing all the folks that were part of that, that there was no wrongdoing on behalf of the City of Boston. That's what he said.
QUESTION: What does that tell you about the quality of his investigation if he missed this whole area that involved that office?
WALSH: Again, I mean, there's an investigation, there's indictments that came down today. We're not sure at the end of the day what will happen here. We're going to wait and see what the court does.
QUESTION: Who are the unnamed people in the indictment?
WALSH: Again, I've already answered that question.
QUESTION: Have you talked to Mr. Kelly since you found out about this indictment?
WALSH: No, I haven't talked to Mr. Kelly.
QUESTION: Are you going to have a long conversation with him?
WALSH: I wouldn't necessarily call him, but I'm certainly not happy about it. I think that it's something that if this pans out where there's wrongdoings here, you know, there's problems. And one of the things that we did a couple of weeks ago was put together a committee to look at this office, to look at the procedures in this office. Not just around Boston Calling and Top Chef, but look at all the rules and procedures of this office. It certainly bothers me. I mean, I ran for the mayor of the City of Boston to be able to do great things like we're doing today, breaking ground on housing, and unfortunately this is what happened today.
QUESTION: Mayor, how did you not know about this? A lot of people want to know, how does the mayor of Boston not know what his staffer, a person he appointed, is doing?
WALSH: I mean, again, we have 18,000 employees that work for the City of Boston. I have 64 different department heads. We have about 16 or 17 different cabinet-level people. I mean, I give a lot of authority to the people around me. Certainly, we're going to be having conversations about how do we get better hold of certain things as we move forward here.
QUESTION: Are you saying you're surprised about hearing about this indictment?
WALSH: I was surprised about the indictment. I was shocked.
QUESTION: What about the unnamed officials who were supposedly working with him doing similar things?
WALSH: Again, I don't know. You have to talk to the United States attorney about that
QUESTION: You're not worried about guys like that in your office?
WALSH: Certainly, I am. When you read it, it bothers me. It's something. You know, I wake up in the morning, I get a tweet, see what's happening and then later on I read the indictment, and certainly, I have a lot of concerns about it. And I take this job very seriously, and I take the integrity of this office very seriously.
QUESTION: Do you object to finding out in a tweet? You mentioned it a couple times.
WALSH: Certainly, I mean, again, I don't know what the protocol is. I've never been through this before. So I'm not sure what the protocol is.
QUESTION: Did you find out for the first time that there was going to be some sort of an indictment involving your administration through a tweet or a through press release?
WALSH: Yeah, this morning was the first time I heard there'd be an indictment.
QUESTION: How did you hear there was going to be an indictment?
WALSH: Through a tweet. I read the tweet, I saw a tweet there was an indictment this morning.
WALSH: Again, I don't know what the protocol is. That's [garble] a question you'll have to ask the United States attorney's office.
QUESTION: The indictment says that your chief of operations told Ken Brisssette that it was inappropriate for him to say that these union members should be hired for these events. Did you ever hear about that?
WALSH: I don't want to comment on what's in the indictment because, again, I don't have the full knowledge of it, and I don't want to impede upon the investigation.
QUESTION: For those who are going to hear this and say "Well, the mayor's a union guy," so his culture and his administration is maybe to lean toward unions. How do you respond to that?
WALSH: It's just not true. There's too many proof points that it's not the case. There's more than one case. There was a story written in The Boston Globe the other day about the amount of housing being built in the City of Boston, not all union. I'm a founding board member of a charter school that is clearly objective to the teacher's union. And I have a record in the past of voting - I'm not 100 percent when I do my votes or as mayor of the City of Boston. I represent all the people in the City of Boston, whether they're union or not union.
QUESTION: The U.S. Attorney had made a point in the indictment saying that this did not happen under Tom Menino's administration and only started after you took office. What's your reaction to that?
WALSH: I don't want to comment on that. I'm not going to comment on that.
QUESTION: What other special events are being looked at by the FBI or federal authorities?
WALSH: I have no idea, you'll have to ask them that.
QUESTION: Do you still have confidence in Ken Brissette?
WALSH: Again, I do, but unfortunately, what's today, we have to wait and see what plays out in the court here, and what happens in the court. Certainly, I'm deeply saddened by today's events and what happened today. You know, it's devastating. I had a meeting this morning with the office, the Office of Tourism office. There was a lot of shocked and upset people there today, and I said to them to just continue doing your work. We have over 800 events that are coming to our City of Boston, and we have great events going on in our city including Boston Calling next weekend. ... We have the Adidas run that is coming to our city, we have a couple of movies being filmed in our city, we have tall ships coming to our city. There's a lot of great things happening in that office and there's some great things, but what happened today is very sad.
QUESTION: Do you know whether or not this is going to follow you all the way to the mayor's office: Is this what's going to happen, are you concerned now that you are going to get indicted?
WALSH: I know that I've done nothing wrong in any of my doings as mayor of the City of Boston. I'm very confident of that. I'm confident of the way that I carry myself and the way that I represent the city of Boston.
QUESTION: Who's running that office now?
WALSH: We put in a temporary - Amy Yandle moved up, elevated to the top of that office this morning. We brought her in and we spoke to her and we talked to the office because we need somebody in charge of that office because we have a lot of events going on in the city.
QUESTION: You have no worries that you're going to be pulled into either this or any other federal investigation involving labor?
WALSH: The one thing that I know, I've done no wrongdoing in this investigation or any investigation that's been talked about.
QUESTION: A former city councilor said to me if this were in a Mayor Flynn administration or Menino that guy would have been booted immediately.
WALSH: I have no comment on that. I mean whoever made that statement …
QUESTION: What's going to happen with Ken?
WALSH: He's on paid administrative leave until it's completed.
QUESTION: So there's been an indictment in this case now. Why won't you say whether or not you've been before the grand jury?
WALSH: Again, I've already answered those questions.
QUESTION: Have you been ever before?
WALSH: This is an ongoing investigation. I'm not going to comment on this investigation.
QUESTION: When's the last time you talked to Ken Brissette?
WALSH: Probably the other day with the Adidas announcement on Boston Common. ... Ken was emceeing the event, and actually the organizer of that were very complimentary of Ken.
QUESTION: He had knowledge that this was coming down?
WALSH: I don't know. You have to talk to him.
QUESTION: How often do you meet with him regularly?
WALSH: I don't meet with him that often, but I see him at a lot of events. Obviously, whenever there's a parade in the city of Boston, Ken is there and his office is always represented. Whenever we have special events in the city of Boston, either Ken or his office is represented there, so I see him probably a few times a month.
QUESTION: What's your history with Ken? Even before you hired him?
WALSH: I knew him when he worked in the governor's administration, in the previous administration. That's why I got to meet him. When I ran for office, he was supportive.
QUESTION: Did he work on your campaign?
WALSH: Yes, he did.
QUESTION: And you thought he was doing a good job?
WALSH: Everyone tells me he was doing a good job. I think when you go out and ask people, anybody, they will say great things about the man, about his job performance. And he's a workaholic. Again, this is a very sad situation, unfortunate situation today.
QUESTION: He's charged, but do you think he did anything wrong?
WALSH: Again, I'm not going to get into that because this is an open investigation. It's certainly not my place to do that. I'm not a member of the jury. I'm not the judge. We're going to wait and see what happens in court.
QUESTION: Did you ever tell [city employees] 'Don't tell people that they will need to hire union in order to ... ?'
WALSH: It never came up in conversation. That's not how we do business in the city. We don't necessarily look and see if something is union or not union to work it that way, so there would be no opportunity for that to come up.
QUESTION: Do you expect there will be other indictments coming?
WALSH: I have no idea. Again, that's a question you have to ask ... the US attorney.
QUESTION: This is the second time you've been tangentially connected to a federal investigation involving labor. Are you worried that Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney, is trying to pull you into something?
WALSH: I mean, that's a question you have to ask the United States attorney's office. I don't feel that way. I would hope not. No, I'm not worried because I know that I've done nothing wrong.
QUESTION: Do you feel like they're pressuring him to get to you?
WALSH: Again I don't know, you have to ask them that.
QUESTION: Is the city paying for Ken's lawyer?
WALSH: At this point, yes. At this point. Well, actually, no, the city is not paying for anybody's lawyer. Excuse me, let me correct that.
QUESTION: Do you have concerns about Brian Kelly leading the investigation into the office itself, given what appears to be things that were missed in his first investigation?
WALSH: Again, I don't know if they were missed. You're going to have to talk to Brian Kelly about that, if you felt they were missed. I mean, I know that what came out today contradicts a little bit of what Brian's report was, but that's something that you'll have to ask him that question.
QUESTION: Have you hired a defense attorney?
WALSH: Again I already answered all those questions.