Mayor Martin J. Walsh should “come clean” about a federal investigation at City Hall, said city councilor and mayoral candidate Tito Jackson Wednesday, after a new federal court filing shows Walsh participated in two meetings with a concert promoter allegedly extorted by top aides in his administration.
Federal prosecutors last year indicted two of Walsh’s department heads for allegedly forcing Boston Calling to hire unwanted union stagehands at the music festival on City Hall Plaza in September 2014. Documents filed Tuesday in US District Court include a timeline assembled by prosecutors showing that Walsh attended two meetings with his top aides and Boston Calling cofounder Brian Appel.
The new document, first reported by the Boston Herald, does not say what Walsh discussed with Appel or whether it involved city permits or jobs for union employees. One meeting that Walsh attended in November 2014 included the city’s tourism director, Kenneth Brissette, who would be indicted 18 months later. Walsh and his aides have vehemently denied wrongdoing, but the mayor has repeatedly declined to say whether he or his aides have testified before a grand jury.
Jackson pounced on the issue in what might be the first real salvo of a contentious race for mayor between two former allies. In a campaign statement, Jackson said federal allegations have become an obstacle hindering the Walsh administration from addressing “other serious issues Bostonians face every day.”
“I am extremely troubled to learn this morning Mayor Walsh personally attended two 2014 meetings to discuss Boston Calling,” Jackson said in the statement. “We must have a mayor who is transparent.”
Jackson urged Walsh to “speak plainly and come clean rather than prolong this affair any further.”
When Walsh spoke to reporters Wednesday, he downplayed the new court documents. Walsh said his meetings with Boston Calling had been reported in the press, although the timeline prepared by prosecutors had not previously been made public.
Walsh told reporters one of his Boston Calling meetings was to discuss serving alcohol on the plaza and the other conversation was about “how we move forward’’ with the concert series.
The mayor again would not say whether he has testified before a grand jury.
“I’ve been very transparent on this issue,” Walsh said. “I’ve been very transparent here at City Hall. It’s political posturing. That’s all it is.”
Walsh added that Jackson had been “awful quiet” about the federal investigation “before today. So maybe you should go back and ask him how come he wasn’t so vocal about it a year ago.”
Jackson pushed back.
“Leadership equals transparency, and these lingering questions should be addressed,” Jackson told the Globe in an interview. “The residents of Boston deserve complete transparency.”
Court documents filed Tuesday were part of a motion to dismiss the case against Brissette and another city official, Timothy Sullivan, a close Walsh aide who was the city’s acting director of intergovernmental relations. Brissette and Sullivan have both pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors charged them in May and June with extortion for allegedly forcing Boston Calling to hire union stagehands.
Attorneys representing Sullivan and Brissette argued in the documents that they “are not accused of seeking anything for themselves, their families or their friends,” and that the indictment should be dismissed.
“The alleged conduct was rightful advocacy for a constituency represented by the city administration in which they served,” the attorneys wrote.
The documents also include a letter from the US attorney’s office. Appel and his partner were called to a meeting with Brissette and Sullivan, who said the production needed to hire union stagehands, according to the letter.
Appel has told investigators, according to the letter, that he did not think the city would have withheld permits but would have issued “bad ones” with reduced times and poor hours “eventually leading to the end of the show.” Appel said he worried about future shows and needed a good relationship with the city.
“Appel did not think anyone was out to harm” his company, the letter states, “and believed they were trying to avoid a picket.”
“The defendants conveyed that if [the stagehands’ union] was not hired, they would picket and come with the blow up rat, which would be a problem for both [Boston Calling] and the mayor,” the letter states. Concert organizers “told the defendants they would have to fire people to take on members of [the stagehands’ union].”
Brissette and Sullivan told concert organizers that “everyone had to get a fair shake and a shot at working this event” and that the mayor had a background with organized labor and “wanted to find a way to bring everyone to the table to get everyone working together,” according to the letter.
An agreement was negotiated, according to the letter, and Boston Calling hired nine union workers.