E-mails link Walsh’s inner circle to scandal
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A contract requiring the Boston Calling music festival to hire union stagehands in 2014 was submitted for review to a close aide to Mayor Martin J. Walsh during a time when federal prosecutors allege city officials illegally forced the concert organizers to hire unneeded union workers, according to city e-mails released Friday.
The stagehands passed the contract proposal to Boston Calling, a private entity, through Walsh aide Tim Sullivan, according to the e-mails, which were acquired by the Globe through a public records request. In an Aug. 20, 2014 e-mail, the union's business manager lays out the terms of the agreement and thanks the administration for its assistance.
"Attached you will find a draft agreement for Boston Calling for your review. Please pass it along to the production team," wrote Colleen A. Glynn, business manager for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 11. "I'm confident we can get a deal for a dozen or so stagehands especially with Mayor Walsh's backing."
Festival organizers ultimately hired eight union laborers and one foreman, according to the indictment, which described the workers as "imposed, unwanted, and unnecessary and superfluous."
Another e-mail shows that Joyce Linehan, one of Walsh's cabinet chiefs and closest advisers, was brought into discussions about organized labor by a founder of Boston Calling, during the same time period.
In an e-mail on Aug. 17, 2014, Boston Calling cofounder Brian Appel said he asked Linehan, Walsh's chief of policy, to join a planned meeting that week, "as I think we can have a broader discussion about the unions."
Appel's e-mail was sent to Kenneth Brissette, Walsh's director of tourism, sports, and entertainment, who was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for allegedly withholding city permits from Boston Calling in 2014 until the festival organizers hired union workers. The planned meeting falls within the three-month period in which Brissette is alleged to have repeatedly told Boston Calling that it needed to hire members of Local 11 for the concert on City Hall Plaza, according to a federal indictment.
The e-mails offer a previously undisclosed link between members of Walsh's inner circle and the City Hall scandal that has led to a federal extortion charge against Brissette.
They also show that Sullivan met with Brissette and Boston Calling on union issues just before the concert organizers relented and agreed to use union labor for their September 2014 festival, according to the indictment.
Walsh declined to comment Friday on the federal investigation or the e-mails that were released.
"Some of the e-mails I'm familiar with, some of them I didn't read all the way through," he said.
The administration would also not comment on whether the meeting with Linehan, Boston Calling, and Brissette took place. The mayor also declined to say if Linehan has been called before the grand jury.
"You'll have to have a conversation with Joyce about that," Walsh said, in an interview with reporters. "You can give her a call. I don't know if she'll call back, but you can call her."
Linehan declined an interview request, through the mayor's communication director.
Sullivan declined an interview request, through the mayor's office.
A spokesman for Boston Calling did not respond to a request for comment.
Appel wrote in his Aug. 17 e-mail to Brissette that Linehan, who has an extensive background as an arts promoter, "has been a friend of ours for some time, and we keep her involved as much as possible."
Brissette, who faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, has pleaded not guilty, and called the charge against him "factually and legally flawed." He did not return a voicemail message left Friday afternoon.
The eight-page indictment alleges that at least one other city employee in addition to Brissette "repeatedly" told Boston Calling in the summer of 2014 that it needed to hire union stagehands. The indictment does not name the other employee.
Walsh said Friday that he does not know the identity of the unnamed employee — and he's not trying to find out: "That's not my job," he said. "You'll have to ask the United States attorney who that is." If the unnamed person did something wrong, "the United States attorney's office is going to handle that." He added that lawyer Brian Kelly is conducting a review of the city's special events office, which will include city interactions with Boston Calling.
IATSE Local 11 has said it was unaware of any lawbreaking by city officials, and that it never asked Brissette to strong-arm Boston Calling.
The e-mails show that Brissette on June 27, 2014, wrote to Sullivan, a close Walsh aide who formerly worked as legislative and communications director for the state AFL-CIO, to say he would be hosting a meeting with IATSE on July 8.
"Thank you," Sullivan replied.
The indictment references a critical Sept. 2, 2014 meeting, where "as a result of the demands made by Brissette and others," Boston Calling relented and hired union stagehands.
The indictment does not identify all the participants of the Sept. 2 meeting, but Appel, the Boston Calling cofounder, e-mailed Brissette and Sullivan the afternoon of Sept. 2, saying "thanks for the time today," according to the e-mail.
"I received a message from Colleen at IATSE already," Appel continued, apparently referring to Glynn, of Local 11. "Will wait to hear back from you regarding our discussion before calling her back."
Glynn said Friday night she needed to see the e-mails before she could comment.
After the concert, Appel maintained a friendly tone in e-mails with Brissette, thanking him on Sept. 9 for his "support along the way."
The mayor said City Hall is cooperating with the United States attorney's office. "We want to get to the bottom of it," Walsh said, adding, "I don't like this cloud hanging over my administration. We are working hard every single day to keep the streets safe, to deliver housing in the city of Boston, to make sure that we strengthen our schools. That's my priority as mayor."
Walsh said he contacted the State Ethics Commission on Thursday to conduct a top-down review of his administration, and provide a seminar to Cabinet chiefs, department heads, and middle managers about "what to look for and how to act.
"I'm talking about a real in-depth training from the State Ethics Commission . . . so people can be asking questions back and forth about what is right and what potentially could be wrong," Walsh said. "We probably should have done it long before this."
Boston Calling was founded in 2013. The latest edition of the multiday concert series kicked off Friday at City Hall Plaza.
Boston Calling confirmed Friday that the festival will be relocating in 2017 to Harvard University's athletic complex in Allston.