Mayor Marty Walsh shouldn’t have hired Carlos Henriquez for a City Hall job — and he definitely shouldn’t have hired him the way he did.
Henriquez, a former state representative, was convicted in 2014 of punching a woman who refused to have sex with him. After his release from jail, he attempted to restart his political career, with no luck.
Until now: Walsh quietly hired Henriquez this year for an $89,000-a-year job as a program coordinator working in the offices of Returning Citizens and Resilience and Racial Equity. His role is to support safety and address neighborhood trauma issues.
The Walsh administration is trying to spin the hire as a principled move. “Second chances” is the term being tossed around. People deserve second chances, but this smacks of political favoritism for a figure who has remained popular among some of his old constituents and colleagues.
“Carlos Henriquez served his time and, after spending his career supporting youth, helping reduce violence, assisting those in recovery, and providing trauma supports for families in need, he is eager to continue this work,” said Samantha Ormsby, the mayor’s spokeswoman.
There’s no reason to question Walsh’s belief in second chances. Always frank about his own struggles early in life, Walsh can probably appreciate evaluating a life in full, not just through its worst moments.
Still, there are problems with the city’s narrative. Most important, this: Henriquez has never accepted responsibility for his violent actions. At his sentencing, Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan said: “I’m very concerned that you’re not remorseful.” After serving a six-month sentence, he completed two years of probation, including a 40-week class on domestic violence, but continues to maintain his innocence.
By hiring him now, Walsh is sending the message that he either doesn’t believe Henriquez was rightly convicted — or that he doesn’t view remorse as a precondition for a second chance. Which is it? Here are other questions the mayor should answer: Why does Henriquez get a second chance over someone else? Is this the best position for him? What accommodations are being made for employees who might not feel comfortable working for someone convicted of violence against a woman?
Then there’s the question of double standards. The city fired former health services chief Felix G. Arroyo over allegations of sexual harassment. Firing Arroyo might have been the right move, but it’s hard to square with the city’s hiring of Henriquez.
Walsh should have explained Henriquez’s hire when he made it. Instead, the public learned about Henriquez’s new job only when the Globe reported it. The secretiveness angered anti-violence activists, who wondered why other qualified candidates were skipped over for an unrepentant man.
While Henriquez’s conviction occurred long before the #MeToo movement took off last year, his return comes at a time when some men outed for alleged misconduct against women are inching their way back into the public eye. How soon is too soon?
In the case of Henriquez, second chances begin with an admission of wrongdoing, or evidence of wrongful conviction. Henriquez hasn’t offered either. Walsh can’t expect people to trust his judgment without a better explanation.