Pay to play, Boston style.
by Kevin Sowyrda
If it's Mayor Menino's narcissistic intent to continue impersonating Marie Antoinette - minus the ornate garments and Austrian accent - I'll be the singular person in the Hub to tell you that an upset of historic proportions is in the offing in the upcoming mayoral contest where the incumbent has been considered all but invincible.
For some weeks now, while Bostonians are dodging pink slips more than meter maids, Menino has been apprehended - by the media that is - for living a life style that would put any self-respecting Bourbon Royalist to shame. In good times the chronicles of Menino's missions of self indulgence would serve as sufficiently grating. But at a point in history when we all feel like we're living a real life version of that iconic T.V. series the WALTONS, the news of one million dollars in Menino's political cash being lavished on the payroll patriots, and His Honor's highly paid detective son enjoying the benefits of what some are calling a no show job with a development company which regularly begs for mayoral favors, is just too naked for any apologetic press release to cover up.
It's a little difficult to calculate which sin better portrays the pugnacious and self centered politician. On December 29, 2008 the Boston Globe reported that Menino has spent a staggering $1.2 million from his political war chest over the past three years on all things trite and ridiculous, ranging from fabulous galas to endless dining events at the South End's Hamersley's Bistro. If the mayor's campaign chest was burning such a hole in his pocket, a cool million would have gone a long way to help people in greater need than the perennial political activists already fattened at the trough.
But perhaps the more egregious sin is not that difficult to consider. With unemployment certain to hit eight percent before the end of the quarter, Bostonians learn from a Boston Herald article that Tom Menino, Jr., His Honor's police detective son, was paid $137,000 in 2007. Though it's hard to digest how the mayor's progeny was able to reportedly earn 310 overtime hours, the average laid off Bostonian has a difficult task figuring why and how $137,000 isn't enough for the young lad to survive on, family and all. But apparently it's not. Hence Suffolk Construction enters this sordid, political play.
Suffolk's web page will tell you that they are dedicated to "exceptional client service." Apparently, Mayor Menino's son is treated better than any client could hope for. The royal prince works as a safety consultant for Suffolk for a sum of cash yet to be determined; and we are to believe this has no influence on city hall, where the fate of Suffolk Construction projects is deliberated on a daily basis by the mayor's minions.
The city legal counsel, William F. Sinnot, patronizes us by declaring there's no conflict of interest here and nothing for us to worry our pretty, little heads about. Memo to Mr. Sinnot - Illinois Governor Blagojavich should pray every day that you become the next U.S. Attorney for his state.
Sinnot is as much a sycophant as he is an incompetent lawyer. The Menino affair is absolutely a conflict of interest, even by the lowest bar of ethical standards. It's Boston's version of pay to play and it's a perfectly reasonable impetus for Bostonians to seek a new administration at city hall which will be committed to anything but business as unusual. In the interim, the state should investigate exactly who arranged for the princely sum for the mayoral prince; and what quid pro quos may have been negotiated. Since Attorney General Martha Coakley has disappeared (anyone who can find her doing something about state corruption is hereby offered a $1,000 cash finders fee) we should expect the U.S. Attorney - the only law enforcement office in Massachusetts which seems to care about ferreting out public corruption - to vet the situation.
And then there's this. There's no neighborhood in the Baystate where pay to play has garnered more headlines than in Boston's South End. With a former state senator and a current city councilor headed for trial on bribery charges, South Enders understand what bribery means. But there are two types of bribes, aren't there? There's illegal bribes, where getting caught taking cash lands you in handcuffs. Then there's legal, or acceptable, bribery, where taking cash in an indirect manner - such as a great job for your son - just lands you in the media dog house.
For my money, I see no difference between legal bribes and illegal bribes. It's all the same type of corruption and cronyism.