By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

An astonishing story claims an Everett weekly published falsehoods about the mayor

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. Photo (cc) 2019 by Joshua Qualls / Governor’s Press Office

I can’t recommend this long, astonishing story highly enough. In the new issue of Boston magazine, Gretchen Voss reports on the Everett Leader Herald’s crusade against Mayor Carlo DeMaria. The paper’s editor, Josh Resnek, has accused DeMaria over and over of blatant corruption and sexual abuse. DeMaria is currently pursuing a libel suit against the paper.

Not to give away the ending, but Voss writes that Resnek has admitted to making up much of what he’s written about DeMaria, who barely won re-election last fall in the face of the Leader Herald’s relentless attacks. In a deposition, Resnek admitted that he’d faked key interviews and concocted evidence. Here’s a key paragraph that comes near the end of Voss’ story. You won’t understand all of it without reading the entire story, but you’ll get the gist:

During his deposition, Resnek sealed his legacy: not that of a fearless journalist but of a fabulist. He admitted that he’d found no evidence of DeMaria receiving a kickback for the Encore casino deal in Everett, even though he’d reported in the paper that he had. Resnek claimed he was merely expressing his “opinion.” Resnek also confessed that he had made up all the quotes attributed to [City Clerk Sergio] Cornelio in his explosive September articles about the Corey Street deal [in which Resnek claimed that DeMaria had extorted $96,000 from Cornelio]. Every single one of them. Resnek failed to conduct even the most basic journalistic efforts to determine whether there was a formal agreement between Cornelio and DeMaria. In fact, a judge had issued a written opinion that Cornelio and DeMaria did act together in the purchase, development, and sale of the property, and DeMaria had obtained an advisory opinion from the state ethics commission concerning his interest in acquiring a financial stake in commercially zoned land in Everett. DeMaria also filed a “Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest” with the City Clerk’s Office for his ownership interest in a property adjacent to Everett Square. Resnek owned up to the fact that he’d never checked for these documents.

Voss also reports that Resnek tried to enlist Boston Globe reporter Andrea Estes in his attempt to destroy DeMaria. Estes comes across as interested in what Resnek had to tell her, and in fact she’s written several stories about DeMaria, including this one, about excessive campaign contributions that a contractor made to the mayor, and this one, about DeMaria’s being the state’s highest-paid mayor. But Voss’ story makes it clear that Estes did her own reporting and that Resnek exaggerated his contacts with her.

Why has the Leader Herald engaged in a multi-year campaign against DeMaria? According to Voss, it may have been retribution by the politically wired Philbin family, who ran afoul of DeMaria going back to his time as a city councilor. The Philbins bought the Leader Herald in 2017 and hired Resnek, a veteran journalist with multiple career stops in the Boston area. Here is a characteristic line from an opinion piece that Resnek wrote in 2019, quoted by Voss: “Kickback Carlo DeMaria is in his tenth year of organized, obscene, uniquely disguised municipal theft and greed.” Yikes!

The Leader Herald, a free weekly, is nearly 140 years old. Incredibly, it is also one of three independently owned news outlets in Everett, a blue-collar community with about 49,000 residents. One of them, the Everett Advocate, is enjoying DeMaria’s libel suit against the Leader Herald, running a story under the headline “Sinking Fast: the Implosion of Matthew Philbin; Leader Herald Owner Admits to Actual Malice.” (Actual malice is the legal term for publishing a defamatory claim about a public official or public figure despite knowing or strongly suspecting that it was false.) The story also describes Resnek as a “corrupt reporter.”

Resnek is still writing for the Leader Herald. I scrolled down through its website and could find no sign that he’s written anything about DeMaria’s lawsuit (at least not recently) or the Boston magazine story.

The third Everett news outlet, the Everett Independent, which once employed Resnek, appears to be a lively weekly newspaper. The current edition features a front-page photo of DeMaria to accompany a story on the debut of sports betting at the Everett casino.

Needless to say, it will be fascinating to learn the outcome of DeMaria’s lawsuit.

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