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

Tag: Dianne Wilkerson Page 1 of 2

Chasing the missing e-mails

Two quick comments on the growing controversy over the missing City Hall e-mails:

  • The Boston Globe has done an impressive job, both in uncovering the fact that Michael Kineavy, a top aide to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, had deleted the e-mails, and in following up. In particularly like the story in today’s paper about the forensics of e-mail recovery.
  • Attorney General Martha Coakley’s quote in the Boston Herald today strikes me as the first misstep of her Senate campaign. “Particularly understanding this is the middle of a [mayoral] campaign, we get lots of complaints from folks who are adversaries who have a particular agenda,” Coakley says.

Whoa. Though it’s certainly true that the e-mails — public records — may prove to be no big deal, it’s also true that they may be related to the criminal probe of former state senator Dianne Wilkerson. Coakley’s going to have to do better than that.

The difference between Wilkerson and Turner

No-longer-cooperating witness Ron Wilburn tells the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker: “Dianne is a thief. Chuck isn’t. Dianne knew better. Chuck is a victim of circumstance.” Which is kind of the way this has looked from the beginning.

Give it up, Chuck

Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker unleashes a high, hard one today destroying any pretense that Boston city councilor Chuck Turner and former state senator Dianne Wilkerson were set up by racists at the FBI.

Walker has a page-one interview with Ron Wilburn, better known as “Cooperating Witness,” the guy who lured Wilkerson and Turner into posing for those can’t-get-enough photos of them taking cash, allegedly in return for their help in getting Wilburn a liquor license for a bar he was trying to open.

Wilburn is not a racist FBI agent. Nor is he in trouble himself. Rather, he is a well-known, 69-year-old African-American businessman and longtime Wilkerson supporter who tells Walker that he’d had enough, and that he expects more city officials will be arrested before this is over.

I’d say he’d be in a position to know, wouldn’t you? After all, he knows who smiled for the camera. This excerpt from Walker’s piece is priceless:

“People do things,” Wilburn said. “There are decisions, there are choices, and there are consequences.” Asked if he was surprised that public officials would allegedly take money to help push a liquor license, he responded quickly. “Hell, no,” and let out a hearty laugh….

“You’re dealing with favoritism, cronyism, classism, and if you don’t have the right connections it’s very difficult to make things happen,” Wilburn said. “The average person that works hard and has a plan to get a license, it’s very hard for them to move through that system. And you find out if you have the right people pushing the buttons, things can happen fast.”

So much for Turner’s media-bashing performance yesterday outside City Hall.

Wilburn does say that the FBI remains its usual bumbling self. For one thing, he says he never told the FBI that he was tired of being shaken down by Wilkerson, as the FBI claims in its affidavit (PDF). For another, he’s upset that the FBI gave him so little cover that his identity quickly became known.

But, he adds, “I was not forced or coerced.”

And now Wilburn finds himself at the center of the biggest corruption scandal Massachusetts has seen in several decades.

File photo of Turner (cc) by stand4security and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

New questions about the Roxbury mosque

Just finished reading David Bernstein’s excellent piece in this week’s Boston Phoenix on the long-controversial mosque that’s been built in Roxbury, known as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Among other things, Bernstein reports the following:

  • Originally intended as a spiritual center primarily for U.S.-born African-American Muslims, the center’s control shifted long ago to conservative Muslims primarily from the Middle East, some of whom have espoused homophobic and anti-Semitic views.
  • Despite numerous financial difficulties, the project was pushed along at key moments by Mayor Tom Menino and a staff member at the Boston Redevelopment Authority who had a conflict of interest that almost certainly should have led him to recuse himself.
  • Promised benefits to the community have not materialized, and are unlikely to any time soon given the mosque’s ongoing financial problems.
  • Former state senator Dianne Wilkerson and Boston city councilor Chuck Turner, charged by federal authorities with taking bribes, have showed an unusual degree of interest in the mosque.

The mosque has been 20 years in the making, and is still incomplete. A fascinating story, even though there are more questions in Bernstein’s story than there are answers.

Chuck Turner (allegedly) joins the 90 percent

Best stretch of Howie Carr I’ve heard since — oh, since Dianne Wilkerson was arrested. I haven’t had a chance to read the affidavit yet, but Amy Derjue offers highlights at Boston Daily.

Most outstanding quote from the soon-to-be-ex-councilor: “If you took out all corrupt politicians, you’d take out 90 percent and be left with us 10 percent.”

Us? Well, he is innocent unless proven guilty.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I always thought Turner was one of those hard-core ideologues who would never take a dime. The only way this would make sense is if we learned he donated the money to the North Korean government, or to Cynthia McKinney’s presidential campaign.

Chuck Turner, too

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner is a major-league goofball, but he always struck me as honest. And perhaps he is.

But his reputation took a big hit this morning when he was arrested by the FBI in connection with the Dianne Wilkerson bribery case.

Oh, and there’s a Wilkerson-style photo, too. At least Turner keeps his shirt on.

The ghosts of James Michael Curley

In my latest for the Guardian, I report that Massachusetts has returned to normal since Election Day. Which is to say that corrupt politicians are running wild, tolls are going up and the traffic jams the Big Dig were supposed to alleviate are now worse than ever. James Michael Curley’s statues — yes, both of them — are laughing at us.

An intriguing loose thread

According to the FBI, state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson once celebrated receiving a $1,000 bribe by hightailing it to Foxwoods. A pretty amusing detail — and one that jogged my memory.

Last year, not long after Glenn Marshall stepped down in disgrace as head of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal council, there was a meeting involving Wilkerson, D-Roxbury, that has never been explained. But it clearly had something to do with the tribe’s fading hopes of building a mega-casino in Middleborough.

In a story broken by Peter Kenney at Cape Cod Today in September 2007, we learned that Amelia Bingham and her son, Steven Bingham, tribal members whom Marshall had ordered “shunned” for asking too many questions, met with Wilkerson in her office. Also present was Michael Morris, a top aide to Gov. Deval Patrick, and several advisers to the Binghams.

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi later reported that Morris had not expected the Binghams to be present. That differed from Kenney’s account, which claimed that Morris merely hadn’t expected the Binghams to bring advisers with them.

Although the Binghams were fierce opponents of Marshall, they do not oppose the idea of building a tribal casino. Rather, they have criticized Marshall and his successor, Shawn Hendricks, for not cutting a lucrative enough deal for tribal members.

What is or was Wilkerson’s involvement in all this? Who knows? Kenney believed it might have something to do with the Binghams’ lawsuit against the town of Mashpee over property rights. That could lead to a casino’s being built in Mashpee rather than Middleborough. The suit is still very much alive, and K.C. Myers of the Cape Cod Times has an update today.

And check this out: Less than a week ago, the Globe’s Sean Murphy wrote an intriguing profile of an obscure Boston political figure named William McDermott, whose dealings with the tribe, and with Marshall, have been so extensive that Murphy called him “a founding father of the modern Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.” One of McDermott’s “old friends,” as it turns out, is Daniel Pokaski, chairman of the Boston Licensing Board, now at the center of the Wilkerson scandal.

Let’s not forget, too, that the FBI is still investigating Marshall.

It is time to find out what was discussed in Wilkerson’s office that day.

Good jobs at good wages

Sometimes what’s legal is at least as disgusting than what’s illegal. Toward the end of Donovan Slack’s story in today’s Boston Globe on the Boston Licensing Board, which is at the center of the Dianne Wilkerson saga, we learn:

  • That the board members receive $85,000 for working part-time, their only requirement being to show up for public hearings three mornings a week.
  • That the chairman, who’s paid $100,000, “sets his own hours.”
  • That they were making $60,000 before Gov. Deval Patrick signed a pay raise into law last year.


The other shoe

Dianne Wilkerson follow-ups in the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald today focus on the possibility that more public officials will be sucked into the mess created by her alleged bribe-taking and spectacular arrest. Given the number of officials with whom Wilkerson interacted, there’s no doubt the feds are going to be talking with many, many people.

In the Herald, Laurel Sweet and Hillary Chabot are pretty explicit about the possibility that investigators will try to flip Wilkerson. In the Globe, Matt Viser reports on the blizzard of subpoenas demanding records from officials such as Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Boston City Council president Maureen Feeney, City Councilor Chuck Turner, Massachusetts Senate president Therese Murray and state Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, among others.

“This is by no means a suggestion that anyone else is involved in shaking down cash or paying it,” writes the Outraged Liberal. “It is a simple statement that some other big names … could very well get dragged into what is likely an ongoing Wilkerson investigation.”

Wilkerson’s accusation that the timing of her arrest was politically motivated is interesting because (a) it probably was, but (b) what was U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan supposed to do? If he had sat on this until after the election, and Wilkerson had won re-election against Democratic primary winner Sonia Chang-Diaz, that would have been politically motivated, too — and the public would be justifiably outraged if all this had come out once Wilkerson had been safely returned to the Senate.

More interesting still is what effect the Wilkerson affair will have on Question 1, the ballot measure that would repeal the state’s income tax. Wilkerson alone probably wouldn’t make a difference — as the Globe’s Scot Lehigh observes, Wilkerson was a train wreck years ago, and it’s sickening that it took so long to clear her off the tracks.

But if any of her high-profile friends emerges as a player rather than a victim, that would be a mighty powerful argument for Question 1. Never mind that we’re the ones who would suffer from catastrophic cuts in education, police, public works and on and on. This isn’t about logic — it’s about anger.

Photo of Wilkerson at the 2008 Boston Gay Pride Parade (cc) by Paul Keleher and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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