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Second Boston Official Is Indicted For Alleged Music Festival Extortion

Boston City Hall (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston City Hall (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 3 years old.

A second member of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's administration now faces charges for the alleged extortion of a music festival production company operating on City Hall Plaza.

The city of Boston's chief of staff of intergovernmental affairs, Timothy Sullivan, 36, of Dorchester, was arrested Wednesday morning after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count each of conspiracy to extort and extortion, the Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

Prosecutors say Sullivan and Kenneth Brissette, the city's director of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment, allegedly withheld permits from the unnamed production company until it agreed to hire union labor.

Brissette, 52, was indicted in May, and pleaded not guilty. Sullivan made an initial court appearance Wednesday and will be arraigned next week. His attorney said he'll plead not guilty. Both Brissette and Sullivan are on paid administrative leave.

According to the U.S. attorney's office statement:

The [music festival production] company told Brissette and Sullivan that it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and hired all of its labor. Nevertheless, Brissette and Sullivan allegedly insisted that half of the company’s labor force consist of union members, although they ultimately agreed that eight members of Local 11 would suffice. As a result of these City officials’ demands three days before the music festival the company entered into a contract with Local 11 for eight additional laborers and one foreman. Shortly thereafter, the City of Boston issued the necessary permits.

Wednesday's indictment is a "superseding indictment," charging Sullivan with two counts and adding one more count against Brissette. (Read the indictment.)

The indictment does not name the musical festival, but Boston Calling has been the only twice-yearly music festival held on Boston's City Hall Plaza. Going forward, the festival will no longer take place on City Hall Plaza and will be held only once a year, on Memorial Day weekend.

Walsh, who has deep ties to organized labor, told reporters Wednesday he's deeply concerned about the allegations and said he's never had conversations with Boston officials about using union labor.

"We don't encourage people to use union labor," he said. "There's a process in place. There are 800 events a year in the city of Boston and the topic of union labor shouldn't come up. And to my knowledge it hasn't."

In a statement, Walsh added that he's called for an "independent ethics training program for all of the City's department heads" and the city has hired "outside counsel looking into how these events have been managed."

The mayor added: "We need to ensure that the right practices are in place and the right safeguards."

The charges against both Sullivan and Brissette carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

With reporting by WBUR's Bob Shaffer, Benjamin Swasey and Bruce Gellerman. 

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