Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coakley Outlines Case Against Cahill

BOSTON – Former State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill has been indicted on public corruption charges for his alleged role in orchestrating an advertising campaign for the State Lottery, funded with taxpayer dollars, that was intended to assist his 2010 campaign for governor, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Monday.
Timothy P. Cahill, age 53, of Quincy, was indicted this morning by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on one count of violating the State Ethics Law, specifically use of official position to obtain unwarranted privilege, and conspiracy to violate the State Ethics Law, Coakley said in a prepared statement released Monday, April 2.
Cahill was also indicted on one count of procurement fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit procurement fraud.
Scott Campbell, age 41, of Quincy, Cahill’s former chief of staff at the Treasury and former campaign manager, was also indicted on similar charges.
Campbell was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to violate the State Ethics Law and procurement fraud, and conspiracy to commit procurement fraud.
In addition, Alfred J. Grazioso, Jr., age 57, of Quincy, the Lottery’s former chief of staff, was also indicted today on two counts of obstruction of justice.
“We allege that Treasurer Cahill abused his position to launch a television advertising campaign at the Lottery that was carefully coordinated to promote his own campaign for governor,” Coakley said.
“This was more than a million dollars in taxpayer money that was intended to benefit the public and the Lottery. We allege that the timing, amount budgeted, and coordinated messages of the Lottery ads all point to a decision made by Treasurer Cahill to abuse his position of trust and put his own political ambitions over the best interests of the taxpayers he was elected to represent,” Coakley said.
The indictments follow a comprehensive investigation by the AG’s Office that examined the timing and reason for Lottery TV and radio ads that began airing in September 2010. When the AG’s office began its investigation in October 2010, it requested, and the Lottery agreed, to immediately take down the ads pending the completion of the investigation.
Dozens of witnesses were interviewed and thousands of electronic communications examined to determine the purpose behind the $1.5 million ad campaign.
As a result of that investigation, the AG’s office alleges that a series of advertisements were procured by Cahill, with Campbell’s assistance, for the purpose of aiding Cahill’s struggling campaign for governor, rather than to simply boost the Lottery’s image and sales.
The AG’s Office alleges that a series of Lottery “permission” ads were approved at Cahill’s direction and with Campbell’s assistance, even though sales at the Lottery were already on the way up after a brief slow period in July 2010.
These ads are typically intended to give potential buyers “permission” to purchase Lottery tickets by demonstrating that the money spent is being put to good use through increased local aid.
While similar ads had been run in the past, “permission” advertising had been cut significantly in FY 2008 and FY 2009, with no “permission” style television ads running at all in either FY 2009 or FY 2010 (July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010).
Due to state budget constraints, the Legislature in FY 2010 drastically cut the Lottery’s advertising budget from $10 million to $2 million, and television advertising was eliminated. The advertising budget for FY 2011 began July 1, 2010 and was also set at $2 million.
The investigation determined that at the end of July 2010, the Cahill campaign identified through a series of focus groups that promoting Cahill’s strong management of the Lottery was a key campaign theme that could influence voters.
This issue was allegedly identified at a time when campaign contributions to Cahill were falling.
The day after the focus groups, a campaign staffer allegedly met with Cahill.
Following the meeting, the campaign staffer sent a series of text messages that read in part, “I just got the go ahead on everything we discussed. Yes on Lottery ads and he has plenty of money…Cahill thinks most of the two million is there…We just found a million for extra publicity. But Cahill can’t be in the ad…But we run ads about the lottery being well-run and putting money back in communities. I’m going to speak with the ad company about copy Cahill agreed.”
The following day, the investigation determined, Cahill allegedly had direct contact with the advertising agency, and that same day the agency began plans for by far the largest “permission” ad campaign the Lottery had ever run.
Ultimately, as a result of the focus groups, a series of television and radio Lottery ads were allegedly planned and authorized by Cahill to run at a cost of $1.5 million in taxpayer funds.
Furthermore, the AG’s Office alleges that the script for the ads was modified in order to specifically tout the Lottery as “the most successful in America” and to credit that success to “a consistently well-managed Lottery,” language that had never before been used in “permission” style ads.
Despite serious objections raised by Lottery officials, the ads were allegedly again approved and authorized by Cahill to run from late September through November 2010.
During a portion of this same time, the Cahill for Governor Campaign was running its own television ads that promoted Cahill’s skill in managing the Lottery.
Finally, the AG’s office contends that the Lottery’s ad campaign would have almost entirely wiped out the Lottery’s advertising budget less than halfway through the fiscal year.
This would have severely reduced funding for advertising during the critical holiday period, which typically generates the Lottery’s highest sales figures, as well as funding for “jackpot awareness” ads, which the Lottery has long relied on to stimulate player excitement and boost sales whenever jackpots soar over the $100 million level.
As a result of the ad campaign being suspended at the AG’s request in mid-October 2010, about $1 million of the planned $1.5 million was saved and spent on more traditional forms of Lottery advertising.
As a result of changes to the Massachusetts' ethics reform laws in 2009, the ethics indictments returned against Cahill and Campbell are now felony charges rather than civil violations.
In addition to the indictments returned against Cahill and Campbell, a Suffolk Grand Jury also indicted Alfred J. Grazioso, Jr., for allegedly obstructing justice during the course of the AG’s investigation.
Prosecutors allege that Grazioso, in August 2011 and while still chief of staff for the Lottery, intimidated and harassed two witnesses prior to those witnesses being interviewed by the AG’s Office for this investigation.
All defendants are expected to be arraigned on these charges at a later date.
(Photo courtesy AG's Office)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

State Gaming Board Picks Finalized

BOSTON--Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman have announced the final two appointments to the newly formed Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The final two appointees are James F. McHugh, (pictured, top) a retired associate justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Bruce Stebbins, (pictured, second from top) business development administrator for the City of Springfield, state officials said in a statement issued Tuesday, March 20.
Both appointees will serve as full time commissioners. Each of the five commissioners on the new gambling board will be paid $125,000 per year.
Officials said the commission will now move forward with its business of hiring staff, establishing an office, hosting public meetings and soliciting bids for up to three commercial casino licenses and one slots facility.
Licenses must be competitively bid and awarded following local approval, under the rules of the Expanded Gaming Act signed by Governor Patrick on November 22, 2011.
Separate from the commission, the Patrick administration has hired a specialized law firm and financial advisor which are currently assisting in negotiating a Native American gaming compact for a casino on tribal lands in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Gov. Patrick appointed Steve Crosby as chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on December 13, 2011. In February, Attorney General Coakley selected former New Jersey Lt. Col. Gayle Cameron as her law enforcement appointee to the Commission.
Last week, Treasurer Grossman selected Enrique Zuniga as the Treasurer’s corporate finance and securities appointee.
Officials said in order to ensure the strongest possible commission, Justice McHugh will now serve as the Attorney General’s law enforcement appointee, and Lt. Col. Cameron will now serve as the joint appointee with legal experience related to gaming.
Stebbins will serve as the final joint appointee.
Officials said all costs of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will be borne by the gaming industry itself and will not be paid for by Massachusetts taxpayers.
Justice McHugh, of Boston, served on the Massachusetts Superior Court from 1985 until 2001, when he was appointed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
He served on the Appeals Court until February 2012, when he retired from the bench.
He is a former adjunct faculty member at Boston College Law School and Northeastern University School of Law.
He received a B.A. from Brown University and graduated magna cum laude from Boston University School of Law.
He is a former active duty member of the United States Navy.
During the course of his career, McHugh has presided over more than 600 trials in both civil and criminal matters and authored more than 400 opinions as associate justice.
The scope of these cases has ranged from murder trials to liability lawsuits.
McHugh served for 10 years as chair of the Committee on Judicial Ethics.
Most recently, he drafted 5 reports for a task force created to reform the hiring and promotions process throughout the Massachusetts court system.
McHugh also led an effort to improve the judiciary’s technology which resulted in MassCourts, a more efficient and highly praised case management system.
Stebbins has worked for the City of Springfield since 2010 and served for 2 terms on the Springfield City Council.
He has previously worked at the National Association of Manufacturers and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.
Stebbins also served in the administration of Governor Bill Weld, and earlier as associate director of political affairs in the White House under President George H.W. Bush.
He received a B.A. from George Washington University and has completed a management program at the Kennedy School of Government.
He lives in Springfield.
(McHugh photo courtesy Mass.gov. Stebbins photo courtesy Facebook)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

State Gains $12 Million From Feds For Charter Schools

BOSTON--The Patrick-Murray Administration has announced Massachusetts has been awarded a $12 million federal Charter Schools Program grant to expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the state.
The U.S. Dept. of Education grant, announced Thursday, March 15 in a statement, is for a total of $12,125,950 over the next 3 years.
Massachusetts was one of three states out of 14 applicants to receive funding from the $54.8 million competitive award this year, along with New Jersey and Minnesota.
New York and Florida were awarded federal Charter Schools Program grant funding in 2011.
The federal Charter Schools Program aims to increase financial support for the planning, design and implementation of charter schools, to build a better understanding of public charter schools and to increase the number of high-quality public charter schools across the nation.
The Commonwealth’s $12 million grant will be awarded to new charter schools over the next 3 years, with priority given to schools focusing on increasing high school graduation and college enrollment rates among diverse student populations in high poverty areas.
In 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick signed the historic Achievement Gap Act which included a “smart cap” on charter schools across the state, allowing the best performing charters to replicate in the regions with the most student need.
The cap on district net school spending for funding of charter schools will be raised from 9 percent to a maximum of 18 percent through incremental steps.
The cap lift only applies to districts with academic performance in the lowest 10 percent as measured by MCAS, and applicants under the cap lift must have a proven track record of success in increasing academic attainment and commit to working with a diverse population of students.
Sixteen charter schools were approved last year after the cap was raised, and another four were approved last month, bringing the total number of charter schools across the state to 81.
In addition to this $12 million award the state has been awarded $300 million in federal Race to the Top, or RTTT, funding within the past two years.
In August 2010, Massachusetts was awarded $250 million from the U.S. Department of Education, receiving the highest score of any applicant in the national K-12 RTTT competition.
Massachusetts will receive this funding over four years, through academic year 2013-2014, to bolster the administration’s efforts to increase educator effectiveness, turn around under performing schools and provide educators with the tools they need to ensure that all students are prepared for college and career.
In December 2011, Massachusetts was awarded $50 million in the RTTT-–Early Learning Challenge to expand high quality early education services and close achievement gaps in education.
This continued federal support is vital to achieving the administration’s goal of ensuring that every student in Massachusetts is prepared for success in the classroom and beyond.
CLICK HERE to visit the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grossman Picks Gaming Comm Member

BROCKTON--State Treasurer Steven Grossman announced this morning he has named Enrique A. Zuniga to the newly created Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Zuniga is currently the executive director of the Massachusetts Water Pollution and Abatement Trust, an agency under the auspices of the treasurer's office.
Issuing the statement, Grossman said he has named Zuniga to the gaming commission because "his substantial background in issues related to finance, securities, public procurement, auditing, and regulatory affairs will be invaluable as the Commission moves forward with the implementation of gaming in Massachusetts.
Zuniga, 45, a Jamaica Plain resident, joins two other named members of the commission.
Under the new gaming legislation signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in November, the governor chooses one member of the commission, as does Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Coakley has already chosen former New Jersey State Police Lt. Colonel Gayle Cameron.
Patrick has named Stephen Crosby, a former CEO, secretary of Administration and Finance, and dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass, Boston.
Crosby will be the commission's chairman.
The Commission must be bipartisan, with no more than three members representing the same political party. The full Commission must be appointed by March 21, 2012.
The remaining two members will be appointed by two out of the three appointing authorities.
The Commission must be bipartisan, with no more than three members representing the same political party.
The full Commission must be appointed by March 21. Each board member will be paid $112, 500 a year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brockton Legislators Seek Bank Foreclosure Registry Bill

BROCKTON--Brockton's state representatives and state senator submitted testimony last Tuesday in support of a bill that would require a bank or other financial company looking to foreclose on a home register itself as the agency seeking foreclosure within 30 days.
State Representatives Michael D. Brady, Christine E. Canavan, Geraldine M. Creedon and State Sen. Thomas P. Kennedy submitted testimony on Tuesday, February 8, 2012 to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on a bill that has been filed by the Brockton Legislative delegation, according to a statement from Brady's office. 
"This is a step in providing homeowners a chance in a market that has been impacted by less than ethical behavior," Brady said in the statement. "It represents a process that has been followed faithfully by local banks and lenders but ignored by the large corporate lending institutions with little regard for property owners,” he said.
In the wake of the housing market collapse, homeowners have had a difficult time determining the ownership of their mortgage when attempting to modify, refinance or restructure an existing loan, short-sell or avoid foreclosure of their home. 
The Massachusetts Registrars of Deeds have reported that almost a quarter of all foreclosed homes were seized by a bank that was not a bank of record at their local registry.
House Bill 3934, states “An act to increase transparency in the Massachusetts land record systems to protect the property rights of homeowners and businesses” would require all mortgage lenders to file notice of any assignment of a mortgage with the County Registry of Deeds with in thirty days of that assignment.
Also providing testimony were Plymouth County Register of Deeds, John R. Buckley, Jr., Esq. and William P. O’Donnell, Norfolk County Register of Deeds.
A similar bill has also been filed in the State Senate by State Sen. John F. Keenan of Quincy who attended the hearing and spoke in support of the legislation.


Monday, February 27, 2012

2nd Democrat Runs For 11th Plymouth

BROCKTON--Brockton City Councilor-at-large Robert F. Sullivan has announced his candidacy for State Rep. of the 11th Plymouth District.
Sullivan, a Democrat, is seeking the position being vacated by Geraldine Creedon, who announced earlier this month she would not seek reelection.
Sullivan is the second candidate from the Democratic Party to announce a run for Creedon's seat. Claire Cronin, a Brockton lawyer and Easton resident, launched her candidacy a few weeks ago. Sullivan has served as a city wide councilor-at-large since 2006, and was unanimously elected to the position of City Council President in 2008.
Sullivan was born and raised in Brockton and was a resident of Easton from 2001-2003. He attended Brockton public schools and graduated from Brockton High School in 1988.
He graduated from Boston College with a bachelor's in political science and obtained his law degree from the New England School of Law.
Sullivan went on to earn his master's in business administration from Boston College. Sullivan lives in Brockton with his wife, Maria (Luizzi) Sullivan, and their two children.
Sullivan, an attorney, small business owner, and town counsel for Randolph.
He said in a prepared statement his experience and leadership qualities, coupled with his legal training and business background, all strengthen his qualifications as a candidate for state representative.
Sullivan’s other political experiences consist of interning with former Massachusetts Congressman Brian J. Donnelly in Washington D. C. and at the Massachusetts State House with former State Senator Michael C. Creedon.
He also served as Chief Legal Counsel to the Joint Committee on Election Laws for the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
He is an elected member of the Brockton Democratic City Committee and a member of the Plymouth County Democratic League.
In addition, he volunteers as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.
He said in the statement he has city experience, town experience, and State House experience.
Sullivan said he has the background and knowledge needed to be an effective state representative who will respond to the needs and expectations of both Brockton and Easton residents.
Sullivan said he believes the upcoming election is about improving the economic, educational, environmental, and public safety conditions for the district.
Sullivan said he will be a strong advocate for the people of the 11th Plymouth District and asks the people of the 11th to support his candidacy for state representative.
His campaign Committee will host a campaign kick-off event in the near future.
If any residents of the district are interested in attending the event or working on his campaign, please contact the Committee to Elect Robert Sullivan at 508-846-1208.
Due to the recent state redistricting, the 11th Plymouth is now comprised of the following locations: the west and north sections of Brockton--all of Ward 1, Ward 3-D, and Ward 7-C and 7-D-and in Easton precincts 1-5.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brown-Warren Disagree On Contraception Issue

BROCKTON--Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown and his likely Democratic party opponent Elizabeth Warren are battling via commercials, media releases, and op-eds in news outlets over allowing contraception, abortion and other reproductive options as part of health insurance coverage for employees of Catholic hospitals, universities, schools and other institutions.
Here is what they are saying...... 
Elizabeth Warren's statement:
Consumer advocate and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in a statement released Feb. 15, said a Republican proposal that would allow any employer or insurance company to deny anyone access to any health service is irresponsible.
“This is a completely new attack that threatens everyone’s health care,” Warren said of the proposal, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt,(R-MO) and co-sponsored by Senator Scott Brown,(R-MA). "It is an irresponsible assault on the health care of every family in Massachusetts and around our country. I respect the solution President Obama provided last week that ensures that religious institutions are not forced to cover contraception but still makes sure women can get the health services they need. This new bill is not about any of that. This bill would allow any employer or insurance company to refuse to cover anyone for anything,” Warren said.
Warren said the Blunt-Brown bill is different from previous proposals, taking an extremely broad approach that allows any employer or insurance company to claim any objection and use it to deny any health insurance coverage to anyone, for any health service. The company needs to claim only that it has a "moral conviction," an expansive term that is not defined in the proposed legislation.
“Scott Brown is on the wrong side here, standing with Washington and Republican extremists and against the people of Massachusetts--our families, our seniors, and everyone who relies on health insurance to get the care they need,” Warren said.
“This is a critical issue and when he ought to be putting the people of Massachusetts first, he’s not.”
The amendment, supported by Brown, was introduced as President Obama offered a compromise to religious institutions that were uncomfortable with offering contraceptive and other health care coverage to their employees. Supporters of the amendment wrongly claim it writes the compromise into law. In fact, it would undermine health insurance and health care, especially recently passed reforms expanding coverage.
HERE'S WHAT SCOTT BROWN HAS TO SAY: The Brown campaign Thursday, Feb. 23 released the fifth edition of the Scott Brown Radio Report, entitled “Religious Freedom.”
The statewide radio ad began running Feb. 23.
"Senator Brown supports a conscience exemption from a new federal mandate that would force religious organizations to offer insurance coverage for practices that go against the teachings of their faith. This 60-second advertisement is part of a series of “Radio Reports” to be released by Brown during the course of the campaign.
A transcript of the ad is included below. To listen To Brown’s Radio Report, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09q0p2SudRA
If you would rather read what is said in the broadcast here is a copy of the script: “Hello, this is Scott Brown. Religious freedom has always been one of our most precious rights.
It’s what brought the Pilgrims to our shores hundreds of years ago – so they could freely practice their faith.
That’s why I’m concerned about a new federal mandate forcing religious organizations to offer insurance coverage for practices that go against the teachings of their church.
Such a requirement flies in the face of our basic American values of religious tolerance.
Like Ted Kennedy before me, I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith.
I believe it’s possible to provide people with access to the health care they want, while at the same time protecting the rights of Americans to follow their religious beliefs.
For me, the conscience exemption is a matter of fundamental fairness – and a right to be protected for all Americans, of every party and every faith.”