By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Rep. Harold Naughton testified Monday he had called the former probation commissioner to recommend people for jobs in probation and had reached out to Rep. Tom Petrolati for the same purpose, but said the phone call he received from an aide to Rep. Robert DeLeo in the summer of 2007 was unique in his roughly two decades in the Legislature.
In that call, DeLeo's aide at the time, Lenny Mirasolo, told Naughton about one job opening in the Clinton Democrat's home city, at a new electronic monitoring facility run by the probation department, and asked if Naughton had a referral, Naughton testified in federal court.
Naughton said he recommended Michael Sheraton, the son of an attorney in the area he knew "professionally" and Sheraton later received a job. Naughton said he was aware in the summer of 2007 that DeLeo was positioning himself to succeed Salvatore DiMasi as speaker of the House, something DeLeo achieved after DiMasi's January 2009 resignation.
Also on Monday, Rep. James O'Day was called to the stand in the trial of three former probation officials and said that in July 2007, two months after he had been elected to the House, DeLeo himself called to ask if his district included Clinton and to let him know about a job opportunity at the new electronic monitoring, or ELMO, facility.
O'Day's recommendation, Stephen Ware, applied for a job at ELMO on Sept. 5, 2007, and John O'Brien, who was then the probation commissioner, wrote a letter also dated Sept. 5, 2007 to the chief justice of administration and management, saying O'Brien was appointing Ware to the job of acting assistant electronic monitoring coordinator with a starting salary of $40,446, according to evidence presented Monday.
Ware, 35, who had worked with O'Day, 60, at the Department of Social Services - now the Department of Children and Families - said he did some information technology work for O'Day during his campaign and had told him about his desire to get into law enforcement when the two worked together.
Ware also said he had submitted a resume prior to filling out the Sept. 5, 2007 application.
Both O'Day and Naughton said they never traded their votes in exchange for anyone they had recommended receiving a job.
"Your actions as a state legislator are not for sale, is that correct?" asked defense attorney John Amabile, finding agreement from Naughton. Amabile said, "You didn't get a bribe. You didn't bribe anybody else."
O'Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, are on trial for allegedly rigging hiring in the department and conspiring to use jobs as a form of bribery with the hopes of favorable treatment from the Legislature. O'Brien allegedly doled out ELMO jobs like "lollipops" to help DeLeo in his quest for the speakership, according to prosecutor Fred Wyshak.
Over Wyshak's objections and amid Amabile's paeans to patriotism, Naughton, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, discussed the circumstances of his call to Petrolati, a Ludlow Democrat who was allegedly particularly influential in probation personnel decisions.
Naughton, 53, said he was in Baghdad at the time, serving on a tour in Iraq, and late one night he had a chance to use a land line. Unable to call his wife, Naughton tried the House floor, asked who was around, and was then patched through to the rostrum, where Petrolati, previously the speaker pro tempore, took the call. On the call, Naughton told Petrolati about a constituent who worked as a probation officer at Clinton District Court and was looking for a promotion, Naughton said.
The Clinton Democrat, who ended a campaign for attorney general earlier this year, agreed with Wyshak that the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which was DeLeo in 2007, and the speaker, "pretty much control the budget process."
Naughton also understood House leadership to have influence over probation hiring.
"It would be helpful... for someone from leadership to advocate to the probation commissioner's office," said Naughton. Under cross examination, Naughton said he would call Chief Justice of Administration and Management Robert Mulligan about court officer jobs.
Naughton said Mulligan lobbied him for the authority to transfer funds between the various Trial Court appropriations, including from the probation department. In February 2005, Mulligan notified the Legislature he was transferring $2 million into court security, and moving $695,095 out of probation and into the District Court Administrative Office, among other transfers. Mulligan later lost his ability, granted by the Legislature, to move funds.
In 2007, when DeLeo and his office alerted Naughton and O'Day about ELMO jobs, Naughton said he "was aware" the House Ways and Means chairman and Winthrop Democrat was seeking the speakership.
Rep. Anne Gobi, a Spencer Democrat who is now seeking an open Senate seat, previously testified she was not aware that DeLeo was seeking the speakership until "rumblings" in late 2008. O'Day said he was also not aware until well after the 2007 phone call that DeLeo wanted the top House post.
DeLeo won the speakership over a challenge from Rep. John Rogers, a Norwood Democrat.
O'Day initially supported Quincy Democrat Rep. Ron Mariano for speaker, but Mariano did not have enough votes and withdrew his name from consideration, he said. Naughton said that he had previously backed Rogers in his losing bid for the speakership in September 2004, when DiMasi won the post.
O'Day, Naughton and Gobi, who all testified they saw the candidates they recommended hired to ELMO positions, all said the supported DeLeo.
O'Day said his experience working with Rogers on a committee tasked with addressing child abuse convinced him not to support Rogers for speaker. Naughton said DeLeo agreed with him on providing more support to veterans, which helped win his support.