Maura In The News

ISD report said to link Joyce to rigging of bids
By Andrea Estes and Donovan Slack, Globe Staff And Globe Correspondent, 3/30/2004

The Boston Finance Commission will release a long-awaited report on an investigation into the city's Inspectional Services Department and its leader Kevin Joyce today or tomorrow, according to the chairman of the commission's board.

The report is expected to conclude that Joyce ordered former ISD employee Julie Fothergill to rig bids so a contract would go to the girlfriend of another worker, said a city official familiar with the investigation. Fothergill sued the city, saying she was wrongfully fired after refusing to rig the bid. The city paid her $240,000 in September to settle the case.

The report is also expected to highlight problems with Joyce's management of the agency and criticize the administration of Mayor Thomas M. Menino for allegedly allowing Joyce to run the department with little or no oversight, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

"They don't manage him from City Hall, and that's the problem," the official said. "If they did, he wouldn't be doing this stuff."

Inspectional Services oversees building and housing in the city and inspects restaurants and other food establishments. Recently, Joyce criticized NStar over incidents in which dogs were shocked or electrocuted while walking on city streets.

Neither Joyce nor his spokesman, John Dorsey, returned calls from the Globe yesterday. Joyce's defenders have said he has become unpopular with some employees and developers because he is unwilling to do political favors.

The Finance Commission's board of directors voted in October to investigate Joyce and the ISD after City Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan questioned why the city would settle a suit that officials had called groundless.

The report was expected to be released two months ago but the commission waited, in part, to give city officials time to correct problems at the agency, and possibly reassign Joyce, according to the official who asked not to be named.

A friend of the mayor and the city official familiar with the investigation said yesterday that Menino has tried unsuccessfully to find Joyce, a longtime friend and political ally, a job outside government.

The report had been slated for release today, but could be delayed because the mayor was hospitalized for an ailment. "The mayor's been sick," Paul Minihane, chairman of the five-member board appointed by the governor to oversee the city's Finance Commission, said yesterday. "It will be released either tomorrow or the next day."

Seth Gitell, spokesman for Menino, would not comment on the report. "Mayor Menino is in the hospital and will address specifics when he gets out," Gitell said. Menino's doctor said he is expected to be released today.

The commission, which is empowered to investigate all matters affecting city finances, interviewed more than a dozen people and reviewed thousands of pages of documents since beginning its review, according to the city official familiar with the investigation.

The bulk of the report is expected to focus on Fothergill's lawsuit and is expected to examine other ISD personnel issues.

Fothergill, 33, a lawyer who was once Joyce's top deputy, alleged that he pressured her to manipulate bids so that a Web page construction contract would go to the girlfriend of another ISD worker. Fothergill said that when she refused, she was demoted and eventually fired.

City officials called the allegations groundless, insisting that Joyce had followed the bidding rules. They said the city settled the case in part to avoid a huge bill for outside lawyers. They also said the Finance Commission had signed off on the contract, but Jeffrey Conley, the commission's executive director, said that was not true.

Fothergill, who now practices law in Vermont, welcomed the release of the report.

"I haven't seen the report yet, but I hope it confirms what I've been saying all along -- that there are flagrant abuses of power going on at ISD, and something needs to be done about it," she said.

The report is also expected to include allegations that Joyce's treatment of ISD employees is sometimes erratic and unpredictable.

In one case, 87-year-old ISD employee Eleanor "Ellie" McDermott was stripped of her duties and relegated to "virtually sitting in a room and doing nothing" for her nearly $1,400 weekly salary, according to the city official familiar with the investigation and current ISD workers. McDermott, whose job is protected by permanent civil service status, filed a complaint last year about her treatment with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Boston Herald reported.

Hennigan, who had called for the Finance Commission investigation, said the report's conclusions will affect every resident of the city.

"The commissioner of Inspectional Services wields a great deal of power," she said. "It's important the residents of the city can feel confident that the person in this position will exercise it fairly.

"There was an allegation of bid rigging and intimidation for refusing to rig the bid. Needless to say, I have to wait to see the report, but if the allegations are true, he shouldn't be there."

Within a month after the commission launched its probe, city officials released a report issued by a management consultant hired to review ISD operations.

The consultant, William Sommers, issued 43 recommendations but none directly criticized Joyce or called for his removal. Sommers urged the mayor to appoint a seven-member commission to oversee the agency.

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


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