Menino nudges; Joyce resigns
Report pressured inspections chief
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff, 4/8/2004
Kevin Joyce, the embattled commissioner of the city's Inspectional Services Department, resigned yesterday at the request of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, one week after the Boston Finance Commission blamed him for a legal settlement that cost taxpayers more than $360,000.
Menino called Joyce "a loyal and effective public servant," making no mention of the controversy that has dogged Joyce since a former aide alleged that Joyce had ordered her to fabricate bids for the girlfriend of another department official.
"Good management dictates periodic change on the administrative level," Menino said in a written statement he released. "This change will aid the process of management reform and administrative improvement."
In its nine-page report issued last Wednesday, the Fincom said Joyce was responsible for a wrongful-termination lawsuit that cost the city more than $360,000 in legal fees and settlement costs. The report said that the suit, brought by Julie Fothergill, Joyce's former second in command, showed troubling management problems that should be corrected immediately. It did not call for Joyce's removal.
After the Fincom's report was issued, Menino immediately defended Joyce, despite a chorus of critics calling for his resignation.
Two advisers who are close to Menino said the mayor was reluctant to fire Joyce, who has been a loyal friend and supporter since the 1970s, when they worked for state Senator Joseph Timilty. Menino also said Joyce has performed well in the $105,000-a-year job, running one of the city's high-profile agencies, the advisers said. He has held the job since 1998.
But after the Fincom issued its scathing report, both Menino and Joyce knew he would eventually have to go, the advisers said. This week, the state Ethics Commission requested documents from the Fincom for an inquiry it has begun on Joyce and the department, the Fincom's executive director, Jeffrey Conley, said yesterday.
Menino has been scrambling unsuccessfully to find Joyce a job, the advisers said.
"It was the toughest decision he ever made," said one friend of the mayor who spoke to Menino about deliberations on Joyce. William J. Good III, a Police Department administrator whom Menino picked last year to become Menino's chief of staff, will step in as acting commissioner, Menino said. Good is chief of the Boston Police Department's Bureau of Administrative Services.
Joyce did not return several phone calls yesterday. But in a brief letter of resignation, he thanked Menino for "all the support you have given me during the past five years."
He also thanked his staff, saying, "Together, I hope we've made the neighborhoods of Boston better places to live and work."
According to employees who spoke on the condition they not be named, Joyce informed his top managers of his resignation about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Some cried at the news, said a worker who was present.
It was only the second time Menino has publicly sought the resignation of a department head. In 1999 he asked Boston Redevelopment Authority director Thomas O'Brien to step down after a Globe spotlight team report that O'Brien's chief of staff had been allowed to buy a subsidized unit in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Yesterday, political observers and city councilors praised Menino's decision.
"I want to commend the mayor for recognizing the seriousness of the situation," said Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan, who had asked the Fincom to investigate Fothergill's allegations.
"He is sending a message to both department heads and all city employees that they have to be held to certain standards," she said. "Clearly Commissioner Joyce violated these standards."
Menino also appointed a nine-member advisory committee yesterday to oversee the department.
The Fincom launched its probe in October, after the city paid Fothergill $240,000 to settle her suit. Fothergill, 34, a lawyer, alleged that in 2000 Joyce pressured her to fabricate bids so that a Web page contract would go to the girlfriend of Deputy Commissioner John Dorsey.
Fothergill alleged that when she refused, she was banished to another floor, demoted, and eventually fired.
City officials called Fothergill's allegations groundless, but said they settled the case rather than go to trial, in part to avoid a huge bill for outside lawyers.
The Fincom's report backed up Fothergill's allegations, saying that Joyce gave contradictory accounts of what had happened. Inspectional Services Department officials failed to get three quotes before awarding a $7,900 Web design contract to Melissa Fetzer, the report concluded.
When city officials refused to pay the bill, Joyce asked Fothergill to go back and get two higher quotes to justify the contract award.
Fothergill agreed to leave with just $17,000 in severance; but Joyce let the deal fall apart, and the city never paid, the Fincom report said. The city eventually paid Fothergill $240,000, plus $120,000 to outside lawyers and other expenses that are "impossible to quantify," according to the report, which put the total cost at more than $400,000. "Although this should have happened three years ago, I am happy the mayor has finally done the right thing," said Fothergill, who now lives in Vermont.
Paul Minihane, chairman of the Fincom, said he trusted Menino to handle the situation correctly. "I expected that the mayor would handle things in an appropriate fashion," he said. "I'm satisfied the [nine-member advisory] committee has been appointed, and things are moving forward."
Joyce has been praised by neighborhood leaders, saying he responds quickly to their complaints and concerns. He attends meetings and answers calls at night and on weekends, they said.
But Joyce has also been a controversial figure, and some employees, developers, and property owners have called him erratic and unpredictable.
Joyce and the department had been sued several times. In one recent suit, developer Todd Hamilton said Joyce hounded him after neighbors complained about his single-family house project.
His lawyer, Lisa Kane, said that when she called Joyce to try to resolve a permit dispute, he hung up on her. When she tried to see him in person, she said, Joyce refused to see her.
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 4/8/2004.
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