Menino says Joyce 'vilified' in media
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff, 4/9/2004
A day after accepting the resignation of the city's inspectional services commissioner, Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday blamed Kevin Joyce's downfall on the news media, saying that Joyce had done nothing wrong but that bad publicity rendered him ineffective in the job.
In an interview, Menino insisted that Joyce did ``a fabulous job as commissioner,'' even though a report by the Boston Finance Commission last week concluded that he persecuted and then fired an aide for refusing to fabricate bids. The report, which recommended management changes without naming Joyce specifically, also blamed the commissioner for the aide's wrongful termination lawsuit that cost city taxpayers at least $360,000 to settle.
``The kid is being vilified in the media,'' Menino said of Joyce. ``There was no bid-rigging. He became a cause cel?ebre and he couldn't do his job. I still say Kevin did a great job.''
On Wednesday, Menino announced in a written statement that he had asked for Joyce's resignation, but yesterday he said Joyce volunteered to resign.
``Kevin decided it was time for him to leave for the good of the department and to set a new course for himself,'' Menino said. Asked to reconcile Menino's written statement on Wednesday with his remarks yesterday, mayoral spokesman Seth Gitell said Menino had asked Joyce to resign.
A Menino adviser who has spoken with the mayor about Joyce's departure said he and other advisers told Menino two years ago that the commissioner had to go, but that he had put off taking action.
Menino ``waited until it became a nine-alarm fire before doing something,'' the adviser said of the mayor's handling of Joyce. ``He felt bad. Joyce is a hard-working guy with a family.''
Joyce, 47, whose last day was Wednesday, could not be reached for comment.
The resignation comes at a crucial time for Menino. The agency, responsible for overseeing building and housing and inspections of restaurants and nightclubs, is one of the city's most influential. It will be left in new hands - chief of the Boston Police Department's Bureau of Administrative Services William J. Good III.
Gitell said Good met with ISD managers yesterday.
``His mission is to continue the management and technological improvements that he oversaw at the Police Department and help ISD implement the management reforms and administrative improvements necessary,'' Gitell said.
City Councilor John Tobin said the mayor may have been blinded by his 30-year friendship with Joyce, who met the mayor in the 1970s when they both worked for then-state senator Joseph Timilty.
``Sometimes it's difficult to separate the relationship from the reality,'' Tobin said. ``One of the things people love about the mayor is he's loyal. I don't know too much about the inner workings of ISD, but I did read the [Finance Commission] report and it's pretty damning. It's there in black and white.''
Asking Joyce to leave was ``tough, but necessary,'' Tobin said. ``The people you have working for you are a reflection of you. If they do things that are out of character or certainly not consistent with your character, you have to take care of it.''
City Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan, a Menino critic who had praised the mayor's decision to ask Joyce to resign, said Menino's remarks yesterday are a step backward.
``His comments defending Kevin Joyce's behavior completely negate the step he took'' on Wednesday,'' Hennigan said. ``People need to hear a message - a message that city government is no place for people who want to harass their employees and squander taxpayers' money.''
Meanwhile, Lisa Timberlake, an ISD spokeswoman, defended Joyce's performance. She said Joyce created a special operations unit to respond to police, fire, and other emergencies, opened a constituent services office, and offered rental property clinics for property owners and classes to help restaurant owners become certified food managers.
Jeffrey Conley, executive director of the Finance Commission, declined to comment after Menino defended Joyce. He said, however, that this week the State Ethics Commission had launched its own probe and copied documents that Conley's panel had collected in its probe.
Ethics Commission spokeswoman Carol Carson declined to comment, citing a commission policy against confirming investigations. Under the state's conflict of interest law, the agency can seek civil penalties against any public official found to have attempted to award a contract to a friend, or who is found to have retaliated against someone out of bias or because of a personal grudge.
In its nine-page report issued March 31, the Finance Commission said Joyce was responsible for a wrongful termination suit that cost the city $360,000 in legal fees and settlement costs. The report also said the suit, brought by Joyce's former second in command, Julie Fothergill, showed management problems that should be corrected immediately.
The Finance Commission began the probe in October after the city paid Fothergill $240,000 to settle her suit. Fothergill, 34, a lawyer, alleged that Joyce asked her to fabricate bids in 2000 so the city could pay the girlfriend of another ISD official $7,900 for working on ISD's Web page.
Fothergill alleged that when she refused, she was banished to another floor, demoted, and eventually fired. The commission backed Fothergill, saying that Joyce gave contradictory accounts.
Though Fothergill at first agreed to leave ISD with just $17,000 in severance, Joyce let that deal fall apart, the report said.
The city eventually paid Fothergill $240,000 plus $120,000 to outside lawyers and other expenses.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.