Key moments in Memogate

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 9, 2006

July 26: In a story by reporter Sean P. Murphy, the Globe reports that Keaveney — the former safety officer for the I-90 connector tunnel — warned Robert Coutts, the senior project manager for Modern Continental, of a possible fatal ceiling collapse in a memo dated May 17, 1999. The memo cites possible failure of the epoxy-bolt system, which apparently caused Milena Del Valle’s death on July 10, 2005.

July 29: The Herald and Globe report that Modern Continental can’t locate Keaveney’s memo or verify its authenticity. Both papers note that ceiling holes Keaveney described in his memo weren’t drilled until June.

August 3: The Herald and Globe report that Modern Continental says Keaveney’s memo is fake. Both papers note several Modern Continental objections, including: the letterhead on Keaveney’s memo didn’t match the letterhead Modern Continental used in May 1999; the ceiling holes Keaveney described weren’t drilled until June; Keaveney was reprimanded by Modern Continental in 1998 for falsifying safety documents to hire an unknown worker; Keaveney didn’t begin work at the I-90 connector until May 28, 1999, 11 days after the memo was allegedly written; and ironworkers Keaveney mentions weren’t on the job when his memo was allegedly written. Both papers also note that Keaveney now says the school trip that allegedly spurred him to write the memo occurred in 2000. But the Globe story — written by Keaveney and Jonathan Saltzman — also includes positive quotes about Keaveney from colleagues and neighbors, as well as this assessment from Wellesley attorney Thomas F. Healy, who once represented a Modern Continental employee injured on the job: “Healy . . . said Keaveney’s account rings true, even if Modern Continental cannot find the memo he says he wrote.”

August 4: The Herald notes that Keaveney failed to notice slipping bolts in the I-90 connector ceiling in an inspection report filed October 8, one day after another inspector noticed several slipping bolts. Both the Herald and Globe report Keaveney’s August 3 admission that he sent the memo to the Globe. The Herald notes that the Globe had known for several days that the alleged sender, Modern Continental employee Jeff Gram, did not send the memo, but failed to report that fact. The Globe quotes Keaveney saying, “I unequivocally stand by this memo.” The Globe piece includes no reference to reporter Jonathan Saltzman directly challenging Keaveney to account for the discrepancies in his story.

Also, the Globe prints a note from Editor Marty Baron. Baron defends the decision to publish the original story on July 26, citing Keaveney’s willingness to claim authorship of the memo; his confirmed experience as a safety officer for Modern Continental; his current employment with another major construction company; and assurances of “his good reputation in the industry.” However, Baron acknowledges that Keaveney’s admission that he sent the memo to the Globe “raises concerns about credibility.” “The Globe will continue to report fully and forthrightly on this matter,” Baron concludes, “bringing to our readers everything we learn.”

August 5: The Herald reports that a sheet-metal worker accused Keaveney of choking him when the two men were working on the new convention center in South Boston.

August 9: The Globe reports that Keaveney has hired a second lawyer. The Herald details doubts about the veracity of his résumé, including dubious claims about service in Ireland’s military, education at the University of Galway, and stints abroad with several UN peacekeeping missions.

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