In addition to other disqualifying problems, MacDougall’s international-tourism proposal included spending way more than the defined maximum of 20 percent on administrative costs. If overseas sales representatives’ fees are included, more than half the MacDougall plan was budgeted for administration — three times what the MLA’s budget put toward those same costs.

The Trade Council staff’s evaluation wasn’t the only voice of opposition, as revealed in correspondence obtained by the Phoenix.

Representatives of Boston’s Museum of Science and Museum of Fine Arts sent a letter condemning MacDougall: “The MFA and the MOS would not do business again with Mr. MacDougall.” Several dissenters on the advisory board submitted harsh warnings about MacDougall as well.

MacDougall contends, with some justification, that some of the dissenters had their own biases, due to their relationships with the other bidders. He also argues, less persuasively, that the trade council’s staff was taking direction from the Romney administration to block MacDougall’s bid. “It is my view that they sabotaged the competitive process,” he says.

But at least one dissenting member of Murray’s advisory board, Gerald DiPietro of TourCo in Hyannis, was convinced that the bid process was being pushed in the other direction — toward MacDougall. He sent a scathing letter to Travaglini and Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi.

“The perception in the tourism community throughout New England is that the entire process, and indeed the grant itself, was corrupt in the extreme,” he wrote. “I feel very strongly that [MacDougall’s company] should be eliminated from consideration.”

The decision to award the $2 million contract, however, fell into the laps of the three Trade Council board members in the fall of 2004.

“And this is where it goes through the looking glass,” in the words of one participant in the bid process.

Those three board members were in possession of a staff report telling them that MacDougall was undeserving, and, in fact, ineligible. But defying Murray’s wishes could have been politically disastrous for two of the board members. Mitchell Adams, the board’s chair, for instance, is executive director of the quasi-public Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which relies on state funding controlled by Murray’s committee. And Christopher Supple is a Beacon Hill lobbyist.

Adams and Supple abruptly resigned on the same day in November 2004.

Neither publicly cited the MacDougall decision as the cause. Still, under any circumstances, with just one member remaining of the three-person board, a majority decision was impossible. The final member — a bewildered Columbia University professor — gave up and resigned the following month, effectively dissolving the Trade Council.

Soon after, Ranch Kimball, then serving as Romney’s secretary of the Executive Office of Economic Development, asked Murray and House Ways and Means chair John Rogers to approve a transfer of the $2 million to MOTT so that it could start running the badly needed tourism-marketing program. But Murray denied the request, in a letter obtained by the Phoenix, so Kimball returned the money to the state comptroller.

According to one State House aide, Murray and Bosley then “went ballistic,” and redirected the money to MacDougall — bid process, be damned.

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