After a full year investigating a Boston Phoenix article about State Senate President Therese Murray, the state’s Inspector General released a report today finding “no evidence of impropriety” in the legislature’s awarding of $11 million worth of contracts for international-tourism marketing.
The report, however, fails to even address many of the key elements of the Phoenix story, while agreeing in almost every respect with the article’s claims. It seems Inspector General Gregory Sullivan — a former legislative colleague of Murray, whose budget is controlled by the legislature she oversees — goes out of his way in the report to avoid addressing — let alone criticizing — many of the most important actions described in the article.
Sullivan’s report disputes or contradicts only a few minor claims in the article — one of which — a mention of Murray having traveled to Italy — the Phoenix retracted two weeks after the story ran, almost one year ago. Nevertheless, the IG’s office “reviewed Senator Murray’s passport…and found no evidence of any entries into Italy.”
But while conceding that she had not, as we erroneously reported, gone to Italy, the Phoenix stood by the broader assertion in the article — which Sullivan’s report failed to even address — that:
…Murray had become personal friends with state tourism officials and industry leaders, who regularly took Murray on state-paid international junkets to promote Massachusetts, say people in the field.
The 3500-word Phoenix article, published in February 2007, described the process through which Murray and representative Daniel Bosley privatized the international-tourism marketing function previously run by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) — and ensured that the contract would be awarded to an individual named William MacDougall. As the article said:
“If your average taxpayer knew that you can take $11 million, give it to a couple of friends, with no oversight or supervision, and get away with it, they would go crazy,” says one individual who was directly involved in the bidding process for the state grant. “But that’s what happened.”
Murray and Bosley championed MacDougall, the article reported, even though he had been forced to resign from MOTT after the state auditor’s office accused him in 2001 of inappropriate use of state money, failure to report gifts, personal use of state frequent-flyer miles, and thousands of dollars of questionable reimbursements.
The IG’s report mentions nothing about these apparent irregularities of MacDougall, his association with Murray and others involved in helping steer the contract to him, nor other objections and complaints that had been raised about him in the Phoenix article.
Nor does it address allegations that MacDougall paid more than $1.1 million on Web site development, when his original proposal called for $35,000.
Regarding the awarding of the contract, almost everything in the IG’s report concurs with the Phoenix’s version of events. Those aspects of the story that the report does not specifically corroborate, neither does it refute.
With one exception: The IG challenges the reason given by the Phoenix for the abrupt resignations of all three board members of the agency — the Massachusetts International Trade Council, Inc. (MITCI) — charged, by statute, with awarding the contract.