The Big Dig Indictment: Some Smoke and Mirrors?

            FreeForAll readers will want to check out my online piece for The Boston Phoenix, in which I express some skepticism over Attorney General Martha Coakley’s recent indictment of Powers Fasteners, Inc., the Big Dig’s epoxy manufacturer, for involuntary manslaughter. I theorize, based on what we know so far, that Coakley may have some ulterior motives in bringing this indictment. Prosecution of Powers Fasteners serves to deflect blame from the Commonwealth for its role in the tunnel collapse that killed a Jamaica Plain resident last summer. And by deflecting attention from its own role in the tragedy, the Commonwealth will have a better shot at ironing out a large civil settlement with contractors, thereby erasing some of the project’s massive cost overruns.

            A article in today’s Boston Globe (“Officials withhold critique of Big Dig tunnel leak  report”) lends credence to my theory. The Globe reports that Bernard Cohen, the state transportation secretary and chairman of the Turnpike Authority board, has refused to release two reports on the project, one commissioned by the state, and one prepared for the state by an outside engineering firm. Cohen justified his refusal by explaining that he did not want to impede the state’s legal effort to sue the contractors. It’s a pretty transparent excuse, but, to his credit, at least he’s honest. It seems that our government has no problem with resorting to secrecy in order to save its own skin.

            Just another example of the old maxim that liberty requires eternal vigilance, and skepticism. Neither citizens nor the news media should be too quick to credit governmental news releases and press conferences. Ronald Reagan famously said about the Soviets “trust, but verify.” When it comes to our government, which has proven so inept in this project over the years, I propose a variation on this maxim:  “Don’t trust. Then verify.”


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