On tonight’s “Beat the Press” edition of Greater Boston (7:00pm, Ch. 2), one segment will look at the Inspector General’s report on allegations regarding a contract for international tourism marketing, raised by an article I wrote a year ago. [Update: It turns out the segment will not air after all.]
While I have previously responded to the report in general, a number of people have asked me specifically about a section of the report’s Executive Summary that directly addresses my article. That section begins (emphasis mine):
In February 2007, an article appeared in a Boston newspaper in which unnamed sources raised questions about the awarding of the ITF funds in the above-described process. This Office’s review has determined that that [sic] the assertions of impropriety cited by the unnamed sources in the article were unsubstantiated, as follows:
Here are the bullet-point items that follow, in full, with my responses.
--an assertion that the winning vendor had been deemed ineligible by MITCI staff during the RFP process due to excessive overhead expense was unsubstantiated by the facts. Furthermore, such conclusion would be erroneous under Commonwealth accounting standards, as easily verified by prior accounting practices;
Whether they were correct or not (a determination I am not in a position to make), MITCI’s staff did conclude that the vendor – William MacDougall – was ineligible by the statute’s criteria. My assertion was based not on anonymous sources but on a copy of the report submitted by them to the board members, as I wrote in the article. The Phoenix obtained a copy of that report, I wrote, which “concluded that MacDougall’s bid was ineligible — i.e., it did not meet the statute’s criteria. 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.”
--an implication that MITCI board members resigned in order to curry favor with members of the legislature was contradicted by the documentary evidence summarized above;
I do not have most of the documentary evidence referred to, which is selectively summarized but not provided in the IG’s report.
I wrote that the three-member board received the MITCI staff report in September 2004, and that “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…. The final member — a bewildered Columbia University professor — gave up and resigned the following month, effectively dissolving the Trade Council.”
That is all true. The IG’s report argues that the three board members resigned over concerns about MITCI’s legal status. I would note that the three board members’ resignation letters, which I have copies of, each provide different explanations for their decisions, not a shared one as implied by the IG’s report — the Columbia professor specifically cited geographical distance, not MITCI’s legal status. In addition, both Adams and Supple resigned prior to the state’s lawyers offering an opinion about MITCI’s legal status.
--an assertion that millions of ITF dollars were missing was inaccurate, and in fact all funds have been accounted for;
There is no such assertion in the article.
The article does assert that Tourism Massachusetts head William MacDougall refused to account for expenses to the satisfaction of Romney and Patrick officials. This was based not only on sources but on extensive documentation – including one memo quoted in the article, sent by MacDougall to state officials, in which he wrote: “There is no provision for us to provide contracts and/or invoices and we are not going to.”
--an allegation that legislators including Senator Murray traveled to Russia through a grant from Tourism Massachusetts and a specific accusation that Senator Murray was traveling to Italy on state-paid “junkets” were proven false by a detailed review of Tourism Massachusetts expenditures. In addition this Office reviewed Senator Murray’s passports covering the time periods from June 12, 1996 through June 11, 2006 and August 7, 2006 through the present and found no evidence of any entries into Italy by Senator Murray during this eleven (11) year time period;
The Phoenix retracted the Italy quote two weeks after the story ran, a year ago.
The Russia trip was mentioned in the last paragraph of the story: “Murray and other legislators went to Russia this past year, paid in part through a grant from Tourism Massachusetts…. That excursion was ostensibly to encourage visitors from a town that, by one industry source’s estimate, might generate a maximum of 35 tourists to Massachusetts” The IG’s office confirms that Tourism Massachusetts made a grant of over $25,000, to a Umass-Amherst institute, which was used to sponsor the exhange of officials with a Russia town, and that Murray was one of the legislators who travelled as part of that exchange. However, an IG spokesperson tells the Phoenix that the institute did not pay for any of those legislators’ travel expenses.
--the unnamed parties making assertions in the newspaper article would likely have been aware –but apparently failed to disclose- the well-documented legal controversy that led to the breakdown of the ITF procurement, including a documented opinion by the General Counsel to the Attorney General that MITCI is in fact a state agency, validating the reasons behind the MITC board member’s resignations.
This appears to be an allegation that sources for the article must have deliberately withheld information from the Phoenix regarding the MITCI board’s reasons for resigning. It does not appear to dispute anything in the article, beyond what was raised in the earlier bullet-point item, and appears to be an attempt to speculate about my sources’ identities, and to cast aspersions upon their actions and motivations.