By Michael Gaffney
Last week’s editorial on the corruption in City Hall discussed the termination of an employee in the Elections Department, Brittany Legasey. As per the article by Brad Petrishen in the Telegram and Gazette Judge Hillman stated in his opinion concerning the case Legasey brought against the City of Worcester:
“There was ‘sufficient circumstantial evidence’ for the inference that her firing was ‘substantially related to or motivated by her political affiliation.’”
It is obvious that elections should be run fairly and without the trappings of political bias in the Elections Department and City Hall in the City of Worcester. However, this is simply not the case.
This week we will discuss the Elections Department previously run by David Rushford and take a few quotes from Petrishen’s article in the Telegram and Gazette:
“David J. Rushford, who retired in 2016 after 18 years as city clerk, ‘made hiring and firing decisions based on party affiliation’ . . .
‘Additionally, the record shows that Rushford hired (Nikolin) Vangjeli and (Shannon) Emmons, both of whom have been affiliated with Mayor (Joseph) Petty, quickly promoted Vangjeli, and did not discipline either of them for their involvement in the critical error that (Ms. Legasey) was allegedly terminated for,’ Judge Hillman wrote . . .
While discussing his experience working on political campaigns with (Ms. Legasey), Rushford referenced the employees of the clerks department as ‘all good democrats,’ Judge Hillman wrote.
In addition to the alleged statement about ‘good democrats,’ Judge Hillman noted that Mr. Rushford reportedly badmouthed “a city councilor who had campaigned against Mayor Petty in 2011 and 2013.”
So, the Elections Office was being run by a partisan that made hiring, firing, promotion decisions based on party affiliation. But, not just on affiliation alone, as the decision included a determination as to whether the candidate was a “good democrat.”
Rushford suspended Legasey prior to the Preliminary Election and then fired her prior to the General Election. Thereby ensuring that his “good democrat” Mayor Joe Petty would have no one in the Elections Office that wasn’t part of the Joe Petty team. As you can see above, Petty already has a relative in the office and then stacked the deck with a former employee that he recommended for the position.
For many years, Councilor Lukes had complained about Mr. Rushford using his office to go through mail sent to her by constituents and undermining her when she was Mayor as well as a City Counselor by constantly leaking things to the local media. A city employee, running the Elections was actively engaged in conduct to undermine a duly elected official to the detriment of the City.
You may recall that during the same (2015) election Juan Gomez took issue with election irregularities. Gomes is a republican. Rushford used the media to bash Gomez for raising any questions about the Elections Department. Yet, here we are, the City of Worcester has settled a lawsuit because a Federal Judge determined that there was a “reasonable inference” that Rushford was making partisan decisions in the Elections Department.
One of Gomez’s issues was the data he was provided relative to ballots pulled for Early Voting differed from data provided to the Petty campaign as well as other campaigns. Keep in mind, Former Mayor Joe O’Brien was the party requesting the data for Petty and was in constant and direct communication with Vagjeli. As I had significant issue with the data I initially received, I have no reason to doubt Gomez’s claim. However, I found out about the issues early because I contacted Legasey when Vangjeli was unresponsive.
But now Rushford is gone, so the issues are resolved? Not at all.
Keep in mind, as stated in Petrishen reports that the Judge Hillman found that on his way out Rushford “hired (Nikolin) Vangjeli and (Shannon) Emmons, both of whom have been affiliated with Mayor (Joseph) Petty, quickly promoted Vangjeli.”
Vangjeli interned with Petty and received a recommendation from Petty for the position. In fact, Petty claims that Vangjeli is a “superstar.”
Emmons is Petty’s cousin.
You may recall that John Fresolo didn’t run against Dan Donahue as a Democrat in the primary, despite serving as a Democrat his entire life. Fresolo made inquiry with Vangjeli as to the last day to register as a Democrat. Vangjeli gave him the wrong date. Fresolo believed it to have been intentional. As a result, Fresolo was unable to primary Donahue and had to run against him in the general election.
By the way, Donahue used to work for Petty in the Mayor’s Office and Petty was completely behind his campaigns. Of course Vangjeli is a “superstar” according to Petty! He either deliberately or by complete incompetence gave Fresolo the wrong filing date which just happened to help Petty’s friend Donahue keep his seat.
Next week we will continue to discuss the Mayor’s office as well as the City Manager’s and Chamber of Commerce’s involvement in the Paul Cooney affair. As Petrishen outlines:
“In addition to alleging her firing was political, Ms. Legasey had alleged she was retaliated against for questioning why a City Council candidate in 2015, Paul Cooney, had been issued nomination papers despite, in her view, not meeting a residency requirement.
Mr. Cooney, Ms. Legasey had alleged, was a candidate supported by the incumbent administration. He ended up dropping out of the race.
A deposition Mr. Cooney gave in the case conflicted with testimony Mr. Rushford gave surrounding Mr. Cooney’s eligibility for the ballot.
Mr. Cooney testified that Timothy P. Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, called Mr. Rushford to inquire about whether Mr. Cooney satisfied the residency requirement.
But Mr. Rushford – who denied playing politics throughout the deposition – testified that he never spoke to Mr. Murray about Mr. Cooney’s eligibility to run for office. He said it’s possible someone confused his last name with former City Councilor Rick Rushton, something he said had happened in the past.
Mr. Murray on Friday said that he does not believe he made a call to anyone on Mr. Cooney’s behalf. He said he knows Mr. Cooney’s family and did meet with him to discuss his desire to run, but recalled advising him to volunteer for another campaign in 2015 since he was just moving back to the city.
While Ms. Legasey implied Mr. Cooney had the support of the incumbent administration, Mr. Cooney testified that a number of city power players — including Mr. Murray — ultimately did not support his candidacy. He testified that he does not know Mr. Petty well and never spoke to him about running for office.”
First of all, the idea that former Mayor Tim Murray confused a conversation with Mr. Rushford for one with Councilor Rushton is laughable. Rushford had been in his position for 18 years, which would place him in that position when Mr. Murray was Mayor. And why would anyone call a Councilor over the Head of Elections to ask about residency requirements.
Keep an eye on this line; “Mr. Cooney had the support of the incumbent administration, Mr. Cooney testified that a number of city power players — including Mr. Murray — ultimately did not support his candidacy.” Interesting that they decided it wasn’t his time to run once Ms. Legasey discovered and reported the issue with his residency.
If I told you that Cooney had a sit down meeting with City Manager Ed Augustus, after everything else that has been exposed, would you be surprised?
As Jim Polito on WTAG often says, this is the McGovern crime family.