By Michael Gaffney
The last two week’s editorials 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.’”
If you want to get caught up on the past article on the corruption in City Hall, here are the links:
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.
Let’s review some more of Petrishen’s article in the Telegram and Gazette:
“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.”
In sum, a candidate (Cooney) was supported by the incumbent administration and was not legally able to run for office, but the head of the Elections Department (Rushford) was going to let him run anyway.
Nice to have connections within the incumbent administration!
Apparently Legacy should have turned a blind eye to the violation of the law if she wanted to keep her job.
Also, Rushford’s claim that he never spoke to Murray is completely debunked by Cooney’s testimony. Do we really think that Murray would have called Rushton instead of Rushford?
What is left out is that Cooney testified that he “had the support of the incumbent administration” and that “a number of city power players … ultimately did not support his candidacy”, from my information, he was referring to the City Manager, Edward M. Augustus. Keep in mind that the City put a gag order on Legacy to prevent the public from inquiring with her further.
You see, Cooney’s run interfered with the strategy of the “incumbent administration”. As I recall from my conversations with Ms. Legacy back when Mr. Cooney pulled papers, he advised her that he was called into Augustus’s office, sat down with Augustus and Augustus told him not to run. (Next week I’ll discuss how and when I became aware of the strategy of the “incumbent administration”, it will definitely be a hoot!)
I won’t say I was surprised about it, as I am quite familiar with how this administration and the City Manager operate. Of course, until this case was resolved and exposed the dark inner workings of City Hall, most people would have just considered the accusation as election spin.
Fortunately, “Honest Ed Augustus” was just given a contract extension so he can continue to help keep his friends in power.
This isn’t the first time that taxpayer paid employees of City Hall have attempted to interfere with candidates running for office.
You may remember a column by Dianne Williamson in the Telegram & Gazette back in May 2014, the same year that the Legacy termination stemmed from, titled Did insider hardball cross a line at City Hall? The column detailed how Michael Lanava, an employee in Mayor Joe Petty’s office, chased down and threatened Josh Perro in the parking garage because Perro pulled papers to run against Rep. Dan Donahue, a former employee of Petty’s office. Lanava suddenly left the employ of City Hall after the confrontation. But, Lanava was still driving Petty around and working on Petty’s campaign during the next election.
If you sorted that out, it means that Perro pulled papers in the Elections Department on the 3rd floor of City Hall and somehow, Lanava found out about it while working up on the 4th floor at the other end of the building. Likely, someone in the Elections Department called Lanava as soon as Perro filed. That someone could have been either Petty’s former intern Nikolin Vangjeli (now the Head of the Elections Department) or Petty’s cousin, Shannon Emmons (an employee in the Elections Department). It’s nice to have so much nepotism in the Elections Department.
As with Augustus, Lanava landed on his feet with a cushy position with the State Lottery, with fellow democrat Deborah Goldberg, whose campaign he worked on. And now, Lanava is the Chair of the Worcester Democratic City Committee.
Michael Lanava is second from left
It certainly appears that City Hall and the local Democrat Party rewards those that threaten political candidates.
I am far from done with exposing City Hall and all the players involved that try to subvert free and fair elections.
In addition to the item I mentioned above, next week, I’ll discuss former City Councilor and now candidate Tony Economou’s role in all of this. I’ll also discuss the case of another person that eventually lost employment because of an alleged association with me.
It’s probably time that City Hall remove the gag order.