Saturday, January 30, 2010

Harshbarger Probe 1991-1995

Lost Timeline

In the early years of this century when prominent figures in Springfield's Democrat Party machine were going down in a hail of indictments, some observers had a strong sense of deja-vu. They had good reason to, since it was only a decade earlier that another corruption probe resulting in a round of indictments had been undertaken by then Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

Unlike the more recent probe, in which nearly everyone charged was found guilty, the Harshbarger probe produced fewer indictments or convictions. In fact, critics at the time accused Harshbarger of showboating, bringing indictments primarily to attract headlines that would help in his planned run for Governor. It was true that Harshbarger had a reputation as a publicity hound, in particular for his prosecution of the infamous Fells Acres Case, in which many critics accused Harshbarger of prosecuting the defendants even after it should have become obvious that they were innocent.

However, the fact that so many who came under a cloud in the Harshbarger probe resurfaced in the federal probe a decade later, left many wondering whether Harshbarger, whatever his motives, was truly on to something.

Recently going through the vaults I came upon this timeline of the probe that appeared in the Springfield Republican in May of 1995. In the interest of preserving the record of that important episode in Valley history, I am reprinting it here.

Jan. 16, 1991
L. Scott Harshbarger sworn in as attorney general.

Spring, 1991
Department of Revenue begins examining tax returns of then-Springfield City Council President Francis G. Keough and former Parking Clerk Stephen Phillips, who were partners in some property deals.

January, 1992
AG Chief of Staff Donald Davenport writes memo indicating there could be widespread political corruption in Springfield. Memo was in response to Department of Revenue report on an interview with defeated City Councilor Mitchell Ogulewitz.

Feb. 18, 1992
Lawyer Roy H. Anderson, Keough 's cousin, indicted on two counts of attempting to evade taxes and one count of filing a false tax return; later charged with five counts of aiding Keough in filing false tax returns.

March 24, 1992
Developer Robert L. DelPozzo, who owned a building with Anderson, indicted on one count of failing to file a tax return.

April 15, 1992
Then-School Committeeman Edward D. Friedman, who owned property with Anderson and Keough , indicted on five misdemeanor counts of failing to file personal income tax returns.

April 20, 1992
Keough indicted on five felony counts involving tax returns and one misdemeanor.

May 29, 1992
Phillips indicted on one count of willful failure to pay income taxes on $10,000 earned in a real estate deal.

June 9, 1992
Phillips pleads guilty and is fined $2,500 and sentenced to a suspended, one-year jail term and two years of probation.

Jan. 11, 1993
DelPozzo convicted on a single count of failing to file a state tax return. Sentenced to serve seven days in jail, spend one year on probation and pay taxes plus interest.

Feb. 17, 1993
Grand jury convened in Hampden County on consulting contracts between businesses that received contracts from the city and former political consultant Charles J. Kingston Jr. No indictments resulted.

Feb. 18, 1993
Kingston indicted in on five counts of willfully filing falsified tax returns from 1987 to 1991.

Late February, 1993
Harshbarger touted by supporters and the media as future gubernatorial candidate, partly on basis of high-profile Springfield cases.

March 1, 1993
Anderson acquitted in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on criminal tax charges. Judge criticizes AG's office for lack of evidence. Five counts on aiding Keough continued and later dropped.

March 16, 1993
Friedman pleads guilty to five misdemeanor tax counts, is fined $25,000 and given a suspended one-year sentence.

April 5, 1993
Leslie F. Dinsbach, a real estate lawyer, who handled a property transfer for Anderson, indicted on five counts of willful failure to file income tax returns between 1986 and 1990. No disposition. He has failed to respond to a summons and the AG's Office has been unable to locate him.

April 30, 1993
Keough pleads guilty to one misdemeanor. Four felony counts dismissed, and fifth dismissed 18 months later. Councilor sentenced to pay $31,250 in fines.

May 13, 1993
Harshbarger criticizes Mayor Robert T. Markel for questioning his investigation.

June, 1993
AG subpoenas records of dealings between Worcester-based consultant Insurance Cost Control Inc. and several communties around the state.

Oct. 14, 1993
Details of sealed indictments issued in AG's case against ICC owner E. Paul Tinsley and Springfield Personnel Director Joseph D. Dougherty appear in The Boston Globe.

Nov. 12, 1993
Dougherty indicted on 16 charges including larceny, attempted larceny and accepting a $500 gratuity from an insurance consultant doing business with the city; Tinsley indicted on 22 counts, including stealing $800,000 from the city attempting to steal another $200,000 and making a gratuity to a public official; ICC indicted on 20 counts of larceny, attempted larceny and presenting false claims to the city; Carolan Sharry, ICC employee, indicted on six counts of presenting false claims to the city.

March 11, 1994
Tinsley and Group Benefits Strategies Inc. of Worcester, formerly ICC, indicted on charges of corporate tax evasion. Case has not gone to trial.

Aug. 30, 1994
Kingston found guilty on three counts of willfully state income tax returns in 1987, 1988, and 1990.

Sept. 21, 1994
Kingston sentenced to serve four months in Hampshire County Jail, and pay $30,000 in fines. An appeal is pending.

Nov. 8, 1994
Harshbarger re-elected.

Dec. 13, 1994
Judge dismisses 24 of 64 indictments against Tinsley, Dougherty and ICC.

May 11, 1995
Details of a letter from AG's office allegedly relating to insurance trial appear in The Boston Globe. The letter alleged that ICC employees made improper campaign contributions to U.S. Rep.Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and state Sen. Linda Melconian, D-Springfield.

May 17, 1995
Judge dismisses 18 charges in insurance case. Sharry cleared of all charges.

May 18, 1995
Hampden County Superior Court Judge William H. Welch lashes out at AG's office for inappropriate conduct in commenting on the court case. His comments followed a complaint by defense lawyer Richard Egbert that the letter on contributions had been leaked to the Globe.

May 22, 1995
Dougherty cleared of all charges; Tinsley convicted of one count of submitting a false bill for $54,000 and acquitted on all other charges, his sentencing set for June 16 with appeal pending; ICC convicted on two counts of false billing.

Celluci and Harshbarger

Epilog: Scott Harshbarger ran for Governor in 1998 and was defeated by Paul Celluci. Francis Keough is currently in prison on parole violations. Richard Neal is a member of Congress, and Linda Melconian was defeated for Mayor in 2003. Charlie Kingston never served a day in jail and remained a prominent figure in local politics, even serving as campaign manager for former Mayor Mike Albano. Joseph Dougherty was removed from his position as Personnel Director by Mayor Charles V. Ryan. Mitch Ogulewicz now resides out of state.

So the question remains, could the terrible scandals that rocked Springfield in the new century have been avoided had the Harshbarger probe of the 1990's been more successful?

Old News

Speaking of the Springfield Newspapers, here's a rare photo of the staff in 1915. Dig the papers all over the floor.

Despite the overwhelming advantages of today's internet media, it is hard not to mourn the passing of print newsroom culture. Today's young journalists will never know it.

This is a badge that newspaper boys had to wear when hawking papers in the 1930's. That was when my Uncle John was a paperboy. Starting at the age of ten he walked from Pine Point to stand outside the Indian Motocycle factory on State Street, selling to the factory workers as they went in and out.

Today's Music Video

This video set to Irish music was filmed primarily in Amherst.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brown in Chicopee

Rock Star Welcome

U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown got an enthusiastic welcome this morning in Chicopee, where he came to greet and thank his Western Mass supporters. These photos by Joshua Clark captures some of the action:

The nation's most famous pick-up truck parked outside the Hukelau.

The local media goes wild as Brown enters the room.

Even Democrat Mayor Mike Bissonette couldn't stay away.

The star attraction.

A pad of paper with the Senator's autograph.

The Senator holds the camera at arms length so that his fans can get in the picture.

I don't know if I can stand to hear another word about Scott Brown, and how his election trashed the Kennedy legacy and crippled the Obama presidency. However, I can endure a few cartoons.

Al on Zinn

I was not an admirer of Howard Zinn, the Boston University professor who died yesterday and who was best known for his fantasy novel "A People's History of the United States." However, rather than say sarcastic things about the newly departed, I'll just let former Valley journalist Al Giordano (below in 1990) remind us of Professor Zinn's role in local affairs.

In 1986, when students at the University of Massachusetts occupied school offices to block CIA recruiting, joined by my pal Abbie Hoffman and presidential daughter Amy Carter, and went to trial (a case that I was involved in at least to the extent of getting my attorney Tom Lesser to represent Carter and advise Abbie and the others how to turn the tables and put the CIA on trial in what was meant to be a mere criminal trespass case), Howard came to Northampton, raised his right hand, and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. His testimony - about the patriotic and fully American traditions that the occupiers had practiced - was key in convincing the jury to acquit the defendants.

In 1990, when Boston University president John Silber sought and won the Democratic Nomination for Governor of Massachusetts, Zinn drove out to Springfield regularly to co-captain my WSPR radio show and explain to the populace in the western part of the state the authoritarian nature of this bizarro-land political candidate whose autobiography, Howard quipped, should have been titled Mein Campus. Howard understood the inspiring power of humor, too.

Yesterday in Wales

Today's Music Video

Oh cool, Phish is on the cover of the Valley Advocate!

John Sendelbach graphic

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Details

On the Lives of the Beats

I recently finished reading Bill Morgan's 2007 biography of poet Allen Ginsberg I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. It's a good read, and especially interesting because it focuses on material that became available only after Ginsberg's death in 1997, taken from his personal journals and archives.

It helps to already know something about Ginsberg's life and times before reading this biography, since it tends to skim over famous events from Ginsberg's life in order to put the emphasis on the new material never before released. The biography brings to light a number of aspects of Ginsberg such as:

- His basic insecurity. Ginsberg was always bold and socially uncompromising in public settings, often appearing to relish shocking people with his rude disregard for societal conventions. Yet his journals reveal that he was often filled with confusion and self-doubt in private.

- Ginsberg had a long term relationship with Peter Orlovsky (above left) that has often been cited as a role model of an enduring homosexual romance. However Ginsberg's journals reveal that their relationship was much rockier behind the scenes than the public ever saw, including incidents of violence.

- There are also details revealed that portray other figures of the beat generation in a different light. Jack Kerouac is shown as being much sharper in his final alcoholic phase than he is usually given credit for. Neal Cassady, previously thought to have had only a brief homosexual affair with Ginsberg, is revealed as having had a much more extensive sexual relationship, much of which was conducted in secret because Cassady was married at the time.

- Although Ginsberg was so famous that to this day he is the only modern poet that most Americans can recognize from a photograph, this book says Ginsberg was secretly jealous of the fame of rock stars and wished he could be one himself. He also apparently had a lot more private (non-sexual) interaction with Bob Dylan than was previously known.

Incidentally, when I told Springfield Republican columnist and Dylan obsessive Tom Shea (above) that I was reading this book, he told me a bit of local Ginsberg lore that I hadn't known. Apparently just after Ginsberg's death, Dylan played at Smith College in Northampton and dedicated the song "Don't Think Twice" to his old friend. Shea also reminded me that Ginsberg appeared onstage at the Springfield Civic Center in 1975 playing finger cymbals during the all-star encore for Dylan's "Rolling Thunder" tour. Here is a picture of Dylan and Ginsberg at the grave of Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts taken the day before the Springfield show.

So while I think I Celebrate Myself is a good read for the true beat generation fan in search of formerly unavailable details, the general reader would probably find this book lacking in overview and more in-depth than they would require.

Old Pine Point

Speaking of local history, here's some pictures of the Pine Point section of Springfield that people have sent me. Here is the late Yolly Nahorniak in 2008.

This is State Street just before you get to Saint Michael's Cemetery, where the road splits into Berkshire and Boston Road. A large and ancient pine tree once stood at that fork in the road, but not in the lifetime of anyone now living. The date of the photograph is unknown. I believe both of those structures shown in the picture are still standing, one is a gravestone seller (as it apparently was back then) and the other in recent years was a car lot. Dig the trolley tracks.

An undated photo of a cemetery worker in Saint Michael's.

Good advice from a St. Michael's resident.

Today's Music Video

Cool dancing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Neal in Danger

District Goes Republican

Among the more interesting statistics to emerge from the January 19th special election in Massachusetts is that the cities and towns making up the congressional district of Congressman Richard Neal went for Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley by a eye-popping margin of 57 versus 42 percent. In fact every single community in Neal's district went for Brown except Northampton, Springfield and the town of Hadley. This map shows the general shape of Neal's district and the election results, revealing the three lonely Democrat wins (in blue) amidst a sea of Republican red:

The Democrats have held the seat since 1949, and Neal himself has held it since 1989, repeatedly re-elected with no opposition from the Republican Party since 1996. However, this year the winds of change are blowing in the 2nd District, just as they are in the state and the nation. The surprise Republican triumph last week in Neal's district has got to be encouraging news to Neal's two GOP challengers, Northampton's Dr. Jay Fleitman and Tom Wesley of Hopedale. Just a few weeks ago, Neal's challengers looked like a couple of likely losers fighting over a booby prize. But now with Scott Brown's demonstrated ability to inspire the district to vote Republican, the GOP nomination looks increasingly like a stepping stone to Congress for someone who runs a Brown-style campaign. Indeed, Neal's long and unchallenged incumbency, usually an asset, now looks like it may make him a rich target in this revolutionary political climate where dumping the establishment status-quo appears to be a top priority of the electorate.

Indeed, the sudden increase in the value of the Republican nomination in the 2nd District has increased speculation that a Republican heavyweight may be tempted to join the fray, such as former GOP State Senator Brian Lees (above). In 1986 Lees ran for the 2nd District congressional seat and lost, but if he still harbors any ambitions for congress, what better time to run than now? There is even some speculation that Neal may ultimately be challenged by someone from within his own party, a fresh face that could help protect the seat from an anti-establishment campaign and thereby hold the seat for the Democrats. Stay tuned, this race is getting interesting.

Nazis for Martha

I don't know of any liberal Democrats who were quite as upset about Scott Brown's victory as Adolph Hitler:


Cool grill in a Northampton parking lot.

I have no idea what this Hamp protester is protesting, and he seemed unable to explain it to me.

A snowman melting to death on a Northampton bench.

Today's Music Video

Who's that casting devious stares in my direction?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Camelot's End

A Backward Glance

Damn, like I'm sure many of you I've grown weary of the tsunami of verbiage about Scott Brown's victory in the race to replace Ted Kennedy. Sheesh, Brown hasn't even been sworn in yet! Can we give the guy a chance to serve at least one minute in office before we declare him the national savior or the spawn of satan?

However, in all the commentary about the Brown victory, too little attention has been paid to one aspect of the election - the official end of the Kennedy era. No one who was raised in Massachusetts can be completely untouched by the myth of Camelot, however overly romanticized it may sometimes have been. Whenever I would go visit my relatives in Texas, people used to ask me the same question, "Why do you people keep electing that Teddy Kennedy?" It was never easy to explain it. Teddy was in fact more to the Left than our state's electorate really is. Therefore it is not that big of a surprise that he was replaced by someone further to the Right. We tolerated Teddy's liberalism more than embraced it because of who he was, and the link he represented to his lost brothers.

John was the best of the three brothers, and the least liberal. His taxcut policies, which brought the nation out of a recession in the 1960's, was copied successfully by Ronald Reagan to bring the country out of a recession in the 1980's. President Obama might be wise to notice that pattern. John Kenendy was also willing to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war to thwart the socialist regime in Cuba. Robert was less the cold warrior and fiscal hawk his older brother was, but had passion and idealism to a degree that is rare in politics and that may have made him as good a president as John - but we never got the chance to find out.

The youngest brother Teddy was deeply flawed, but we never seriously considered the possibility of throwing him out of office, even after the incident at Chappaquiddick. Whatever he did to embarrass Massachusetts over the decades he was still Johnny and Bobby's brother, and for that reason we could never bring ourselves to remove him from office, even though he was involved in a series of scandals that would have destroyed the political career of anyone else with a different last name.

Now for better or worse, whether one was a fan or a critic, the Kennedy era is officially over. We will never see a dynasty like that again. The times have changed, with a new era now dawning where small is beautiful, and the big government programs championed by Kennedy Democrats are falling into disrepute. Most of the Kennedy's legislative legacy, especially Teddy's, will no doubt be repealed in the coming years.

But that's almost irrelevant. If you're a son or daughter of Massachusetts, or one who adopted our state by choice, and you felt an emotional bond to the Kennedy's, however irrational that attachment seemed at times, then you can't help but feel a certain twinge of sadness to read this final verdict yesterday by Mark Kriforian in the National Review:

Air America and Camelot snuffed out in the same week! So maybe the work does not go on, the cause does not endure, the hope does not live and the dream really can die.

Or maybe we're just in the process of redefining that dream in a way that's appropriate to this new revolutionary age. So as we head into the future with new leadership and new ideas based on the libertarian principles now suited to our times, it's okay if we pause for a moment to look back at Camelot one last time, perhaps even with a tear of nostalgia in our eye.

Undressed for Success

Gee, I never thought of John Mayer as a sex symbol until I saw the latest Rolling Stone.

Have you noticed how almost no one gets on the cover of the Rolling Stone anymore unless they're willing to get at least half undressed? Not that I'm complaining.

Remembering Tech

Mark Alamed has a great post about the history of Springfield's Techical High School, which was foolishly closed over 20 years ago for political reasons. My mother was a Tech graduate, and my father attended there for a time before dropping out to join the military.

Above is a rare image of the Spring Street side of the school as it appeared around 1940. That section has been torn down, but the front part is still standing. To read Alamed's writing and see the historic photos click here.

Today's Music Video

A rare look at the tender side of the Captain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Our New Pride

Massachusetts Reborn

Wow, I can't believe the number of people from outside of Massachusetts who have been sending me messages about how much they appreciate the way our state voted on Tuesday. The whole country, if not the whole world, was watching our humble state to see whether we would start a second American revolution just like we started the first one over 200 years ago. Once again we in Massachusetts have distinguished ourselves as champions of liberty, and may the light of libertarianism shine in the coming months not only in our own country but enlighten the entire world.

However, the chorus of praise for our electorate is not universal. Paolo alerts me to this appraisal of the Bay State by Alexander Cockburn:

A year after his inauguration Obama has disappointed so many constituencies that a rebuke by the voters was inevitable. Yesterday it came in Massachusetts, often categorized as the most liberal in the union. This is entirely untrue. It's a disgusting sinkhole of racism and vulgar prejudice, as five minutes in any taxi in the state, listening to Talk Radio or reading the local newspaper will attest.

Ouch! However, I must say I approve of Cockburn's last paragraph:

A final note on Coakley. She rose to political prominence by peculiarly vicious grandstanding as a prosecutor, winning a conviction of 19-year old child minder Louise Woodward for shaking a baby to death. An outraged judge later freed Woodward, reducing her sentence to less than a year of time served. Then Coakley went after headlines in child abuse cases. Innocent people are still rotting in prison as a consequence of Coakley's misuse of her office. For this alone, regardless of the setback the Democrats richly deserved, I rejoice in her humiliation.

So do I. To read the whole article click here.

Assorted Stuff

I've been doing interviews lately. One was with Dutch journalist Tom-Jan Meeus on the Brown/Coakley race. It's about time they started reading about me in Europe! I'll pass along the link when something surfaces from that. Also here's a picture of Michelle, a UMass grad student who interviewed me about my life story for a project she's doing. More about that later.

Early this morning on my way to cooking pancakes for the homeless I ran into Republican/Masslive dude Greg Saulmon in downtown Northampton. He's smiling despite having just been given a parking ticket.

Bird's is one of my favorite Northampton stores. Going inside is like stepping into a time tunnel.

My neighbor's psychedelic sled.

Dr. King in a window in downtown Hamp on his birthday.