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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.