Defense attorneys on Tuesday raised questions about the accuracy of testimony by a top aide to former Probation commissioner John O’Brien, but legislative liaison Edward Ryan stood by his claim that Probation jobs were steered to the office of Rep. Robert DeLeo in 2007 and 2008 to help DeLeo win a fight for the speaker’s job in 2009.
Stellio Sinnis, who represents O’Brien, said Ryan had never mentioned the DeLeo connection in his previous testimony under oath before a federal grand jury and before an independent counsel brought in by the Supreme Judicial Court to review Probation hiring. DeLeo has repeatedly denied the jobs-for-votes arrangement outside the courtroom.
Sinnis at one point asked Ryan if his recollection of steering jobs to DeLeo’s office to help in the speaker fight was the “best of his memory” or the memory of federal prosecutor Karin Bell. Bell objected to the question but Judge William Young overruled her objection.
“Absolutely not,” Ryan replied.
Still, Ryan’s memory seemed fuzzy on a lot of other points. He testified on Monday that several lawmakers contacted him about people they wanted to steer to new jobs at the agency’s Electronic Monitoring Office in Clinton. On Tuesday, Ryan said he contacted several of the lawmakers to tell them about the jobs, although he indicated they seemed to have some knowledge of them before the call.
Ryan testified on Monday that O’Brien had ordered him to refer all House members looking for Probation jobs to Leonard Mirasolo, a top aide in DeLeo’s office. He seemed confused on when that happened on Tuesday, but documents displayed by defense attorneys seemed to suggest that happened as early as 2006, three years before the vote for speaker.
Ryan also seemed confused about how many House members he referred to Mirasolo. Under intense questioning by Sinnis, he had difficulty coming up with an estimate, eventually settling on 25 to 30 referrals between late 2006 and 2008. He also said he didn’t refer all the calls he received from House members about jobs to Mirasolo, which was puzzling because that’s what he said O’Brien had ordered him to do.
“Are we making things up as we go along?” Sinnis asked at one point.
“Absolutely not,” Ryan responded.
But as weak as Ryan was on some details of his dealings with DeLeo’s office, he was adamant about the politicization of hiring at Probation and his claim that jobs were being used at Probation to help elect DeLeo speaker.
Ryan said jobs were given to Rep. Harold Naughton of Clinton and former Rep. Robert Rice of Gardner expressly for the purpose of electing DeLeo speaker. Both lawmakers previously testified that they took advantage of the Probation job offerings to place people in positions but said the jobs did not influence their votes for DeLeo as speaker.
Ryan said his understanding of what the jobs were being used for was based on conversations he had with O’Brien and Mirasolo.
Ryan was also clear about the role of politics in Probation hiring, explaining that O’Brien would base hiring decisions on little else. “He would base it upon the political influence that the candidate had received and he would rank them how he wanted them to finish in the interview process,” he said.