The Rev. Bruce Wall, one of Boston’s most prominent black community leaders, said Thursday that he has stepped down as head of a Dorchester advocacy group that sent a $105,000 invoice to the state’s new commuter rail company for services that were never under contract.
Wall said in an interview Thursday and in a television appearance Wednesday night that he wanted to distance himself from other people in DRM Advisory Group who made decisions that had affected him in his role as chairman.
“What has happened is that people have made decisions that have tarnished my integrity, and now I am in a fight for my life to defend who I am and what I represent,” he said.
Wall made the television appearance on Boston Neighborhood Network on the same day that he, the advisory group — also known as Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan Advisory Group — and the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III were the subject of a Globe column.
The column depicted a meeting that Rivers, another prominent community leader, had with a representative from Keolis North America in which Rivers handed the representative a $105,000 invoice for services that were never discussed, an episode that the Keolis official described as a “shakedown.” The invoice, which was also e-mailed, was signed by Wall.
Rivers, who allegedly told the Keolis representative that he was working “below the radar,” and that he was “secret ops,” denied doing anything wrong and said the invoice was meant to push Keolis to keep its commitment to diversity in running the state’s commuter rail system. He said he never expected any money. Rivers did not return a call for comment Thursday.
Wall has repeatedly said since the column was published that he joined the group to help assure minority communities of greater involvement in the state contract, but that he was being held responsible for the decisions of others.
“I’m not a businessman; I’m a pastor,” Wall said. “Frankly, I’m in over my head on this stuff.”
Wall did not identify Rivers as the person from whom he was trying to distance himself, but said: “I think Rev. Rivers is Rev. Rivers. I think he’s consistent in advocating for the community the way he does. I don’t think you could have expected anything different out of him.”
The depiction of the alleged “shakedown” of the Keolis representative caused a stir throughout Greater Boston, from the city’s black community to legal circles and the State House.
Governor Deval Patrick said on his regular radio appearance on WGBH on Thursday that he supported the concept of pushing for diversity in the Keolis contract and that the entire DRM group should not be judged by the actions of one member. He did not identify anyone by name.
“Do I think the whole program is tainted because one guy allegedly tried to control it? No, I don’t,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any evidence of that, either.”
Wall said he was trying to distance himself from the depiction of a “shakedown,” saying he was only trying to “shake up” Keolis’s stated commitment to working with the black community.
Legal analysts, speaking on the allegations in general and not about any individual, said charges of attempted extortion could be brought against any individual who makes a threat, not only of physical harm, but also economic harm.
“Demanding cash with threats of economic harm could easily be viewed by law enforcement as an attempted extortion,” said Brian Kelly, former head of the public corruption unit in the US attorney’s office in Boston, who now works as a defense lawyer.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Boston Globe