Give the Rev. Bruce Wall a break. He is as sincere as they come. He is no slickster preacher by a long shot.
But controversy is engulfing the Rev. Wall as some question his motives as he sought to negotiate community benefits with the Keolis transportation company, which recently won a $2.6 billion contract to take over commuter rail service in the state.
Keolis allegedly has a questionable relationship with minorities in its European operations. So, Wall, other black ministers and community activists approached Keolis representatives in January to ask about the company’s future relationship with Boston’s black community.
It’s a legitimate question for a minister of Wall’s religious tradition, which advocates for equity and jobs in underserved communities.
But some believe Wall showed poor judgment in submitting a $105,000 invoice unexpectedly for consulting services to Keolis executives who presumed they were being given free advice.
To Kelois executives the invoice — which Wall signed as the leader of the newly formed minority advisory group — felt like a “shake down.”
At at public meeting Thursday at Dorchester’s Global Ministries Christian Church, Wall was combative and pained about how he has felt crucified.
“We sought to do what many other communities have done. … I have been a pastor in the black community serving the poor with complete integrity without a hint of scandal for over 40 years,” Wall told supporters.
Wall has a point here — there is little in his past to suggest that he is corrupt or self-aggrandizing.
In the 1980s he co-founded an organization called “Drop-A-Dime” which successfully encouraged black community members to report drug dealers to police. His efforts served as a blueprint for the “Boston Miracle” in the 1990s that resulted in the most dramatic reduction of murders in recent Boston history.
Wall, a former Roxbury District Court clerk magistrate, is also well-known for his efforts on prison reform. Years after his retirement from the court system he slept in a gang-controlled apartment complex to attract Mayor Tom Menino’s attention to the drug trade in Codman Square.
Perhaps Wall’s current woes stem from the fact that he signed on to the task of demanding community benefits.
Source: Boston Herald | Kevin Peterson