Did Rep. Walz give questions to candidate in advance of Wards 4 & 5 debate?

by Brandon Simes
Managing Editor
Tuesday May 12, 2009

South End News has obtained copies of e-mails that suggest that state Rep. Marty Walz (D-Back Bay) may have shared questions prepared for a 3rd Suffolk District candidate debate with candidate Aaron Michlewitz in advance of the event.

One e-mail from Walz to Michlewitz, obtained from a source who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the information it contained, is dated April 20 and states, "Here is the second of two e-mails. M." It includes an attachment titled "CandidateQuestions4.20.09.doc." South End News received paper copies of the e-mails and could not confirm the contents of the attachment.

The Wards 4 & 5 Democratic Committees hosted a candidate debate on April 21 at the Community Church of Boston on Boylston Street. Walz is a member of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee.

Asked whether he received e-mails from Walz relating to the debate prior to the event, Michlewitz issued this statement to South End News: "Whether candidates review questions in advance of forums is really not the issue here - this is about my privacy and an attempt by someone to take the focus off of the issues - which is hardly the politics of change. When it comes to guidance on the important issues in state government - I trust and respect Representative Walz and regularly rely upon her input on a variety of issues. I will continue to do so should I be fortunate enough to be elected, which is where my focus has been this entire election."

Walz did not respond to calls for comment placed to her State House office and cell phone on May 11.

Another e-mail received by South End News from the same source consists of a discussion by Walz and Ward 5 Committee Chair Rob Whitney about the questions to be asked at the forum. Walz offered advice on the quality of the questions Whitney had written and suggested other questions. Whitney declined to comment on the issue, although he said he has frequently e-mailed Walz in the past. According to the paper copies obtained by South End News, the e-mail from Walz to Whitney was sent on April 20 at 5:42 p.m.; her e-mail to Michlewitz was sent at 5:44 p.m.

South End News does not know how the e-mails were originally obtained. The source who provided it to South End News expressed confidence it was not obtained improperly.

Michlewitz won the Ward 5 endorsement in a vote immediately following the April 21 forum. Ward 4 did not make an endorsement due to an insufficient number of votes for any candidate.

In addition to Michlewitz, Democratic contenders Susan Passoni, Lucy Rivera, and Brian Ross participated in the forum. The Democratic primary is May 19.

Walz endorsed Michlewitz, a North End resident and former aide to former House Speaker Sal DiMasi, shortly after he announced his candidacy. According to Michlewitz's most recent campaign finance report, Walz has personally donated $100.00 to his campaign; her campaign committee also made a $100.00 contribution.

In April she told South End News that Michlewitz should not be judged on the alleged ethical lapses of his former boss, who resigned amid questions about whether he had a hand in the improper awarding of a $13 million state contract to the software company Cognos ULC and after his close friend and former accountant Richard Vitale was indicted, accused by Attorney General Martha Coakley of using his relationship with DiMasi to improperly push for legislation to benefit the Mass. Association of Ticket Brokers, one of Vitale's clients.

"I have no concerns about Aaron's integrity," said Walz, a former member of the legislature's ethics committee, at the time. "I would never endorse a candidate if I had concerns and I have no concerns at all about Aaron's integrity and ethics."

DiMasi, who held the 3rd Suffolk District seat for 30 years before resigning in January, was the latest of a string of elected officials representing the South End to be suspected of unethical behavior, which has made ethics and accountability a potent issue in recent political campaigns. Last October, former 2nd Suffolk state senator Dianne Wilkerson was arrested on federal corruption charges; District 7 City Councilor Chuck Turner was also arrested in November for allegedly taking a $1,000 bribe, a charge against which he has vigorously defended himself.

Editor-in-chief Laura Kiritsy contributed to this report.


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