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Joe Biden’s Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is being asked some pointed questions by Democratic lawmakers about his tenure as Boston mayor.
Before Walsh left Boston to serve in the Biden administration, he named Dennis White as Boston police commissioner. While still being vetted for secretary of Labor, White was suddenly put on leave and Walsh announced that there would be an investigation of the commissioner for domestic violence.
The Boston Globe reported that an independent investigator found that Walsh, as Labor secretary, tried to end the investigation into White shortly after it started. Labor Department employees deny this allegation but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) want to know if Walsh was aware of the domestic violence allegations before he appointed White to the position.
“There are a number of questions that everybody wants to know about this whole situation,” Moulton told the Globe. “We obviously need to know all the facts about his vetting. If it turns out Secretary Walsh is lying, he should resign as well.”
But Walsh is denying he knew about the allegations.
“As I said on February 3, I was not aware of these serious allegations until after I appointed White as police commissioner. Neither the allegations nor the internal affairs files were shared with me in 2014, or during any other consideration of Dennis White,” the secretary said in a statement. “Had I known, I would not have chosen him for police commissioner or any other role.”
“Let’s get the information out there and find out exactly what happened,” said Warren.
Warren and Moulton are the first members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to comment directly on the role of Walsh, a fellow Democratand a Cabinet member,in the White controversy. They and other members of the state’s delegation have called for more police accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, with Warren and Moulton both cosponsors of legislation by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Boston to end legal protections for officers known as qualified immunity.
On Thursday, Pressley declined to comment specifically about Walsh as she entered the US Capitol for a House vote, pointing to a statement her office released over the weekend about White calling broadly for more police accountability. “We’ve given a statement on that,” Pressley said.
The questions are more than valid. According to the Globe, Walsh ended the inquiry into the domestic violence allegations against White the night before his confirmation hearing was to begin. Republicans, stupidly, never brought the issue up during the floor debate on his confirmation in the Senate. Why not? It was a matter of public record. Not bringing it up meant that Walsh skated into the cabinet.
Perhaps the Republicans should have examined the timing of this incident a little closer.
The controversy was not brought up at the hearing or during debate on Walsh’s confirmation by the full Senate about six weeks later. But since then, new questions have been raised about his decision to appoint White and how he handled the subsequent investigation. An independent investigator’s report released Friday said the Walsh administration attempted to end a probe into White shortly after the former mayor had launched it. A Labor Department spokesperson denied Walsh tried to halt the investigation.
Did Walsh try to interfere in an independent investigation as a member of Biden’s cabinet? It certainly appears so, according to an independent investigator.
White has subsequently been fired by acting Mayor Kim Janey and has sued to keep his job. This is a brewing scandal for Biden and will likely carry more surprises with it before it’s over.