May 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Labor secretary faces trouble up in Boston

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is seen in a hardhat on the site of a bridge construction project in Washington, D.C.
Marty Walsh (right). Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A dispute about what Labor Secretary Marty Walsh did or didn't know before he left Boston for Washington is now threatening one of President Biden's more popular Cabinet members.

Why it matters: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has said Walsh should resign if he was aware of past domestic violence allegations facing the Boston police commissioner he appointed before resigning as mayor. Walsh has denied any knowledge, but sworn filings in court are challenging that claim.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose support could be vital to Walsh keeping his job, recently dodged a question about whether the secretary should resign if he was aware.
  • The White House declined to comment, although Walsh has continued to be a prominent face for the administration at events and through travel.

Details: Shortly after Biden nominated him to be Labor secretary in January, Walsh picked Dennis White to run the city’s police department.

  • The process was rushed and seen by some as a way to fill the job with a favored candidate before handing over the mayor's office.
  • Two days later, the Boston Globe reported about past domestic violence allegations involving White.
  • Walsh placed White on leave and ordered an independent investigation. A 19-page report detailed the allegations, as well as on-again, off-again support for the probe by the Walsh administration.

What they're saying: Walsh has vehemently denied any foreknowledge.

  • His supporters say he was duped by the former police commissioner, William Gross, for whom White served as deputy and who is his close friend.
  • "Neither the allegations nor the internal affairs files were shared with me in 2014, or during any other consideration of Dennis White," Walsh said in a statement this month. "Had I known, I would not have chosen him for police commissioner or any other role."

In a court filing this month, Gross swore under oath that he had informed Walsh of the allegations in 2014.

  • "There is no way anyone is brought onto the command staff without such a briefing to the mayor and approval by the mayor," Gross wrote in an affidavit.
  • Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins, who is being vetted as a potential U.S. attorney for eastern Massachusetts, told a Boston radio station this week that a sworn statement "has to trump somebody just saying, 'Yeah, that never happened.'”

Be smart: The case is unlikely to fade, because Walsh's replacement — acting Mayor Kim Janey — has moved to fire White.

Go deeper