The US Attorney's office in Boston reports Kenneth Brissette, Boston's director of tourism, has been indicted and arrested for "union-related extortion" involving the Boston Calling music festival on City Hall Plaza and the filming of "Top Chef" episodes in Boston.
According to the US attorney's office:
It is alleged that between July and September 2014, while the company was awaiting the issuance of certain permits and approvals required for its music festival, Brissette, and at least one other city official, repeatedly advised the company that it would need to hire members of Local 11 to work at the music festival. Local 11 had attempted to obtain work from the company since March 2013. The company told Brissette that it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and hired all of its labor. Nevertheless, Brissette allegedly insisted that half of the company’s labor force consist of union members, although he ultimately agreed that eight members of Local 11 would suffice. As a result of Brissette’s demands three days before the music festival the company entered into a contract with Local 11 for eight additional laborers and one foreman. Shortly thereafter, the City of Boston issued the necessary permits.
In closely related activity in the summer of 2014, Brissette was involved in pressuring a non-union production company filming a reality television show in Boston to hire union workers. When the Chief of Operations for the City of Boston and the Director of the Massachusetts State Film Office learned that Brissette had been pressuring a non-union film company to hire union workers, they separately told Brissette that it was not legal to withhold city permits based on a company’s union or non-union status and could not discriminate on the basis of whether or not a company was union or non-union.
Brisssette could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Five Teamsters members were arrested last year on charges they tried to extort jobs out of "Top Chef" producers and, when they didn't get them, managed to force filming out of Boston and then harassed crew members at a Milton restaurant.
In the indictment against the Teamsters, prosecutors detailed phone calls Brissette allegedly made to both the Omni Parker House and Menton, a Barbara Lynch restaurant on Congress Street on June 9, 2014:
A representative from the City of Boston called the Omni Parker Hotel to inform it that Local 25 was planning to picket Company A's filming at the Omni Parker House on June 10, 2014. The city of Boston representative made similar calls to Menton.
As a result, the hotel told Top Chef not to bother showing up, and producers decided to film an episode in Milton instead.
Mayor Walsh hired Brissette in 2014 to fill the newly created job of director of tourism, sports and entertainment to " to bring major athletic and cultural events, conventions and conferences to Boston, and aggressively market the City nationally and internationally."
After news broke of the Teamster indictments, Walsh hired a former prosecutor in the Whitey Bulger case to investigate any inappropriate Teamster/City Hall connections.
The mayor's office reacted:
The Mayor asked Attorney Brian Kelly to review the city's interactions with Top Chef last year and he produced a report that concluded no city employee was involved in any illegal activities. Attorney Kelly has also been reviewing Boston Calling and he is conducting a comprehensive review of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment to ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place.
Ken Brissette is currently on paid administrative leave.
Mayor Walsh himself said, in a statement:
I am deeply concerned about today's news. Everyone who knows Ken knows him to be a good and hardworking person. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to get to the bottom of this. Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way.