Two former senior officials of the city of Boston, including the former head of its film office, were convicted in federal court today in connection with extorting the producers of the 2014 Boston Calling music festival by forcing them to hire members of IATSE Local 11. No charges have been brought against the union or its members.
Kenneth Brissette, the former director of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment – the city’s film permit office – and Timothy Sullivan, the former chief of staff of Boston’s office of Intergovernmental Relations, were convicted after a two-week trial of Hobbs Act conspiracy, and Brissette was also convicted of Hobbs Act extortion.
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According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Brissette and Sullivan “repeatedly advised the company that it would need to hire members of IATSE Local 11 to work the event. Local 11 had attempted to obtain work from the production company since March 2013. The production company told Brissette and Sullivan that it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and hired all of its labor. Nevertheless, on Sept. 2, 2014, three days before the music festival was scheduled to begin, Brissette and Sullivan insisted that half of the production company’s labor force consist of union members. The production company agreed to hire nine members of Local 11 and entered into a contract with the union because they feared the company would be financially ruined if they did not accede to the these City officials’ demands.”
“This afternoon, a federal jury convicted Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan of extorting a private business to hire union labor that they did not want or need,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “Private companies that want to do business in Boston have the right to hire anyone they want – union or not – without fear of being threatened with economic disaster by government officials. That is the law. This was a hard fought victory, and one that reaffirms our commitment to take on cases that are in the public interest.”
“Today’s verdicts show that public officials cannot use their positions to extort those who choose to use non-union labor,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field division. “The FBI will not stand idly by while hard-working individuals are bullied and strong-armed by public servants. Everyone deserves access to a level playing field, and the excuse of ‘business as usual’ isn’t good enough to earnest citizens who rely on their own local governments to do right by them and their families. Let this case be a warning to municipal workers everywhere, it is the taxpayers they serve and answer to at the end of the day.”
“Today’s convictions affirm the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General’s commitment to protecting the American workers from extortion and unlawful influence,” said Michael Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General’s New York region. “The defendants used threats of financial harm to obtain wages from a television production company for services that were not needed or required. We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of criminal activity,”
The charges of conspiracy and extortion each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing will be imposed at a later date by a federal district court judge.