We started off the year of 2013 losing our good friend and colleague, Ronnie Ford of Methuen. We missed him all year and it would be impossible to start a “year in review” without remembering Ronnie and his family.
AUDITOR SUZANNE BUMP & ALL THOSE MISSING EBT CARDS
Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump conducted an audit of the state’s EBT (Electronic Benefits Program or more commonly called “welfare”). Given that welfare is a sacred cow issue for Democrats in Massachusetts, Bump managed to anger Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts Democrat Party leaders because one of their own was blowing the whistle on one of their main political platform issues.
Among other things, Bump’s audit found 1,164 dead people receiving welfare benefits under Deval Patrick, and 30,000 blank EBT cards (welfare cash cards) completely unaccounted for. “They just walked out the door, charged cards with our tax money and nobody can account for them,” Bump told The Valley Patriot.
Valley Patriot Publisher Tom Duggan interviewed Auditor Bump on his WCAP radio program on June 1st. The state auditor not only explained the role of the Auditor’s office but also was able to back up her numbers on the audit she conducted.
The Democrat party leadership on Beacon Hill is still unhappy over Bump’s revelations.
In May The Valley Patriot broke a story that got national attention when we reported on a story involving a Methuen High School student, Cameron D’Ambrosio, who had been arrested on terrorism charges.
Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon told the Valley Patriot in an exclusive that the terrorist threats D’Ambrosio made were in the form of text messages and postings on Facebook.
One of those threats, Solomon said, “was in the form of a rap, where he mentioned the White House, the Boston Marathon bombing, and said ‘everybody you will see what I am going to do, kill people.”
D’Ambrosio was charged under Massachusetts General Law Ch. 269, Section 14, a state statute regarded as “the terrorism statute” by police. It includes communicating a bomb threat or a hijack threat by means of electronic communication.
He was initially ordered held on $1M bail after a dangerousness hearing before Lawrence District Court Judge Rooney.
D’Ambrosio was immediately hailed as a free speech poster boy by 1st Amendment advocates on the internet who portrayed D’Ambrosio as a victim of persecution by the government for expressing his views.
The issue saw an odd mix of defenders for D’Ambrosio as libertarians and Tea Party supporters saw themselves on the same side as liberal first amendment advocates.
A grand jury refused to indict the Methuen High student, and he was set free early in June. The coverage immediately died and D’Ambrosio faded back to obscurity.
WHAT ERIN COX TAUGHT US ABOUT THE NATIONAL MEDIA
The Valley Patriot took on a a local story gone national in 2013 that eventually exposed the news media (locally and nationally) with their pants down.
North Andover High School volleyball captain, Erin Cox, and 41 other students from North Andover High were caught by police at an underage drinking party in Boxford this past September. She claimed she was only there to pick up a drunk friend who needed a ride home.
Cox was suspended from the volleyball team for five games and lost her position as captain for being present at the party. Two other students were also suspended from their extracurricular activities as well.
It should have been an open and shut case of a local high school kid caught doing something wrong and paying the price for it. In fact it wasn’t even a news story. But, that was before the Cox family tried to stop Erin’s suspension from the volleyball team.
The Cox family hired famed attorney Wendy Murphy, who went on national television claiming that Cox was being unfairly suspended from the volleyball team because of a “zero tolerance policy” at NAHS, meaning that there was no discretion by the school principal to suspend Cox from the team.
But after the story went global on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, FOX and every other major television, newspaper and radio stations across the country, Bryan McGonigle of the North Andover Patch reported his interview with Superintendent Hutchinson who reveled for the first time that there is “no zero tolerance policy at North Andover High school.”
What’s more, The Valley Patriot learned that despite an email written by a Boxford Police Officer “clearing her” of any wrongdoing, Erin Cox was indeed charged by that officer and eventually plead guilty to not only being at the party, but drinking alcohol as well.
This was after Wendy Murphy “demanded” that the Valley Patriot retract our story that Cox was scheduled to appear in court on juvenile criminal charges, saying emphatically that Erin was “not charged”.
Not one member of the national media bothered to do their homework on this story before reporting on it. Even after the Valley Patriot reported that the national news media was wrong about every major fact in this story (complete with court documents), none of the national media corrected their story with one exception, The Huffington Post.
Locally, only WCAP radio, WRKO’s Jeff Kuner, Dan Rea of WBZ’s Nightside, North Andover Patch and Barstool Sports Boston made an effort to correct the story for their readers and listeners.
PROGRESS ON PUBLIC RECORDS – 2013 was a KEY year for progress and revelations on the state’s impotent public records law Chapter 66. The law states that records and documents produced by public entities (like municipalities, state agencies, public boards, etc.) must be made available to the public within ten day upon request, and at minimum costs. The Valley Patriot spent an inordinate amount of time in 2013 reporting on violations of the state’s public records law and calling for penalties for officials who violate it. Currently there is no penalty for violating the public records law.
The Valley Patriot filed a public records request for documents showing payments to the DiAdamo Law Office back in February of 2012. DiAdamo represented Mayor Lantigua and Patrick Blanchette in a personal criminal matter, but the public still doesn’t know who paid for DiAdamo’s legal fees that day.
As of the time we published this edition (December 9th), we still have not received the information we have been seeking to determine whether or not the taxpayers paid DiAdamo, or if Lantigua violated any laws by employing an attorney who’s contract he signs. Even after orders from Judge Murtaugh and Cornetta, Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua has refused to comply because the law has no way to be enforced.
Enter Republican State Representative Jim Lyons, and Democrat Rep. DiZoglio, as well as State Senators Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Jamie Eldridge (both Democrats). These legislators submitted bills with similar language to add stiff fines and penalties for violations of the public records law statute so that public officials who refuse to turn over documents will be personally held liable.
Senator Ives and her staff facilitated a meeting with Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan and Senator Donnelly of the Administration Committee where her bill on public records is being heard. Representative DiZoglio and Lyons are both waiting on a hearing on their bills as well.
Whichever legislator’s version of the bill makes it to the floor for a vote, officials we spoke to said that they believe, one way or another, penalties will be attached to MGL Ch. 66.
The Valley Patriot’s public records case against Mayor Lantigua has also had some new developments. Judge Cornetta has ordered Mayor Lantigua to allow Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan to inspect the records on file at city hall.
We will update you when that happens.
LANTIGUA DEFEATED – There really is no single story in 2013 that produced the shockwaves that Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua’s defeat last month had throughout the Valley and the state. Mayor Elect Rivera out-networked and out worked Mayor Lantigua. See COLUMN (to be posted shortly).
In August, an arbitrator reinstated two of the parole officials responsible for the release of cop killer Dominic Cinelli.
Cinelli was in prison serving THREE life sentences for attempted murder, had shot one man, robbed dozens with a gun, and escaped. While on the run, he willfully committed more violence and was eventually caught … again.
But what happened next was outrageous. Dominic Cinelli, a hardened, violent criminal was put back out onto the streets once AGAIN by Deval Patrick’s hand-picked parole board.
This time, while he had the blessing of Deval Patrick’s parole board to prowl the streets yet again, Cinelli shot and killed Woburn Police Officer Jack Maguire.
Rest in Peace Officer Maguire.