Boston Tourism Chief Charged With Extortion

     BOSTON (CN) – The city of Boston’s chief of tourism was arrested Thursday on claims that he extorted a music festival into using union labor.
     Kenneth Brissette was indicted Tuesday and arrested Thursday for allegedly extorting the company behind Boston Calling — a music festival that had already contracted with a non-union company to provide workers for a September 2014 event — to hire members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 11.
     Brissette has been the city’s director of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment since April 2014, shortly after the position was created by then-first-year mayor Marty Walsh. Brissette’s office helps companies seeking to stage events in Boston secure permits to use at public areas in the city.
     Brissette has since been released on a $25,000 bond and will appear again in court on July 12, according to local news reports. He pleaded not guilty to one count of extortion.
     According to the indictment, in order to stage its twice-yearly musical festivals, the company — referred to in court documents as “Company A” — was required to apply for and receive permits from the City of Boston for each festival.
     Prosecutors allege 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.
     The union had attempted to get work from the company since March 2013. The company reportedly 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, the company entered into a contract with Local 11 three days before its music festival for eight additional laborers and one foreman. Shortly thereafter, the City of Boston issued the necessary permits, according to the indictment.
     In a closely related claim, Brissette was allegedly involved in pressuring a non-union production company filming reality show Top Chef in Boston to hire union workers in the summer of 2014.
     When Boston’s chief of operations 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 him that it was not legal to withhold city permits based on a company’s union or non-union status and that he could not discriminate on the basis of whether a company was union or non-union.
     Brissette is currently on administrative leave, according to Laura Oggeri, spokesperson for the Boston Mayor’s Office.
     “I am deeply concerned about today’s news,” Walsh said in a statement released Thursday. “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.”

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