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Aide’s 2010 indictment became public, personal test

Howard chose to stand by Toomajian

Charles Toomajian, aide to Mayor Howard, is scheduled for trial in March on a matter involving his private law firm. Charles Toomajian, aide to Mayor Howard, is scheduled for trial in March on a matter involving his private law firm. (Matt byrne)
By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / October 30, 2011

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MALDEN - Mayor Richard C. Howard had to weigh public accountability against personal loyalty when his top aide, Charles Toomajian, was indicted by a state grand jury a year ago on theft and embezzlement charges related to his private law practice, totaling more than $3 million, as part of a sweeping crime ring linked to organized crime.

Howard said he was “as shocked as anybody’’ over the “very serious’’ charges against Toomajian, his friend for 30 years.

“I really felt a sense of disbelief,’’ Howard said during an interview at his City Hall office. “How could he be, in any way, associated with this well-organized, violent crime that was in place for a period of time, during which he’s working in my office every day of the week?’’

Howard decided to keep Toomajian, his special assistant since 2008.

“It was an extremely hard decision,’’ Howard said. “I had to make sure that my loyalty didn’t cloud my judgment. I think, for a lot of people, the instant reaction [to the allegations] would be ‘Hey, you’re out of here. You can’t be associated with me.’ But I felt I had to step back and talk to him. . . . After doing so, I felt pretty comfortable with the fact that he was not part of any so-called organized crime.’’

Toomajian is also a lawyer with a private practice in Malden. A year ago, he was accused of being an accessory after the fact in a criminal enterprise involving drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, and home invasion.

In March, the initial charges were dismissed after a grand jury returned a new indictment charging him with conspiracy, larceny, receiving stolen property, and being an accessory after the fact to a felony (larceny). He is alleged to have aided a client, Charles Davis, 44, of Salem, N.H., and formerly of Stoneham, embezzle $1.8 million from Randstad Professionals, a global staffing company with an office in Wakefield.

Toomajian also is alleged to have stolen $1.3 million from Randstad, which was diverted through Davis, according to the most recent figure from the Essex district attorney’s office.

Toomajian, 53, pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment last April in Middlesex Superior Court. His trial is set for March 21, according to the district attorney’s office.

Toomajian, a former 10-year city solicitor in Malden and city councilor, did not respond to a telephone message left at the mayor’s office or to an e-mail requesting comment.

His lawyer, Thomas Drechsler of Boston, said Toomajian “denies being involved in any criminal activity, on any level.

“The allegations do not involve in any way, shape, or form Mr. Toomajian’s role as special assistant to the mayor,’’ Drechsler added. “These are allegations pertaining to his private law practice.’’

Howard said the second indictment convinced him he made the right call to keep Toomajian.

“He’s no longer alleged to be part of this big network of activity around drugs, violence, gambling. As I understand it . . . it’s now isolated to his activity with this company, and at least one gentleman, maybe two. . . . At least, in my mind, everything that came out in October [2010], he was not associated with.’’

Toomajian earns $88,919 per year as Howard’s assistant. His duties include working with department heads and city boards. He advises on the city budget but does not oversee public funds, Howard said.

“The position is generally one of a troubleshooter,’’ Howard said. “He has no financial authority. The position never had that.

“None of these law enforcement sources have ever contacted me to say, ‘Gee, we think you should be concerned about Mr. Toomajian’s behavior as a result of what we know,’ ’’ Howard said.

“No affidavits or records have been produced that would support the prosecution’s case. So there was really nothing for me to be able to go on, other than press releases [from the DA’s office] and the indictments. . . . I was left to use my own judgment.’’

Howard said he never considered putting Toomajian on paid leave.

“That was not an option,’’ Howard said. “It doesn’t help the public to pay an employee for not doing anything. . . . Clearly, if there was anything that gave me pause, or if there were a verified charge, he would have been terminated.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.