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Romney says mob links spurred official's ouster

Testifies that ex-commissioner agreed to resign

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / April 24, 2009
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Former governor Mitt Romney testified yesterday that he respected a longtime ally he hired as state civil service commissioner in 2003, but demanded his ouster after learning he had bought property and obtained a mortgage from a Boston Mafia boss years earlier.

Calling the real estate deal "very troubling," Romney said he directed his top aides to give William P. Monahan a chance to resign from his job of one month on Aug. 28, 2003. When staff members reported that Monahan had verbally agreed to step down, Romney said he called him at his Belmont home that night to thank him.

"He's a person I like and respect," said Romney, recalling that he expressed sympathy and appreciation to Monahan, a former Belmont selectman he had known for about 25 years, and offered to help him find a job in the private sector. "I knew this would be difficult for him."

Romney, who is being sued by Monahan in federal court in Boston for wrongful termination without due process, testified for nearly an hour and rebutted Monahan's assertion that he never resigned and was summarily forced out.

Appearing calm and amicable on the stand, the former Republican presidential candidate testified that when he thanked him for resigning, Monahan never suggested that he had not stepped down.

Monahan, 75, who is also suing four members of Romney's former administration, testified earlier that he received a call from a Globe reporter on Aug. 28, 2003, asking him about a real estate purchase he had made decades earlier from former New England Mafia underboss Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo, who ran the rackets in Boston for decades and was convicted in 1986 of federal racketeering, murder, extortion, and other crimes.

Monahan said that he and a partner purchased 253 Tremont St. in the Theatre District in 1980 for $260,000 from Huntington Realty Trust, which was controlled by Angiulo and his brothers.

Monahan said they made an $80,000 down payment and obtained a $180,000 mortgage from Angiulo, which they paid off in 1989. He said he sold his interest in the property a year later.

Yesterday, the former governor said that Monahan had not disclosed the real estate deal when applying for the civil service job and that he and his staff learned of it through a Globe inquiry.

Romney said he was unaware that the deal had been reported in a Belmont newspaper in 1992.

"It was my hope that people on this [civil service] commission would have the kind of respect you associate with a judge," said Romney, adding that he was concerned that Monahan's prior financial relationship with an organized crime leader would have a negative effect on the commission.

"Had I known about it, I wouldn't have appointed him in the first place," Romney said.

During cross-examination by Monahan's lawyer, Richard J. Hayes, Romney confirmed that Monahan gave him advice and assistance in the 1990s when the Mormon church he belongs to was dealing with zoning issues and public opposition while trying to build a temple in Belmont. At the time, Monahan was chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

Hayes grilled Romney about why he didn't let Monahan explain the deal with Angiulo before calling for his resignation and why he had a staff member deliver the news that the administration wanted him to quit.

He also suggested that Monahan was in a difficult position that was brought on by Romney.

"No," Romney said, "in a difficult position brought on by himself."

The other Romney aides being sued, Spencer Zwick, who was deputy chief of staff; Eric Fehrnstrom, communications director; Shawn Feddeman, who also handled communications; and Nicholas Tzitzon, personnel director, all testified yesterday that Monahan agreed to resign.

Monahan's two daughters, who also took the stand yesterday, testified that he has been distraught since losing his job.

"He has been like a shell of himself," said Julie Brady, who lives next door to her parents. "My father is a different man than he was on Aug. 28, 2003."

US District Judge Nancy Gertner, who is presiding over the jury-waived trial, said she expects the case to finish Tuesday, when testimony will resume, followed by closing arguments.

William Monahan is suing Mitt Romney and four members of his administration. The case is expected to conclude next week.

Termination disputed