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Former legislator Wallace indicted

He is accused of failing to report political donations

By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / July 22, 2011

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A Suffolk County grand jury yesterday filed criminal campaign finance charges against former state Representative Brian P. Wallace, a longtime political fixture from South Boston who rose from mayoral aide to the Legislature.

Wallace, 61, was accused of not reporting $6,345 worth of political donations, along with a pervasive failure to keep receipts in a year his campaign reported expenses of more than $51,000.

The four-term Democrat, who left the House of Representatives in January, was not arrested yesterday, but he will be summoned to court for arraignment at a later date.

Wallace is the fifth elected official from Boston to face criminal charges since 2005, a list that includes two House speakers, a state senator, and a city councilor.

In Wallace’s case, a routine audit by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance found irregularities in his fund-raising records. Each criminal count carries a penalty of up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

“We allege that the failure to keep these records goes to the very heart and integrity of our system,’’ Attorney General Martha Coakley said in an interview yesterday.

Investigators referred the case to Coakley’s office after campaign finance officials discovered evidence that Wallace failed to preserve records of expenditures, used campaign funds for personal expenses, and accepted contributions above the $500 limit, according to a May 2010 letter from the Campaign Finance Office.

Wallace acknowledged that campaign finance officials were investigating him when he announced his retirement in March 2010, but he said at the time: “There is nothing nefarious there. This certainly played no part in my decision.’’

Wallace could not be reached yesterday for comment. His attorney, William A. McDermott Jr., declined to discuss the charges against his client, but issued a written statement.

“Former state Representative Brian Wallace restates his innocence of any criminal acts alleged by the attorney general and restates his contention that this charge should be settled in a civil disposition with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance,’’ McDermott said. “Brian Wallace looks forward to his opportunity to clear his good name.’’

Wallace’s campaign treasurer, Timothy Duross, was indicted on similar charges. Duross could not be reached yesterday.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo also did not respond to a request for comment.

The House minority leader, Bradley H. Jones Jr., said that from what he has observed, the Campaign Finance Office typically turns to the attorney general only when people it investigates are uncooperative and investigators are “at their wits’ end.’’

Since 2008, the office has referred five cases to the attorney general. Only two of those cases resulted in criminal charges: Wallace’s case and that of John R. Buonomo, the former registrar of probate for Middlesex County, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to stealing thousands in taxpayer money and more than $100,000 in campaign funds.

In addition to the $6,345 worth of unreported political donations, Wallace is accused of what the attorney general described as “substantial noncompliance’’ with laws that require receipts and other records for campaign expenses.

Records on the Campaign Finance Office website show that some of Wallace’s expenses in 2008 seemed clearcut: $355 for a parade banner at Instant Printing and a $300 donation to St. Brigid’s School in his district. Other expenses were more ambiguous, like a $1,152.55 MasterCard payment at a bank on West Broadway in South Boston.

Without receipts and other documents, investigators were unable to verify that all expenditures were for approved campaign expenses.

Wallace has been a presence in local politics for decades. He helped another local resident, Raymond L. Flynn, win the mayor’s office in the 1980s and served in his administration. He worked as a probation officer and as a youth worker and made a run for City Council before winning a seat in the House.

Several of Wallace’s fellow Democrats from South Boston did not return calls seeking comment, including state Senator John A. Hart Jr. and Representative Nick Collins, , who holds Wallace’s former seat.

Jones, Republican from North Reading, spoke of Wallace with both sadness and fondness.

“It does highlight yet another instance of what’s going to be a black eye,’’ he said. “I always had a good relationship with Brian.’’

Wallace certainly knew the other Boston officials charged in recent years, but his case appears to stand by itself.

“I’m not willing to say there is something wrong with the Boston delegation or something inherently wrong with city politics,’’ said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a good government watchdog. “But we have a very, very cynical electorate, and we keep giving them food to feed that cynicism.’’

Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAndrewRyan.