Politics

Mass. House speaker Bob DeLeo voices interest in Northeastern University job

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Aug. 1, 2016. Elise Amendola / AP, File

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BOSTON (AP) — The speaker of the Massachusetts House is considering whether to take a job at his alma mater Northeastern University.

Speaker Robert DeLeo confirmed speculation about his intentions Friday, sending letters informing the House clerk and state ethics officials that he will begin talks with the private university in Boston.

“I intend to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University,” DeLeo wrote in the letter and in a statement emailed to reporters. “As of today, I have not personally had any discussions with anyone from Northeastern University relative to any possible employment opportunities.”

The 70-year-old DeLeo, a Democrat and Winthrop resident, is already the longest-serving speaker in Massachusetts history.

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It’s unclear what position DeLeo might consider. Asked about DeLeo’s plans, a spokesperson for Northeastern University said the school is “looking forward to discussing with Speaker DeLeo opportunities to welcome him back to his alma mater.”

The announcement of DeLeo’s plans comes after rumors about his possible resignation mounted this week on Beacon Hill.

In his letter, DeLeo wrote that while he doesn’t believe he is required to disclose his plans, he wanted to be transparent “out of an abundance of caution.” He said he knows of no matter now before lawmakers that would impact the university and present a conflict of interest.

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A possible successor to DeLeo would be Rep. Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat. Mariano holds a top leadership post, serving as majority leader. He was first elected to the House in December 1991 in a special election.

Mariano declined to comment through an aide Thursday.

DeLeo has served in the top post in the House for 12 years, following the resignation in January 2009 of former Democratic Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who would later be convicted on federal corruption charges including conspiracy, extortion and theft of honest services by fraud. He ended up serving five years of an eight-year prison sentence.

The two speakers preceding DiMasi also left under a cloud.

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DiMasi’s predecessor, former Democratic House Speaker Thomas Finneran pleaded guilty in 2007 to a federal obstruction of justice charge for giving false testimony in a 2003 lawsuit over a legislative redistricting plan that diluted the clout of minority voters.

Finneran’s predecessor, former Democratic Speaker Charles Flaherty was forced from office after pleading guilty to a federal felony tax charge. Neither Finneran nor Flaherty served prison time.

DeLeo was first elected to the House in 1991. He went on to serve as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee before taking the reins as speaker.

As DeLeo neared the end of a four-term limit on the speaker’s office, he successfully pushed to lift the cap, allowing him to continue holding the top post.

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DeLeo, who earns $169,000 including his leadership stipend, ran unopposed during last month’s election.

The speaker wields enormous clout at the Statehouse, able to reward supporters with plum committee assignments and extra stipends while also punishing critics and blocking bills he opposes and pushing others that he favors.

If he steps down, a special election would be called to fill DeLeo’s House seat. It would be up to the 160 House members to vote on his successor.

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Klepper reported from Providence, R.I.

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