Thursday, July 20, 2006

Walsh Calls For Public Hearings

State Senator Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury) has proposed creating an independent commission, similar to the 1980 Ward Commission which investigated corruption in public construction projects, to try to force Big Dig management to testify under oath and in front of the public. This commission would be apart from the criminal investigations already underway, and I would hope would be wider in scope. While the criminal inquiry would necessarily focus only on events relevant to the death of Milena Del Valle, an independent commission could put everything on the table, from mismanagement to corruption to kickbacks to plain incompetence. Here's how the Globe describes it:

Walsh wants to establish an eight-member committee selected by the governor, attorney general, state treasurer, and state auditor. The panel would be led by a retired state judge and include a layperson with financial expertise, an engineer, an architect, a former prosecutor, and a construction expert. The committee would have the power to subpoena anyone involved in the Big Dig, and would hold public hearings.
This, I think is a necessary step in getting the public bloodletting that many are calling for. A criminal investigation is appropriate, but most of that will go on behind closed doors, and the public may never know what happened if there's not enough evidence to convict anyone. With a public inquiry we might actually get some answers to the questions we all have been asking for years.

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh called for this in his Tuesday column, where he got positive reactions from Attorney General Tom Reilly and former AG Scott Harshbarger, but only a tepid response from House Speaker Sal DiMasi. DiMasi was worried that such a hearing would interfere with the criminal investigation. Well, if Reilly, the guy actually doing the investigation, has no problem with it, I can't see how DiMasi could object unless he's afraid of what such a commission might uncover or whose feathers it might ruffle. The best way for Beacon Hill to regain any of its credibility is to haul everyone and anyone who was ever involved in the Big Dig in front of a camera and microphone to answer tough questions under oath. If that means some current and former politicians have to sweat it out, even better.