Has Boston Mayor Marty Walsh ever read the bid documents that Boston 2024 submitted to the United States Olympic Committee?
Given the mayor's intimate involvement with the group that's trying to bring the Olympics to Boston, you might assume the answer is yes. After all, Walsh traveled to California with members of Boston 2024 last December to meet with the USOC and give a presentation based on the group's bid.
But when we sent Marty Walsh's office a public records request for copies of the bid documents, Chief Communications Officer Laura Oggeri told us by email that the city doesn't have them. “I am saying that the City has never been in posession [sic] of the documents,” she said.
I asked Oggeri how Marty Walsh could promote the Olympics bid in good faith if he didn't have the documents. Her answer, if you can call it that, didn't make much sense.
“The documents submitted to the United States Olympics [sic] Committee in December were provided by Boston 2024,” she said. “Mayor Walsh is focused on working with residents in all neighborhoods to shape Boston's proposal in a way that will provide long-term benefits for the City.”
I didn't mince words. I told Oggeri that she hadn't answered my question and I asked her again. She responded with another question-dodging answer.
“The Mayor is familiar with the proposal that won Boston the right to bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He looks forward to supporting Boston 2024 as they build Boston's bid through a public and transparent process,” she said.
I continued to press Oggeri on the issue, but she stopped responding.
Last week, I had an opportunity to pose the question directly to Marty Walsh when he participated in a live Twitter chat.
— Bay State Examiner (@BSExaminer) March 25, 2015
While Walsh was able to find the time to express his feelings on Zayn Malik's departure from the boy band One Direction, he did not say whether he had ever read the bid documents.
I'm not the only person who has tried unsuccessfully to get an answer to this question. John Ruch, a reporter for the Jamaica Plain Gazette, asked the mayor's office if Walsh had ever read the bid documents shortly before the December USOC meeting. Kate Norton, another flak for the mayor, did not provide Ruch with an answer and instead referred him to Boston 2024.
So much for Walsh's “promise that this will be the most open and transparent and inclusive process in Olympic history.”
I can think of two possible reasons that Walsh and his staff are unwilling to answer this simple yes-or-no question.
One possible explanation is that Walsh really hasn't read the bid documents. It would be pretty embarrassing for the mayor to admit that he never read through the documents that he helped promote to the USOC last December and the last thing that Olympics boosters need is something else to be embarrassed by.
“We have seen bad judgment from him already in his signing of the joinder that barred city employees from criticizing the Olympic bid. However, this would take such bad judgment to a new level,” said Jonathan Cohn, a member of the group No Boston 2024.
The second, more nefarious explanation is that Walsh really has read through the bid documents. If Walsh read the bid documents, that would likely make them public records and he would be forced to disclose them to the public. Even though the documents were drafted by Boston 2024, which is a private organization, state law holds that any records "made or received by any officer or employee" of a state or local government agency are presumed to be public records (emphasis added).
Walsh and his staff have been acting in their official capacity while working to promote the Olympics, which would support the idea that the documents would be public records if they were ever received by the mayor or his staff. For instance, expense reports provided to us by his office show that Walsh and the three other city employees who traveled with him to California to meet with the USOC last December were acting in their official capacity at the time.
Boston 2024 hasn't been too keen on the idea of sharing their bid documents with the public. At first, the group balked at the idea of releasing any of the bid documents. They later partially reversed their stance, agreeing to release many of them. But the group has thus far refused to release some of the most important bid documents, which detail expected land and venue costs. These documents could factor into debates about how feasible the Olympics are and how much taxpayer money they will require.
Because this issue deals with possible public records, and because the release of the bid documents is in the public interest, we have asked the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office to look into whether the mayor has copies of them.