Boston official charged with extortion tied to music festival permits

Reuters News
Posted: May 19, 2016 9:15 AM

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - A member of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh's administration was arrested on Thursday and charged with extortion after the official allegedly tried to withhold city permits for a music festival using non-union workers, federal prosecutors said.

Kenneth Brissette, director of the city's office of tourism, sports and entertainment, was accused of repeatedly telling employees of the festival producer in 2014 that they would not be allowed to stage their events unless they hired workers from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Events Local 11, according to court papers unsealed on Thursday.

The court papers do not name the company that was the target of the alleged extortion, but the description of the concert organizer matches up with Boston Calling, a popular local music festival.

The indictment also tied Brissette to another case in which the producers of the reality television show "Top Chef" were threatened with the loss of their permits if they did not hire union workers. Four members of the Teamsters union were charged with extortion last year in connection with that case.

If convicted, Brissette, 52, could face up to 20 years in prison. Brissette, in a statement issued by his attorney, said he would fight the charges.

"The indictment returned against me today is factually and legally flawed," Brissette said. "I look forward to my ultimate vindication."

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Walsh, a Democrat, is a former construction worker who led the city's Building and Construction Trades Council, a union group, for two years before being elected mayor in 2013.

"I am deeply concerned about today's news," Walsh said in a statement. "Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way."

Brissette previously served as the chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Will Dunham)