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Finneran resigns from his job as president of biotech council

BOSTON --Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran resigned on Tuesday night from his $416,000-a-year job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, days after he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice during a voting rights redistricting lawsuit.

The council's board said it accepted his resignation, effective immediately, during an evening conference call, a day after it had met to discuss his future and it appeared he was losing support.

"This work brought me immense personal and professional satisfaction given that the MBC's work is crucial in helping save and improve lives," Finneran said in a statement. "I want to thank the board and staff of MBC, and they should know that I will always be an advocate for their interests."

Finneran took the job with the council that represents the state's life sciences industry in 2004 after resigning his legislative position. He was seen as an effective lobbyist for the group, and the board had backed him after his federal indictment in 2005.

Doug Bailey, a spokesman for Finneran, said Finneran would have no further comment Tuesday night.

"Tom succeeded in meeting the board's goal of taking the MBC to the next level," said board chairman Michael D. Webb. "He increased membership from 375 to 530, topping the 500-mark for the first time in the organization's history, and shaped a positive legislative and regulatory environment for biotech.

"We wish him the best in the future," Webb said.

Webb said Finneran would assist in a transition over the next month. Mark Robinson, the biotechnology council's chief operating officer, will be acting president during a search for Finneran's replacement. Spokesmen for the council did not immediately return telephone messages Tuesday night for further details on its agreement with Finneran.

On Friday, Finneran pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors that has already cost him a $25,000 fine, 18 months of unsupervised probation, and the possible suspension or loss of his law license.

The state Retirement Board is also reviewing whether to strip him of his nearly $31,000 annual state pension, and could take up his case next month.

Boston media have reported Finneran was in talks to host a radio show.

Finneran's legal troubles began when he was accused in a June 2005 indictment of lying during his testimony in the lawsuit, which claimed a 2001 law that drew up new legislative district boundaries discriminated against blacks and other minority voters in Boston while protecting incumbents, including Finneran.

During his 2003 testimony, Finneran repeatedly denied seeing a proposed redistricting map until it was filed with the House clerk, even though there was nothing illegal about his playing a role in drafting it. Prosecutors said they did not believe he intentionally tried to dilute the voting power of minorities.

Under the plea deal, they agreed to drop three perjury charges. His federal court trial had been scheduled to start Jan. 16.

After pleading guilty in federal court, Finneran publicly apologized.

"I embarrassed myself. I shamed myself. I shamed my family," he said.

Finneran said he misrepresented his role because he was offended and angered by the claims of racial bias made in the lawsuit.

"For 26 years, I had represented a largely minority district. I took great pride in my service to that district," Finneran said.

During his eight years as speaker, Finneran was the most powerful lawmaker in Massachusetts, rewarding political allies and punishing foes. He was dubbed "King Tom" after pushing to eliminate term limits for speakers.

He prided himself of being a tireless champion of his district, which included the largely minority neighborhood of Mattapan in Boston.

Former legislative colleagues praised Finneran on Tuesday night.

"I believe the citizens of our Commonwealth owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his 26 years of public service," said House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

Senate President Robert Travaglini called Finneran "a strong leader in shaping fiscal and economic policy that benefited every taxpayer in the Commonwealth."

Finneran served as a member of the House of Representatives for 26 years, rising through the ranks to become the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and then, in 1996, House speaker, one of the most powerful posts on Beacon Hill. He resigned in 2004 as his power began to ebb under the cloud of the federal investigation.

Precedent doesn't bode well for Finneran in the review of his state pension.

In March, the state's highest court ruled that John "Jackie" Bulger, brother of fugitive mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, must forfeit his $65,000-a-year state pension because he lied to grand juries investigating the gangster's disappearance.

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