Aloisi issues apology to Globe

Reverses course on story about sister's job

OUTSPOKEN SECRETARY James Aloisi Jr. has not shied from controversy since Patrick appointed him to the post of transportation secretary OUTSPOKEN SECRETARY
James Aloisi Jr. has not shied from controversy since Patrick appointed him to the post of transportation secretary
By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / March 19, 2009
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State Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr., abruptly reversing course yesterday, publicly lashed out at the Globe for a story describing how his sister recently held a legislative job with no apparent duties and then issued an apology to the paper and one of its reporters.

The episode, one in a string of high-profile conflicts involving Governor Deval Patrick's recent appointee, began with a strongly worded blog posting on Tuesday night. In it, Aloisi criticized a Globe story that disclosed Carol Aloisi's lack of responsibilities for six months despite her $60,000-a-year salary. Aloisi called the story "misleading," "inaccurate," and "disgraceful."

In the blog, he provided no details of what he considered erroneous, and did not respond to repeated requests for comment from a Globe reporter yesterday to elaborate. On Monday, Aloisi and his sister both declined repeated requests for comment for the original story, which was published in Tuesday's Globe.

"I didn't think that it was ever appropriate for the press or others to take shots at me through members of my family, but it seems that the rules of the game have changed," Aloisi wrote on the Blue Mass Group blog, a forum frequented by Democratic activists and politicians.

His posting appeared to surprise Governor Deval Patrick's administra tion, which said yesterday the comments were unauthorized.

Less than a day later, after his statements began to generate a fresh wave of controversy, he backtracked. In a second statement, e-mailed by a press aide, Aloisi apologized to the Globe and the reporter who covered the story and promised that he would work with more "humility" on the governor's reform agenda.

"Last night in an attempt to defend my sister - who I dearly love - I posted an ill-advised statement on Blue Mass Group where I wrongly impugned the integrity of The Boston Globe and its reporter Andrea Estes," the statement said. "I apologize for those comments and regret this error in judgment."

Patrick aides would not say whether the administration put pressure on Aloisi to issue the apology.

"We support secretary Aloisi's decision to issue the statement today," said Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan.

Aloisi, a former high-level official with the Big Dig who most recently practiced law in Boston, declined requests to respond to follow-up questions. "The statement is what we put out for today," said Colin Durrant, a spokesman for Aloisi. "The statement is what you're going to get."

Durrant also declined to say whether there was any pressure put on Aloisi by the administration. He would not elaborate on why Aloisi wrote the original post, decided to issue the apology, or planned to be less outspoken.

Aloisi has not shied from controversy since Patrick appointed him to the $150,000-a-year post of transportation secretary in December, a position that puts Aloisi at the heart of the governor's push to overhaul its transportation system. One particularly delicate aspect of Patrick's plan is a proposal to hike the gas tax by 19 cents a gallon, a plan that Aloisi will have to guide through the Legislature.

That effort appeared to hit a pothole when, in a closed-door meeting earlier this month, Aloisi disparaged Senate President Therese Murray's approach to transportation legislation. He said her idea of "reform before revenue" was a "meaningless slogan."

He had previously described Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton, a Republican appointee who has been sharply critical of the authority's finances, "a distraction," adding, "She's a gadfly, and I have more important things to do."

Aloisi's statement of contrition yesterday appeared to try to address these encounters as well.

"I believe it is important to clear the air and move beyond the recent controversies," the statement said. "Since becoming secretary of transportation, my passion for realizing the governor's reform efforts has caused me to use language I have later regretted. I have meant no disrespect to legislators or other officials, and I know that only through consensus and collaboration with the Legislature and others can we get ourselves out of the mess we have inherited."

He added: "I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to bring about meaningful transportation reform with renewed vigor and greater humility."

Before his about-face, Aloisi said in the posting Tuesday night that his sister had an "unblemished record" since she began working in the House in 2003 and that she had repeatedly sought reassignment beginning last August when she was posted in the vacant State House office of a former legislator, a job that left her with nothing to do.

"She has been a leader in the state Democratic Party for many years," he said. "She has never needed to call on me for help in getting a job or keeping a job."

Carol Aloisi was hired by former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi to be chief of staff for Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Democrat of Springfield. Last year, Aloisi asked to be transferred after a dispute over attendance.

In September, the speaker's office sent her to the office of Representative Rachel Kaprielian, even though the Watertown Democrat had left months before to become registrar of motor vehicles.

Blue Mass Group has been a forum for some members of the Patrick administration, whose supporters frequent the site. David Kravitz, a Blue Mass Group founder, said he wants the blog "to be part of the conversation about what's going on in the state."

"It's an open forum," Kravitz said. "Anyone can post. That obviously includes the secretary of transportation. I have no problem with him coming on the site and saying whatever he wants."

Responding to Aloisi's comments, state Republican Party spokesman Barney Keller said: "Given this and his previous outbursts, apparently Jim Aloisi lacks the temperament of a Cabinet secretary. What is even more peculiar about this rant is that he still denies his own role and responsibility for the fiasco that is the Big Dig."

James Aloisi Jr. has not shied from controversy since Patrick appointed him to the post of transportation secretary

Outspoken secretary

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