Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday distanced himself from Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's disastrous decision to choose state Representative Marie St. Fleur as his lieutenant governor running mate last week.
Menino, who appeared with Reilly and St. Fleur when they announced their partnership last week, said yesterday that he had told Reilly that St. Fleur would be ''a bold choice" before he made the decision. But Menino also said he had cautioned: ''It's your choice alone."
''I can tell him what I thought, but I was never lobbying," the mayor said yesterday in an interview before a forum on Boston with about 30 residents yesterday at Roxbury Community College. ''If you are an elected official, you have to make the decision that you feel comfortable with."
Menino said he was unaware of St. Fleur's record of tax delinquency when he discussed St. Fleur's candidacy with Reilly.
St. Fleur dropped out Wednesday, the day The Boston Globe reported she had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years.
Reilly's failure to examine St. Fleur's background was ''a huge mistake," Menino said.
''I don't know how to explain it, you know?" he said.
Menino said that he and Reilly had first spoken about St. Fleur two or three months ago, when Reilly had informed him that she was on his list of running mates.
''When the name initially came into the campaign, it wasn't me," Menino said.
''I was supportive of his choice," the mayor added, ''but I wasn't the person who started the ball rolling."
Menino said that Reilly had telephoned him last Sunday afternoon at his house, to tell the mayor that he had ''felt very comfortable" with St. Fleur, and that he was considering choosing her.
Until last weekend, Reilly had been discussing a partnership with Chris Gabrieli, a wealthy businessman.
In a conversation that Menino said lasted 5 to 10 minutes, the mayor said he had told Reilly that by picking St. Fleur, the state's first Haitian elected to the Legislature, Reilly could defy expectations that he would play it safe in choosing a running mate.
''I thought she is dynamic, I thought she is strong, really bold on the issues," he said. ''I thought it would be a great statement for Tom Reilly, a great statement for the Democratic Party."
But he also urged Reilly to choose his running mate carefully, Menino said.
''I said, 'You have to make sure you're comfortable with the person, make sure you get along with the person, make sure you really, truly believe they would be an asset to your candidacy."'
Menino said St. Fleur called him Monday night, ecstatic, to tell him Reilly had picked her as his choice for lieutenant governor.
She invited the mayor to stand by her side at the next day's announcement, which he did.
Menino said he was ''devastated" for St. Fleur, and he said that he has spoken to her several times since she dropped out of the race. He said he hopes she can work out her financial troubles and move on with her political career.
''She's a good person and has a lot to offer to the Commonwealth over the next several years," he said. ''All of us make mistakes. . . . In this business of government, you make one mistake and you're crucified."
He said he has also spoken to Reilly almost daily last week.
''It's February, the election's in November," he said. ''I think he can recover. I think he has to define himself. . . . He . . . cares deeply about the issues that affect working people. It might sound like a statement that everybody makes, but I know him."