|Yvonne Bonner, acting US marshal, leaving her Charlestown townhouse near Monument Square. (The Boston Globe)|
Acting US Marshal Yvonne Bonner, who is under federal investigation for allegedly assigning deputies to escort Fox Sports broadcasters from last year's World Series at Fenway Park, has received more than $100,000 - at least $187 a day - from the government for meals, travel, and housing since she came to Boston 17 months ago.
Bonner has been living in a three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath townhouse near Charlestown's historic Monument Square that is on the market for $739,000, according to a Globe review of public records.
Responding to a Globe request, the US Marshals Service said the government paid Bonner $100,874 between Dec. 10, 2006 and March 2008 for housing, food, and travel - including the $2,975 monthly for her rent and $1,100 each month for utilities and other housing costs. She gets $48 a day for food and other incidentals.
Earlier this month, Bonner said she was entitled to the payments because she still lives in Virginia and maintains a home there. But yesterday a spokesman for the Marshals Service in Boston said Bonner would not discuss the payments further.
Bonner, who joined the Marshals Service 24 years ago and previously served as chief of the agency's internal affairs division, is entitled to the daily stipend because she has remained on "temporary duty assignment" since she arrived in Boston, and is technically still assigned to the agency's Virginia headquarters, according to David Turner, a spokesman for the agency in Virginia.
"She is one of our star performers," said Turner, adding that Bonner was tapped for the acting marshal's job after White House officials dismissed Boston's last US marshal and a temporary replacement who worked in Boston requested a transfer to another office. He said the agency has kept Bonner on temporary duty while waiting for Congress to confirm a new US marshal for Boston. But that hasn't happened.
Eleven months after President Bush nominated Reed Hillman, the former head of the Massachusetts State Police and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006, as US marshal, his confirmation has languished in Congress amid opposition by Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry.
The marshals could avoid paying the stipend of $187 a day or more to Bonner by permanently assigning her to Boston, or by promoting someone who already works in the Boston office to serve as acting US marshal, but Turner said the agency has no plans to do so.
"What the public needs to know is we get the job done right with the best talent we have available," said Turner, adding that Bonner, 56, is eligible to retire in July and wasn't looking to move to Boston. "She's doing this job because the Marshals Service needed her."
But some in government say the expenditures are extravagant.
"This one appears to be a pretty egregious misuse of taxpayer money," said state Senator Stephen M. Brewer, a Democrat from Barre and longtime supporter of Hillman.
He said he doesn't know Bonner, but knows Hillman and can't understand why some have challenged his qualifications to serve as marshal.
"He has a work ethic that is second to none," said Brewer, adding that he hopes Kennedy and Kerry rethink their opposition to Hillman's appointment.
Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Kennedy, released a statement saying, "Senator Kennedy is serious about professional standards and the White House should be as well." The statement said the White House's failure to nominate a qualified candidate is what "creates any subsequent problems."
The last US marshal in Boston, Anthony Dichio, was dismissed by the White House in August 2005 after The Boston Globe published a story detailing observations that Dichio was often not at his office and used his government car to run personal errands. The chief marshal in Boston, William Fallon, was tapped to serve as acting marshal until December 2006, when he transferred to another office.
Bonner, who began her career as a deputy marshal in Houston, was dispatched to Boston. She had worked fugitive, violent offender, and civil rights cases and received numerous commendations, including the director's meritorious service award from Director John F. Clark two years ago.
US District Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said Clark personally met with him and other judges after Dichio's dismissal, and appointed Bonner after assuring them that the temporary leader of the office would be highly qualified.
"I've had many dealings with her, and I've found her to be highly professional in all instances," Wolf said of Bonner. "From my perspective, and that I believe of my colleagues, she's done a good job."
Echoing those sentiments, US District Judge William G. Young said, "Personally, I think she is very professional, very astute, and really a fine person."
Wolf and Young stressed that they have no knowledge of the ongoing federal investigation into Bonner's alleged assignment of deputy marshals to the World Series last year, and wouldn't comment on those allegations.
Deputy marshals are charged with tracking fugitives, transporting federal prisoners, and protecting judges.
The Justice Department's office of the inspector general in Boston is looking into whether Bonner overstepped her authority or violated ethics rules by allegedly ordering her deputies to escort Fox Sports broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Buck between their hotels and Fenway Park during last year's World Series, according to two law enforcement officials and other people familiar with the investigation.
The Globe reported earlier this month that during both home games, on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25, two deputy marshals allegedly watched the Red Sox defeat the Colorado Rockies from the broadcast booth with McCarver and Buck, as well as Joseph Band, a lawyer who works for the Marshals Service in Washington and occasionally does work for the Fox network, the officials said.
The deputies allegedly drove Band in their unmarked cruisers while escorting the broadcasters who followed in limousines, according to law enforcement officials.
Investigators are looking into whether the deputy marshals activated their blue lights to cut through traffic as fans jammed the streets around Fenway Park.
Bonner told the Globe earlier this month that she wasn't worried about the probe, but declined to comment further because it is ongoing.