Rep. Birmingham left a closed door meeting of the Joint Rules Committee an hour after it convened in protest because he objected to the Garrett report being examined in star-chamber proceedings, the Springfield Republican reported May 7, 1930, p. 1, 3, 7.
Birmingham argued that the report should be presented in public so that any person could speak about it, including Herbert A. Wilson, deposed Boston police commissioner.
Wilson sent letters on May 6 to the presiding officers of both legislative branches demanding a hearing “with the right to summon and examine witnesses under oath, including members of the executive departments and of the Legislature.”
Wilson was fired by Gov. Frank G. Allen on May 5 following an investigation by Attorney General Joseph E. Warner into corruption charges involving the Boston police department and Oliver Garrett, head of Boston’s vice squad that was tasked with cracking down on bootlegging. Garrett was accused of extortion and racketeering while working on the vice squad.
Birmingham placed blame for the problems in the Boston police department squarely with Gov. Allen and ex-Gov. Alvan T. Fuller, charging “laxity” in the administration of the department.
In response to Birmingham’s protest, Senate President Gaspar G. Bacon and House Speaker Leverett Saltonstall issued a statement following the closed door session:
“The committee on rules, acting concurrently, have voted by majority vote to hold no public hearings on the report of the attorney-general on the Garrett investigation (House No. 1335) as a whole. The matters suggested by the attorney-general therein as being capable of legislative consideration have not yet been considered, and the committees have reached no conclusion as to hearings or as to legislation with respect to such suggestions.”
“If the committees concluded at a later date that some legislation may be necessary, public hearings on such proposed legislation will of course be held. The committees adjourned subject to the usual call of the presiding officers.”
The previous day, Birmingham had threatened to leave the committee room if the Wilson part of the Garrett report was discussed behind closed doors, a threat that he made good on.
Birmingham told the newspaper that he favored the Garrett investigation originally. “The Republican rules committee, however, at that time had only two members in favor of the investigation originally, while four members of the Democratic party favored it.
The House minority leader then commented on the reexamination of Garrett ordered by Wilson after Gov. Allen received the opinion of an assistant attorney-general that it could be held:
“The assistant attorney-general had rendered an opinion that a man examined on December 31, 1929, could be reexamined on January 1, 1930, after an elapse of a few hours. I maintain that no court in the commonwealth would have sustained such an opinion.”
“The governor requested this opinion from the attorney-general on this phase of the question and an assistant attorney-general gave him the ruling which could cause this condition to exist.”
“I feel that Mr Fuller and the present governor were familiar with all these facts. They were in the same position with respect to Mr Wilson as Mr Wilson was with respect to Capt Patterson. By that I mean that both the ex-governor and the present governor must have known, from the information given them by the state police, that something was wrong in the police department and the time to act was when they were in possession of this information.”
“Their laxity might have been responsible to a great extent for the conditions existing in the police department. I felt that the opinion was asked and given to stifle the investigation of which I was heartily in favor.”
"I am not attempting to defend Mr Wilson. I understand from a good authoritative source that Mr Wilson, as a private citizen, now desires to appear before the rules committee on House document No 1335 (Warner report), if the hearing were opened to the public. I believe that every citizen, no matter who he is, should be given an opportunity of free speech before any legislative committee.”
Leave a Reply.