Rep. Birmingham said that he intended to insist on an additional probe of the circumstances surrounding the Oliver Garrett investigation, and he would demand that former Police Commissioner Herbert A. Wilson be given a hearing if he requested one, the Boston Herald reported (May 6, 1930, p. 1, 6).
Wilson was dismissed as police commissioner on May 5 by Gov. Frank Allen, with the agreement of the Executive Council. In addition, the legislature’s Joint Rules Committee decided against letting Wilson speak at a May 6 hearing on the Warner report.
Wilson was fired following a report by Attorney General Joseph Warner into police department corruption. In particular, the report examined the granting of a pension to Garrett, the former leader of the vice squad who was removed in response to corruption charges.
“I want Atty.-Gen. Warner in there to tell us many things omitted in the report. I want to be sure that his hands are clean. When he issued an open invitation to the world for witnesses to come forward with any additional information having any bearing on the case why did not his assistant, Mr. Clapp, volunteer to go on the stand and tell the entire story of the opinion he wrote for Wilson to submit to the Legislature concerning the second medical examination of Garrett? I also am curious to know why it was written at the Yale Club.”
“I said in the Legislature at the time that the opinion was illegal and that it would not be upheld in any court of law. I understand that Representative Renton Whidden has a photostatic copy of that opinion written in Clapp’s handwriting. I want all these facts on it because if it is legal it has pinned Garrett’s pension definitely to the statutes.”
“Warner’s report did not go far enough. The supreme court, in an opinion given him, said that no legislative recommendations were required, but it did not say that he couldn’t make any recommendations. Are there some higher-ups being protected? If there are, we certainly want them exposed and the way to do it is to permit Wilson to come before the rules committee and tell his story publicly.”
Rep. Birmingham left a May 6 closed door meeting of the Joint Rules Committee an hour after it had begun in protest because he objected to the Garrett report not being discussed in a public hearing so that Wilson or anyone else could speak about it.
By a vote of 118 to 100, the House substituted for an adverse committee report a bill to reduce from 70 to 65 the age of male beneficiaries under the old-age pension fund, the Springfield Republican reported (March 5, 1931, p. 1, 12).
Rep. Birmingham led the fight for passage of the bill, which was based on a recommendation made by Gov. Joseph B. Ely in his inaugural address. Birmingham argued that it would wipe out the poorhouse in the state and reduce the cost of old-age assistance.
Birmingham said that when a man loses job at the age of 65, he can’t get another job.
“I do not want it said that this prosperous state refused to listen to the appeal of these workers who have given their lives to building up prosperity and have passed the age of working,” Birmingham said.
Rep. Cahill of Braintree led the opposition to the bill. He argued that lowering the age would have an uncertain cost impact, particularly when the legislature was still trying to figure out how to raise the revenue for old-age pension with the age set at 70.
Rep. Daniel J. Coakley of Chicopee urged the House not to amend the bill but to give the law a year’s trial at 70 years. If it was successful, he pledged to vote to lower the age to 65.
The previous year, Birmingham had offered an amendment to an old-age pension bill that lowered the age to 65 years for men and 60 years for women. The House approved Birmingham’s amendment and passed the amended old-age pension bill by a vote of 202 to 27. Apparently, that bill failed in the Senate.
The Legislative Committee on Constitutional Law held a hearing on a bill introduced by Rep. Birmingham that would memorialize Congress in favor of legislation that would assure states of their authority over intrastate utility business, reported the Springfield Republican (Feb. 5, 1931, p. 15).
Wallace H. Walker, secretary of the Public Franchise League, spoke in favor of Birmingham’s bill. He said that passage of the bill would “prevent local utilities from jumping into federal courts before they had taken advantage of their rights of appeal to state courts.”
Walker said that if the bill would aid in passage of federal legislation to make utilities companies take advantage of the rights in state courts.
The Massachusetts Gas and Electric Association opposed the bill, arguing that even if the federal legislation were enacted, it would not prevent state utilities from asking federal courts to review their cases and that the right of appeal to state courts is very limited.