A long-delayed disclosure by the city of Boston could lend credibility to former Mayor Marty Walsh’s claim he was unaware of decades-old domestic violence allegations against the city’s embattled police commissioner before naming him to the job.
According to the city, Walsh did not send or receive a single written communication pertaining to Dennis White’s selection to lead the department in the three weeks before he named White to the position.
The city disclosed that fact Friday in response to a request made by the NBC10 Boston Investigators under the state’s public records law.
The city had previously failed for more than two months to respond to the request — a violation of Massachusetts law. The city also ignored two orders from an official in the Secretary of State’s Office to respond to the station’s request.
Current Mayor Kim Janey has not responded to multiple requests from the station to discuss the city’s failure to comply with the law.
The disclosure came Friday morning, three days after the state’s supervisor of records referred the matter to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office for enforcement.
The question of Walsh’s prior knowledge of the allegations against his police commissioner has taken center stage in a legal fight between White and the current mayor, who is seeking to fire him.
William Gross, the former Boston police commissioner who preceded White, said in a sworn affidavit that Walsh would have known about the allegations because he reviewed White's nomination for a command staff post in 2014, and his internal affairs file would have been included in it.
Gross said in the affidavit that the mayor was briefed on the internal affairs files of all people nominated for the Boston Police Department's command staff, its leadership group: "There is no way anyone is brought onto the Command Staff without such a briefing to the Mayor and approval by the Mayor."
In his own affidavit, White also says his internal affairs file was reviewed as part of the process.
Walsh has repeatedly denied that claim, most recently in an interview Thursday with NPR. Walsh said in a statement last week that he never received the allegations or internal affairs files while considering White for promotions, and that he'd have held off appointing him if he did.
"As I said on February 3, I was not aware of these serious allegations until after I appointed White as police commissioner. Neither the allegations nor the internal affairs files were shared with me in 2014, or during any other consideration of Dennis White. Had I known, I would not have chosen him for police commissioner or any other role," Walsh said.
It remains unclear whether Walsh received information regarding White’s tenure with the police department, or the information contained in his internal affairs file, prior to Jan. 11, 2021 — the date specified in the station’s public records request. The city's search for records encompassed the time from that date through White's appointment on Jan. 28, 2021.
Walsh, now the U.S. secretary of labor, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the circumstances sent via email to his staff.
When he announced he was putting White on leave in February, Walsh had said, "These disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been at the forefront."
White has maintained he is innocent of domestic violence allegations. In a statement Thursday, his attorney said White "did not commit domestic violence and there is no cause to remove him as Commissioner." He added White is seeking copies of files used by an independent investigator who looked into the circumstances.