The following article is part 2 in a Boston Herald series.


Tocco Massport links raise ethics question by Joe Battenfeld

copyright 1998 The Boston Herald / Published 11/18/98

Former Massport director Stephen Tocco's work for developers and clients with interests before his old agency raises questions about whether he is skirting state ethics and lobbying laws.

Tocco, as the Herald reported yesterday, is representing several developers seeking to lease lucrative Massport land on the Boston waterfront.

Sources say Tocco has directly contacted Massport officials -- including his successor, Peter Blute -- on behalf of his new corporate clients.

Several current members of the Massport board of directors are also Tocco loyalists and have maintained close relations with him, sources said.

But Tocco is not registered as a lobbyist, according to records at the secretary of state's office.

Tocco, who works for a consulting firm called ML Global, was a lobbyist in 1997 but did not register this year, records show.

State laws require anyone who is being paid by a client to influence lawmakers or executive branch agencies to register with the secretary of state's office.

Lobbying could be considered "direct contact" with state officials or even phone calls.

Tocco, who left Massport nearly two years ago, has refused to talk about his corporate work, and did not return phone calls from the Herald.

But a spokeswoman for ML Global, Nancy Sterling, said Tocco is not violating lobbying regulations.

She confirmed Tocco may talk to Massport officials but his actions do not come under the definition of "lobbying."

Under state ethics laws, Tocco also is prohibited from working for a client on any "particular matter" he participated in as a state official.

The definition of "matter" includes a specific contract, application, or request for a ruling.

Sterling said Tocco has not violated that law.

"He's in strict compliance with the ethics laws, I can assure you of that," she said.

Some Massport lawyers, however, have raised questions about Tocco's activities, sources said.

The Herald reported that among Tocco's current clients are the developers of International Cargo Port, a freight facility on Massport-leased land.

He also represents a developer seeking to lease Massport land on the Charlestown waterfront.

In addition, Tocco represents Hertz, which is seeking approval for new parking at Logan Airport, which Massport runs.

While he served at Massport, Tocco had dealings with Hertz and was familiar with the agency's lease arrangements along the waterfront.

"As far as our lawyers are concerned, all of this is legal," Massport spokesman Jeremy Crockford said of Tocco's activities.

Tocco has also maintained friendly relations with the Cellucci administration since leaving Massport.

He was in the governor's office yesterday but a Cellucci spokeswoman said she didn't know why Tocco was there.