Spillane Names Panel for Further Look Into Boston's Bus-Contract Scandal
A three-member panel has been named by Boston's superintendent of schools, Robert R. Spillane, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the award of the city's $40-million school bus contract to ara Services Incorporated, a Philadelphia-based company, in June 1980.
A federal investigation has already led to the conviction of three persons, including a former school-committee member, and the indictment of another committee member who was subsequently acquitted of bribery and extortion charges. The investigation is also said to have cost two current committee members their seats in the recent citywide elections.
Named to the panel were retired State Supreme Judicial Court Justice Paul C. Reardon; John R. Meyer, a professor of transportation logistics and distribution at the Harvard School of Business; and Troy Murray, a private financial consultant who from 1975 through 1979 was budget director for the Metropolitan Boston Transportation Authority.
Mr. Spillane asked John William Ward, the former president of Amherst College, to select the panel after Mayor Kevin White suggested the school committee reconsider the bus award, the largest public-service contract in Massachusetts.
Mr. Ward had previously headed a special commission probing public instruction that after two and a half years forwarded more than a hundred names to state and federal prosecutors and drastically reorganized the state agency's handling of those contracts. Evidence of defective construction and fraudulent procedures involving hundreds of buildings, many of them schools and colleges, surfaced during that probe.
In proposing the busing contract be reconsidered by the school committee, Mayor White wrote in August that the ara contract "is clearly voidable in the present circumstances" and that the public "which pays for the contract has the right to know that the vote was in substance the right decision, notwithstanding corruption associated with it."
ara officials cooperated with the fbi to secure evidence against a former school-committee member, Gerald F. O'Leary, who received $50,000 from the company to guarantee the awarding of the school bus contract.
As a result of that investigation, Mr. O'Leary, Richard F. Mulhern, a Boston attorney, and Robert Tierney, a truant officer, pleaded guilty to extortion and bribery charges and were sentenced to terms in federal prison.
John J. McDonough, who lost in his bid for re-election to the school committee, was indicted but not convicted on the same charges. Elvira Pixie Palladino, who also lost her seat on the committee in the recent election, was said by Mr. O'Leary to be implicated in the bribery scheme during Mr. McDonough's trial but was not indicted.