Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has signed a five-year gag
order on data related to the investigation into Boston’s leaky Big Dig project.
The problem? The gag order is essentially against himself.
The Boston Herald reported that the five-year contract requires any information released to the
public regarding the investigation be approved by Reilly, the Massachusetts
Turnpike Authority, and contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff.
Critics of the agreement argue that it is unfair because Bechtel is the
company whose work on the Big Dig is under investigation, which means Reilly
can’t say anything without their permission.
“I’ve never heard of a state attorney general voluntarily gagging
himself,” Eric Fehmstrom, spokesman for Gov. Mitt Romney, told the Herald. “What Tom Reilly has done is to
delegate to Bechtel and the Turnpike Authority the power to determine what he
can say, when he says it or even if he says anything at all.”
Former turnpike board member and gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos
told the Herald that “there is no
legitimate reason to enter into an agreement that covers up the condition of a
tunnel and the costs to repair it.”
Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that the investigation is looking into the possibility that the steel
girders used in the roof of the tunnels are shrinking in cold weather, which is
stretching a layer of waterproofing that may be allowing the water to seep in.
Engineers have put sensors into the roof to monitor what is happening.
If it turns out that Bechtel failed to plan for cold temperatures, The Globe reported, it may give the state
the ammunition it needs to go after the contractor.
However, there is some doubt as to what, if any, data from those tests
will be made public, thanks to the confidentiality agreement. Stephanie Lovell,
first assistant attorney general, told The
Globe that the data would not be kept from the public indefinitely,
though she did not say when it might be released.