BOSTON (WHDH) - According to the US Attorney, the City of Boston’s Director of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment has been arrested and charged federally with union-related extortion.

Kenneth Brissette, 52, was indicted for allegedly extorting a company, which had already contracted with a non-union company to provide workers for a September 2014 festival. According to the indictment, in order to hold the twice-yearly festivals, the company was required to apply for and receive permits from the City of Boston for each festival.

Brissette was the Director of the Boston Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment, which assists companies seeking to stage events in Boston in securing permits to use at public areas in the city.

According to the Department of Justice, between July and September 2014, while the company was awaiting the issuance of permits and approvals for the festival, Brissette and at least one other city official repeatedly advised the company that it would need to hire members of Local 11 to work at the music festival. Local 11 had attempted to get work from the company since March 2013.

The company told Brissette it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and hired all of its labor. Brissette allegedly insisted half the company’s labor force consist of union members, although he ultimately agreed that eight members of Local 11 would suffice. Three days before the music festival, the company entered into a contract with Local 11 for eight additional laborers and one foreman.

The Department of Justice said in a related activity in the summer of 2014, Brissette was involved in pressuring a non-union production company filming a reality television show in Boston to hire union workers. Brissette was subsequently told it was not legal to withhold city permits based on a company’s union or non-union status.

The charges carry a sentence of no more than 20 years in prison and three years of supervised released, and a fine of $250,000.

Brissette appeared in federal court. He pleaded not guilty and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

Brissette released a statement Thursday afternoon:

“The indictment against me today is factually and legally flawed. I look forward to my ultimate vindication in the United States District Court

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh released a statement Thursday morning:

“I am deeply concerned about today’s news. Everyone who knows Ken knows him to be a good and hardworking person. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to get to the bottom of this. Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way.”

Laura Oggeri, Chief Communications Officer for the City of Boston, also released a statement:

“The Mayor asked Attorney Brian Kelly to review the city’s interactions with Top Chef last year and he produced a report that concluded no city employee was involved in any illegal activities. Attorney Kelly has also been reviewing Boston Calling and he is conducting a comprehensive review of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment to ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place.

“Ken Brissette is currently on paid administrative leave.”


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