February 28, 2017
Embattled Suffolk Probate Register Felix D. Arroyo has recruited a top Democratic strategist and is asking the public for donations to his defense fund in an all-out political campaign against his suspension, even labeling criticism “alternative facts.”
But the former city councilor is also demanding transparency from court overseers even as he has failed to make public any details from the suspension letter sent to him regarding the accusations.
Arroyo, who was elected to the plum $139,789 post in November 2014, has brought on former Gov. Deval Patrick’s top strategist Doug Rubin to advise him, and has launched fundraising drives and email blasts attacking the court’s chief overseer, Harry Spence — all as if he were on the campaign trail. Arroyo has also taken his campaign to social media using #StandWithFelix.
The court has said it found “serious deficiencies” in the way the probate and family court was run under Arroyo that “threaten the Court’s ability to serve the public and the bar.” Arroyo took over a registry that was already in disorder after his predecessor was forced out for slugging an employee, among other things.
Arroyo, through his campaign manager Patrick Keaney, sent an email Sunday night accusing Spence, court administrator of the Massachusetts Trial Court, of presenting “alternative facts” to the public and refusing to release documents explaining his decision to suspend Arroyo.
“We will not let Harry Spence mislead the public,” reads an email blast Keaney sent Sunday night.
“From the outset, Felix has insisted that this investigation be done in the light of day. The real question,” Keaney says, “is why does Spence want this investigation to be done in secret?”
Arroyo’s email says Spence has not turned over three letters cited in Arroyo’s Feb. 3 suspension letter. It also rails against Spence for not responding to a Feb. 10 request for documents from his lawyer, Walter Prince, and pledges to publicly release his suspension letter once all documents are in his lawyer’s hands.
But Trial Court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said yesterday that all of the materials Arroyo requested from the court were delivered to Prince late last week.
“On Friday, the general counsel for the trial court hand-delivered a letter in response to attorney Prince, and also enclosing everything that Register Arroyo has requested, as well as additional information,” Donahue said.
Keaney acknowledged yesterday that he received the documents, saying, “Our lawyer got the letters on his desk this morning. He will review them and draft our response. Once he has completed this we will release them to the public.”
Rubin, a consultant to the 2013 mayoral campaign of Arroyo’s son, Felix G., told the Herald yesterday he agreed to help the elder Arroyo “pro bono” a couple of weeks ago.
“Obviously I’m a friend of Felix and the family, and I’m just trying to be helpful,” Rubin said. “I’ve been obviously big fans of them and supportive of them.”
Arroyo is also getting support from Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who appointed Arroyo’s son to be his health and human services czar.
“I supported Felix when he first ran for the council, I supported him, I think, in every race he had,” Walsh told the Herald. “And Felix supported me after the (mayoral) primary. I’m hoping everything will turn out in a positive way there. Certainly I don’t have all the understanding or particulars of what’s going on.”
Hub political watcher Larry DiCara, a former city council president, questioned the wisdom of attacking the court as Arroyo is doing. “Historically, it has been risky for any political figure, from Richard Nixon on, to mess with the courts,” DiCara said. “People have given the courts great leeway in governing themselves.”