BOSTON (State House News Service) — Facing a raft of federal charges connected to bank fraud and the improper use of campaign funds, Rep. David Nangle appears set to attempt to ride out the storm as a member of the House, albeit one without a committee position or higher paying leadership post.
Less than 24 hours after he was led into a federal courtroom in shackles to face an indictment on a laundry list of federal charges, the Lowell Democrat on Wednesday stepped down as second division chair in the House - a position near the top of House Speaker Robert DeLeo's leadership hierarchy - and removed himself from his assignments to serve on the House Committee on Ethics and the House Committee on Rules.
In an email he sent to the House clerk at 11:01 a.m. Wednesday, the Lowell Democrat cited "recent, unfortunate events" as the reason for vacating his leadership and committee posts in the Massachusetts House.
"Due to recent, unfortunate events I believe it would be in the best interest of the House of Representatives that I step down from my leadership position and committee assignments," Nangle wrote. "It has been an extreme honor to serve you, my colleagues and the citizens of the Commonwealth in my position as Division Floor Leader."
Nangle's position as a division leader carried a $30,000 stipend on top of his $66,257 base salary as a legislator. His future as a state legislator remains unclear; as of his arrest Tuesday, Nangle had not pulled papers to seek re-election in November. Candidates must file nomination signatures locally by April 28.
On Tuesday, Nangle pleaded not guilty in federal court to 10 counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, nine counts of making false statements to a bank, and five counts of filing false tax returns. Magistrate Judge Page Kelley ordered Nangle to be released on a $25,000 unsecured bond with several conditions on his travel and a requirement that he not gamble.
Rep. Nangle, pictured as he left Federal Court in Boston Tuesday. (Kim Tunnicliffe/WBZ NewsRadio)
House Speaker DeLeo said in a Tuesday statement that the allegations against Nangle are "serious and troubling and, if true, represent a significant betrayal of the public trust," but he had not said whether Nangle would retain his leadership and committee posts while awaiting trial.
DeLeo's office did not make the speaker available to the News Service on Wednesday and did not comment further.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who was endorsed in both his successful campaigns for governor by Nangle, said he hasn't spoken to the legislator since his arrest, but called his decision to give up his leadership and committee assignments "appropriate."
As for whether Nangle should resign altogether, Baker said, "Remember, there is something called innocent until proven guilty here. If he's deemed to have committed these crimes then at that point, yeah, he should definitely step down."
Baker spoke to reporters after an event at the State House honoring veterans of Iwo Jima on the 75th anniversary of the battle. The ceremony drew several lawmakers to Beacon Hill during a school vacation week when the Legislature pauses from much of its formal business, and legislators remain in their districts.
Rep. Brad Hill, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was not ready to say Nangle should resign, and several members of the House said Nangle did the right thing by giving up his leadership post.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Dave right now, and his entire family. Whatever he, in consultation with the speaker of the House, are doing professionally and whatever Dave does individually I support. I love Dave Nangle. We all make mistakes. I just hope the best for him moving forward," said Rep. John Rogers, a Norwood Democrat.
Nangle is one of the remaining lawmakers who backed Rogers in his unsuccessful battle with DeLeo for the speakership in 2008 and 2009.
"The initial step of resigning from his leadership positions I would accept as appropriate at this time," Rogers said of his friend. "Whether or not there's a resignation of his legislative seat in the future, that's really an individual choice that he has to make one way or another, and I'll support him either way."
Hill, an Ipswich Republican and the assistant House minority leader, said Nangle's arrest had cast a "dark cloud" over the Legislature, but said he was "not ready to make that call" on whether Nangle should be pressured to resign.
"Obviously let it go through the court system, but legislatively it puts a dark cloud on the entire Legislature so I think it's a smart thing to do, step down and work its way through the court and if there's ramifications from the court case we'll deal with it at that appropriate time," Hill said.
Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, said Nangle did the right thing by giving up his positions quickly.
"Anything else would have been really unacceptable," Holmes said. "For me, from a perspective of a gentleman who used to run the Ethics Committee to be confused on how his ethics should be is embarrassing, so I think that was the right thing to do."
But when asked if Nangle should resign his seat altogether, Holmes recalled how he advocated for former Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who had been convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, to be allowed to remain in the House until voters could decide his electoral fate.
"Same would be for him," Holmes said, referring to Nangle. "I think he should serve out his term and leave, if that's appropriate next year."
On Tuesday, Henriquez posted a photo of Nangle and former Rep. Garrett Bradley to his Facebook page and commented on the fact that the men who played leading roles in the process of removing Henriquez from the House have since faced their own ethics-related issues.
"These 2 men participated in my 'ethics' hearings in 2014 and illegally removed me bending/breaking the House rules and ignoring the state constitution. Since then, their 'ethics' have been described as questionable," the former rep posted. "David Nangle and Garrett Bradley. The nerve of these men."
Bradley, a Democrat from Hingham, served in the House for 15 years until he abruptly resigned in 2016 ahead of a Boston Globe Spotlight story that reported questionable political donations made by him and members of his law firm. He has not been charged with any crime.
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative group that generally antagonizes Beacon Hill Democrats, had whacked the speaker for not removing Nangle from his leadership and committee roles before word of Nangle's decision became public on the morning after the representative's arrest and arraignment. Later Wednesday, the group said Nangle is the latest example of waning public trust in the House.
"We are glad to see Rep. Nangle step down from his leadership post and role on the ethics and rules committee. That is the very least he could do. The Massachusetts legislature is the most secretive state legislative body in America. They exempt themselves from the state's public records and open meeting laws, and their Speaker uses a taxpayer funded secret credit card for statehouse meals," Mass Fiscal spokesman Paul Craney said. "Only in Massachusetts, is progress measured and celebrated when an arrested member of the legislature, voluntarily removes himself from the ethics committee. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate term limits being reinstated for the Speaker position."
Other representatives approached about Nangle's arrest were more reluctant to talk. Several, including Reps. James Arciero of Westford and Jerry Parisella of Beverly, declined to comment.
Rep. Antonio Cabral, a New Bedford Democrat, paused a full 30 seconds when asked if it was the right thing for Nangle to step down from his assignments.
"I believe it is," Cabral finally said.
by Colin A. Young and Matt Murphy