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Posted September 7, 2006
                     
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Report Detailed St. Fleur's Problems
                      
Reilly's Team Got Early Information 
              

By FRANK PHILLIPS, Globe Staff

S HORTLY before noon on Jan. 31, Democrat Thomas F. Reilly's campaign received a report detailing the severity of Representative Marie St. Fleur's financial problems, including a federal lien against her for $12,000 in unpaid income taxes and her failure to repay her student loans.

Still, Reilly went ahead with a planned announcement two hours later that he had chosen St. Fleur to be his running mate.

The report, produced by a security and private investigative firm hired by the Reilly campaign to check St. Fleur's background, also noted St. Fleur's husband had faced a criminal complaint in Middlesex County alleging larceny.

The fact that the Reilly campaign had received the report before officially announcing St. Fleur's selection for the ticket has not previously been made public.

Two days after St. Fleur withdrew from the lieutenant governor's race because of the financial issues, Reilly suggested to reporters that his campaign's mistake had been in failing to sufficiently scrutinize her background. in today's globe:

``The process certainly could have been better, more complete, more thorough," Reilly said on Feb. 2.

Yesterday, Reilly said in an interview that although his campaign had hired security firm Vance International of Braintree to produce the report, he had never inquired into it, read it, or been briefed on its contents.

Reilly's chief of staff and political adviser Stephen J. Kerrigan received the report at 11:56 a.m. Jan. 31, according to documents examined by the Globe. At 2 p.m. that day at a Dorchester press conference, Reilly announced he had selected St. Fleur. ``I have no memory of reading a report or even if I have seen a report," Reilly said in the interview yesterday.

Asked if he had ever met with St. Fleur about the contents of the report, Reilly responded:

``I have no memory of sitting down and going over the report." He also said that his staff did not bring its contents to his attention.

St. Fleur, through an aide, declined a request for an interview yesterday. Calls to officials at Vance were not returned.

Reilly said he had no need to review the background report because he had trusted St. Fleur's statements to him in the days leading up to the announcement that although she and her husband had financial issues they were dealing with them.

The report, a copy of which was examined by the Globe, outlines the financial problems that quickly sank St. Fleur's candidacy.

In addition to the federal tax lien, the report says that St. Fleur's credit report ``lists 16 derogatory accounts, including 2 accounts [Southwest Students and MCI] that [have] been placed for collection." The report also said that St. Fleur and her husband had previously faced a $4,948 lien on their Dorchester home for unpaid property taxes from 2002 to 2003, but that the taxes had since been paid.

Reilly has previously said that he did not know the details of St. Fleur's issues until they were published in the Globe. In an interview with the Globe Jan. 31, hours after he announced St. Fleur as his running mate, he said he had talked with St. Fleur a few days earlier and that she had ``mentioned broad categories" of financial problems, including tax problems, that she was facing. He said he failed to press for details.

``I didn't quantify it [the debts]. I didn't ask," he said.

He added: ``She told me she had gone through financial struggles. I asked her basically what they were. She told me she had tax problems, tax issues, IRS, property taxes -- which is not unusual. Many prosecutors in Middlesex had enormous student loans, and they struggled financially. This is not new for me."

He did not, during that interview or subsequent interviews, mention that his campaign had commissioned and received the extensive background report that outlined the issues.

The St. Fleur selection last January turned into a major political embarrassment for Reilly who was the early favorite to win the Sept. 19 primary for the party's nomination for governor.

Much of the criticism centered on questions about why the Reilly campaign had apparently failed to undertake what would be a standard task for any high-profile appointment: rigorous vetting of the candidate.

In choosing St. Fleur, Reilly bypassed Christopher Gabrieli, the wealthy businessman who was willing to finance part of the campaign. Gabrieli decided about a month later to run for governor.

Walter Robinson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company. Reprinted from The Boston Globe of Thursday, September 7, 2006.

20 The New York Times Company                                       

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