Boston's 'Minister of Fun' charged with extortion

Boston's 'Minister of Fun' charged with extortion

BOSTON — A city official was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the alleged extortion of a musical festival production company and a tv show production company.

Kenneth Brissette, 52, is the City of Boston's Director of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment, or as he puts it - the "Minister of Fun."

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In the summer of 2014, Brissette and at least one other city official allegedly told the organizers of Boston Calling they needed to hire members of Local 11 to work at the music festival. According to the indictment, the company told Brissette that it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and had already hired all of its labor.

Despite the music company already having hired all of its workers, Brissette allegedly insisted that half of the company's labor consist of union members. According to the indictment, Brissette eventually settled on the company hiring eight Local 11 workers.

"There's a line, and in this case if the allegations are true, he crossed that line,” labor attorney Peter Moser said.

Also in 2014, Brissette allegedly pressured a non-union production company filming "Top Chef" in Boston to hire union workers. According to the eight-page indictment, Brissette "was upset that the [production] company had not hired the union local and its members. Brissette instructed a producer to make a deal with the union local and unless a deal was made, the permits would not be released."

Moser, the labor attorney, said these tactics are common in the relationship between government and organized labor.

"It cannot be any other way. There's an element of human nature to this. When you've got a system that's set up this way when organized labor will donate money, as it's perfectly allowed to do to political candidates, and those political candidates get into office,” he said. "How do you reward that?”

In court Thursday, Brissette pleaded not guilty.