Mayor Martin Walsh’s Chief of Staff Daniel Koh has filed an ethics disclosure with the city today in response to an inquiry from the Dorchester Reporter regarding his relationship with Amy Sennett, an employee of Boston 2024, the non-profit organization promoting the city's bid to secure the 2024 Olympic Games.
Sennett, Koh’s longtime girlfriend, began her role as an intern for Boston 2024 last September. She was hired full-time on Oct. 20 as vice president of strategic initiatives and assistant general counsel–a position that largely kept Sennett working on social media for the private nonprofit group behind Boston’s Olympic bid, Koh said.
“When she first started at that role, what I was advised from a legal perspective was that a disclosure was not necessary because of the nature of that role,” Koh said in an interview with the Reporter. “But I felt that it was very important that if we got the bid, roles would be more solidified, and once that happened, it was worth filing a disclosure for that. I was waiting for that to happen and fortunately now that is happening.”
On March 18, Sennett was named vice president of international strategy and assistant general counsel for Boston 2024, a position that will have her studying other cities’ bids and how they compare to Boston 2024.
The State Ethics Commission prohibits the “appearance of conflict of interest,” where the employee would be “acting in a manner that would make a reasonable person think you can be improperly influenced,” according to the Massachusetts General Laws.
In such a case, the employee is required to “publicly disclose” those facts. Koh, as an appointed employee, is required to make a disclosure to his appointing official: Walsh or Corporation Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty. Koh said the mayor is “aware of all of it.” The mayor encouraged him to “make sure that there is no potential image of impropriety.”
“It is unlikely my official actions or decisions will impact Ms. Sennett’s role at Boston 2024 given her specific job responsibilities in international relations, social media, marketing, technology, and legal research,” Koh wrote in the disclosure, filed with the city today. “I have not shown undue favor toward Boston 2024 and have held Boston 2024 to the highest standard of transparency.”
Koh, as Walsh’s chief of staff, has been by Walsh’s side as City Hall has delved into Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic games. He has appeared alongside Walsh at the city’s two sponsored public meetings to vet the games. Shortly after the US Olympic Committee announced Boston was selected to host the games in January, Koh tweeted a photo of he and Walsh holding a framed Olympic photo.
From City Hall’s perspective, people like Sennett and Joe Rull, Walsh’s former chief of operations and administration and now chief administrative officer at Boston 2024, provide reassurances to the mayor, whose support for the games could define his administration.
“I think it’s helpful for us to have someone like Joe Rull, to have someone like Amy, who has the mayor’s back. If there are any red flags that she sees there, she’s able to communicate that to 2024 and to us in the same way Joe Rull is there for us.”
Koh continued: “These are people that we trust in the organization and I think that’s really, really helpful for us to have people that we obviously know very well in the organization to represent the mayor’s interests.”