At the time, Tom Menino called it a joke, but the incident was no laughing matter to the FBI. Almost six months after the former mayor's death, records obtained by WGBH News show that Menino was the subject of a federal corruption probe stemming from comments he made to a Sprint attorney that aired on an ABC-TV documentary in 2002.
In a June 2002 episode of the short-run series Boston 24/7, the late mayor was filmed telling a Sprint attorney in a phone conversation that the company would lose a city contract to AT&T if Sprint didn't give $25,000 to a city-run youth basketball league. Both Menino and the attorney, Steve Miller, denied any wrongdoing, telling the Boston Globe that the whole thing was just a big joke. Menino told the paper that he and his office were just trying to create partnerships, something he said they did "almost everyday of the week."
"It gets so ridiculous after a while. If I could understand, if there is something wrong — there was no intention," Menino said at the time. "We had a program that we needed help on and that's my issue. If you did a survey of mayors across the country, they are always asking for help in their programs."
The FBI investigation began soon after, prompted by a Boston Herald article that also questioned the appropriateness of the conversation between Menino and Miller. Initially, an assistant U.S. Attorney stated that the case had "prosecutive merit." Investigators conducted interviews and reviewed city contracts, including Sprint and AT&T contracts with the city. But it wasn't until over a year later, in September 2003, that federal officials decided to close the case and not to bring charges.
In the intervening time, Menino was being considered for a position on the White House's Homeland Security Advisory Council. In its records, Boston's FBI office was notified in August 2002 of a routine name check request from the White House and directed to send "pertinent details of the investigation that can be disseminated." Menino, ultimately, was not chosen to serve on the council.
Read Tom Menino's FBI file: