Money and Power
A number of the players behind the controversial proposed Palmer Renewable Energy plant are also significant political contributors.
According to records from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance:
• Employees of Palmer Paving—all but a couple of them members of the Callahan family, which owns the company—have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns over the past decade, on both the state and local levels. Palmer Paving owns the land on which the Palmer Renewable Energy plant is to be built, and David Callahan, president of Palmer Paving, is also the manager and resident agent of Palmer Renewable Energy, LLC.
Those contributions include a total of $2,500 to Gov. Deval Patrick since December of 2009, and $750 to Lt. Gov. Tim Murray since December of 2008. (Members of the Callahan family also gave a total of $4,000 to Tim Cahill, Patrick’s rival for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010, and $400 to Charlie Baker, the Republican gubernatorial candidate that year.)
On the municipal level, Callahan family members who work for Palmer Paving have given $2,025 to Mayor Domenic Sarno since the fall of 2008. Michael Shea, listed as Palmer Paving’s manager, gave $500 to Sarno in November of 2009. Sarno has voiced his “conditional support” of the PRE plant, dependent on the project satisfying government safety requirements.
At-large City Councilor Jimmy Ferrera, Jr. received two $250 contributions from David Callahan, one in October of 2008 and the other in June of 2009. In September of 2008, Ferrera voted in favor of PRE receiving a special permit for the plant.
Former Councilor Bud Williams, who left the Council at the end of 2009, received $1,000 from Callahan family members from October, 2008 to June of 2009. Williams also received a $500 donation from the president of Barletta Engineering of Canton, Palmer Paving’s partner in the Springfield plant, in June of 2009. Williams voted in favor of the special permit.
City Councilor Jose Tosado received a $250 donation from David Callahan in October of 2008. Tosado voted in favor of the special permit that year, but recently told the Advocate that he can no longer support the project in light of new information about its risks. Tosado is widely expected to announce that he’s running for mayor this fall.
• Frank Fitzgerald, a Springfield attorney who represents Palmer Renewable Energy (as well as many other entities that have appeared before the City Council over the years), is also a major contributor to state and local candidates.
Since January of 2008, Fitzgerald’s Springfield campaign contributions have included:
• $1,050 to At-large City Councilor Jimmy Ferrera
• $1,000 to Mayor Domenic Sarno
• $700 to Council President Jose Tosado
• $625 to former Councilor Bud Williams
• $250 to At-large Councilor Kateri Walsh (Walsh voted in favor of PRE’s special permit in 2008)
• $250 to At-large Councilor Tim Rooke (Rooke also voted in favor of the special permit)