GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 4, 2013

Ex-AG defends probe of fish fund

Former state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger says he was aware that he cited a disbarred lawyer as a character witness for Vito Giacalone’s altruism in an investigative report that cleared Giacalone — fisherman, shoreside Gloucester businessman, head of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund and policy head of the Northeast Seafood Coalition — of abusing his influence in collusion with other powerful industry figures.

And Harshbarger conceded Friday that he had uncovered evidence similar to one second-hand allegation — that business partners of Giacalone’s, brothers Richard and Raymond Canastra of New Bedford — used financial inducements to shift business away from a longstanding fish auction to an outlet operated on property owned by Giacalone and run by his three sons.

But in a telephone interview Friday, Harshbarger said the disbarment of Bruce Nicholls in 2010 for “intentionally” misappropriating $77,000 to be held in escrow in a divorce case, “had nothing to do with his assessment of Vito’s work.”

Nicholls, counsel to the preservation fund until his disbarment by the Supreme Judicial Court in February 2010, was grouped with five others in the report by Harshbarger, who “emphatically commend Giacalone for his independence when acting for the fund and insisted he goes out his way to give up personal gain for the good of the fund.”

Also among the group agreeing with Nicholls about Giacalone’s selflessness was Mike Walsh. He heads a small group of fishermen based in Boston organized into a fishing cooperative or sector associated with the Northeast Seafood Coalition to which the preservation fund gave nearly $1 million in cash and permits from a state grant of $12 million to mitigate fishing opportunities lost to the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal about 10 miles from Gloucester.

The Times reported in January 2012 that Gicacalone confirmed that Walsh had threatened to sue the Gloucester permit bank for a share of the LNG mitigation money, in an effort to get Giacalone to deliver on a agreement with the state covering the mitigation grant to “address the interests” of groundfishermen “south of the North Shore.”

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