GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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January 29, 2013

Ex-AG report clears fisheries group, but raises questions

A 48-page report released today by a former state attorney general has found allegations of wrongdoing by Vito Giacalone in his role heading the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund “without merit” and with no “credible basis.”

The investigation and report, filled with compliments and praise for Giacalone, in one place noting that his many admirers consider him a “genius” of foresight, was commissioned and financed by the preservation fund, for which Giacalone serves as president and executive director.

The report was presented to the Times at a meeting and joint interview at the newspaper attended by the author, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and the preservation fund board -- Giacalone, Jackie Odell, who is also executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, Dale Brown, a senior staffer in the administration of former Mayor John Bell, and Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association.

But in upholding Giacalone’s actions at the fund, which was organized as a nonprofit corporation in 2007 and vested with $12 million from the state to serve as a permit bank for Gloucester boats, the Harsgbarger report did recommend that the board, be doubled in size from four to eight. And the report raises a number of other questions, suggesting at one point that Gloucester’s two state lawmakers urged the Preservation Fund to seek counsel and look into its structure merely as a way to “cover” themselves, and suggesting that questions regarding perceived conflicts of interest on Giacalone’s part were fabricated and motivated by business competition.

The investigation by the preservation fund last August following a report in the Times on a letter to Giacalone and former Mayor Bell, president of the Northeast Seafood Coaltion from state Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

The Harshbarger report indicated that Tarr and Ferrante told Harsbarger’s team that their own letter as nothing more than a formality the Tarr-Ferrante letter which “strongly recommended” the two organizations which have interlocked boards of directors, “seek advice from legal counsel regarding their respective obligations under the law.” Neither Tarr nor Ferrante had returned calls to the Times seeking comment as of this afternoon.

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