BOSTON (CBS) – The I-Team investigation which led to a public corruption probe of a Boston Firefighter has now expanded beyond the city limits. As I-Team reporter Joe Shortsleeve explains, a state official is now under investigation in an alleged scheme to steer lucrative contracts to a Malden hazardous waste company.
Walpole resident Ron Rizzo is upset about what happened to his mother.
“She is an elderly woman. She was overwhelmed at the time. She was by herself.”
WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports
It was last May. The woman’s underground oil tank ruptured causing a hazardous spill at her Peabody home.
“She was nervous. She did not know what was supposed to happen.”
The I-Team has learned what did happen is now the subject of an investigation.
An army of emergency workers, firefighters, a Malden hazardous waste cleanup company and a state environmental agent all swarmed her house.
Rizzo says, “There was a lot of talk about if you don’t do something, the state could place liens on your property. There would be fines if you don’t’ do something right away.”
Intimidated and scared the woman now regrets what she did next. She signed a contract worth tens of thousands of dollars with Shawn Clarke, the owner of that Malden company, Removal Specialists. It is now a key player in a public corruption probe.
Ron Rizzo says he does not know who called Clarke.
Rizzo believes Steve Ross played a role in the decisions his elderly mother made that day. He is the state environmental agent who was in the kitchen that Sunday with Shawn Clarke.
Ross is under investigation for possible inappropriate ties to Clarke and his company.
Shortsleeve caught up with Ross outside his North Shore home recently.
Shortsleeve said, “The story we are working on is how you’re steering contracts to Removal Specialists.”
Ross: “I understand that.”
Shortsleeve: “Why are you doing that?”
Ross: “We are not doing that sir.”
Shortsleeve: “We have multiple sources who say you are steering contracts to Removal Specialists.”
Ross: “Well your sources are likely wrong.”
The I-Team obtained a hand written list of companies Ross gave the elderly woman and it included Removal Specialists. Technically, that is not a department violation but they are not a state approved contractor.
Ross is now the second public employee caught up in this corruption probe by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
The I-Team told you in November about Boston Firefighter Fred Ellis. He allegedly threatened one driver stranded on Route 93 with arrest unless he hired Removal Specialists to clean up a gas spill.
But now the I-Team has found more cases.
Sal Dampolo says he also hired the company after Steve Ross specifically recommended them to clean up a gas spill at his Billerica service station.
Dampolo says, “He told me to hire Removal Specialists.”
Shortsleeve: “They are not supposed to recommend one particular company…..but in your case he did?”
One thing is clear, Removal Specialists has been getting a lot of business whenever Steve Ross shows up at a hazardous spill.
The I-Team obtained state documents which show over the past three years…Removal Specialists landed 46 contracts… or one out of every three.
An I-Team source says it is no coincidence.
“We take care of him very well.”
This man who did not want to be identified is an industry insider who says Ross has had a cozy relationship with Shawn Clarke for years.
Source: “He brings in business.”
Shortsleeve: “How does he bring in business?”
Source: “Phone calls to Shawn in regards to residential spills.”
Our source also tells the I-Team Ross and Clarke socialized at a Saugus restaurant.
Shortsleeve: “So Ross and Clarke would have dinner together?”
Shortsleeve: “And you saw them having dinner together?”
The State Department of Environmental Protection says so far they have found no evidence of wrongdoing and that Ross remains on the job. The DEP is also reminding employees to review the state ethics laws which relate to conflict of interest.
The I-Team has reached out to Shawn Clarke a number of times but he has refused to speak with us.