By Staff

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The longest-serving speaker in the history of the Massachusetts House confirmed he is seeking a job at Northeastern University. Speaker Robert DeLeo said Friday he has filed a disclosure letter that announces his intent to begin negotiations for a position at his alma mater.

“Today I filed a disclosure letter with the House Clerk and the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission to disclose that I intend to begin negotiating prospective employment opportunities with Northeastern University,” DeLeo said in a statement. “As of today, I have not personally had any discussions with anyone from Northeastern University relative to any possible employment opportunities.”

Speculation has grown in recent days on Beacon Hill about the 70-year-old Winthrop Democrat’s future. DeLeo’s statement did not say if or when he might resign as speaker.

A possible successor to DeLeo would be Rep. Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat. Mariano holds a top leadership post, serving as majority leader.

Mariano — first elected to the House in December 1991 in a special election — declined to comment through an aide Thursday.

DeLeo has served in the top post in the House for 12 years, following the resignation in January 2009 of former Democratic Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who would later be convicted on federal corruption charges including conspiracy, extortion and theft of honest services by fraud. He ended up serving five years of an eight-year prison sentence.

The two speakers preceding DiMasi also left under a cloud.

DiMasi’s predecessor, former Democratic House Speaker Thomas Finneran pleaded guilty in 2007 to a federal obstruction of justice charge for giving false testimony in a 2003 lawsuit over a legislative redistricting plan that diluted the clout of minority voters.

Finneran’s predecessor, former Democratic Speaker Charles Flaherty was forced from office after pleading guilty to a federal felony tax charge. Neither Finneran nor Flaherty served prison time.

DeLeo was first elected to the House in 1991. He went on to serve as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee before taking the reins as speaker.

As DeLeo neared the end of a four-term limit on the speaker’s office, he successfully pushed to lift the cap, allowing his to continue holding the top post.

DeLeo, who earns $169,000 including his leadership stipend, ran unopposed during last month’s election.

Gov. Charlie Baker said DeLeo called him Friday morning to tell him about the disclosure filing. He said his administration has worked extensively with both Mariano and Rep. Russell Holmes, of Boston, another potential candidate.

The speaker wields enormous clout at the Statehouse.

The speaker can reward supporters with plum committee assignments and extra stipends while also punishing critics and blocking bills he opposes while pushing others that he favors.

Just this fall, it was DeLeo’s decision to support a push to add an amendment to the state budget expanding abortion rights in Massachusetts that helped guarantee it would be approved by House lawmakers over some objections by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

If he steps down, a special election would be called to fill DeLeo’s House seat. It would be up to the 160-members House to vote on his successor.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.) Staff