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UMass Boss Quits Over Brother’s Mob Ties

August 7, 2003

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) _ University of Massachusetts President William M. Bulger had support from people in high places, but in the end, he couldn’t escape the shadow of a fugitive mobster brother.

Bulger _ whose brother is linked to 21 murders _ resigned Wednesday after months of pressure, blaming ``a calculated political assault″ against the university by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

The university trustees voted to accept the resignation, and agreed to pay him more than two years’ salary in a severance package totaling nearly $1 million. Bulger also is entitled to his state pension that will pay him more than $200,000 a year, said trustee Lawrence Boyle.

``Although we have met the challenges and are up to the task of meeting more, I increasingly believe that the university and its Board of Trustees should not be subjected to further assault,″ Bulger said Wednesday. ``I hope that the step I take today will be helpful in our effort to provide a measure of protection for the university.″

Boyle objected to the severance package which includes $695,000 in salary, plus $154,000 for a six-month sabbatical and other accrued benefits.

``We paid what they demanded,″ said Boyle, the only trustee to vote against the resignation. ``It was inappropriate. There was a lot of room to negotiate.″

Other trustees said the money was less than Bulger could have pressed for under terms outlined in his contract.

``I think this agreement is very fair, it’s very reasonable, I think it’s very fair to the university, I think it’s very fair to the president,″ said trustee Robert Sheridan.

Bulger criticized Romney for ``character attacks″ on trustees and for creating a ``litmus test″ for new appointees to the board, apparently referring to Romney’s plan to appoint trustees who would vote to fire Bulger.

Romney, who was rebuffed by the Legislature when he attempted to eliminate Bulger’s job earlier this year, said Wednesday that he would no longer pursue eliminating the post.

``It’s a positive development, positive for the students, positive for the university,″ Romney said of Bulger’s resignation. ``I think we can go forward now without a shadow of controversy over the university.″

The 69-year-old Bulger’s departure came just two months after UMass trustees gave him their support even as a storm of protest swirled around him and his recent testimony before a congressional committee investigating the FBI’s ties to its mob informants.

In June, he had testified under a grant of immunity about his mob brother, Winter Hill Gang leader James ``Whitey″ Bulger, who has been on the lam since 1995. Whitey Bulger, who was allegedly a prized informant for the FBI even as he became a much-feared figure in Boston’s underworld, fled just before his indictment on federal charges related to 21 murders.

While admitting he had spoken to his brother once since he fled, Bulger said he had no idea of his whereabouts and said there was little he could have done to steer him from a life of crime. Whitey Bulger is now on the law enforcement agency’s ``10 Most Wanted″ list.

The board plans to begin searching for a new president soon. Bulger’s future plans are uncertain, but he waived rights to a lifetime faculty position at UMass-Boston.

Pressure has mounted against Bulger from a variety of political quarters. Romney, who will get to appoint three new trustees next month, had urged Bulger to resign _ as did Attorney General Thomas Reilly, the state’s highest-elected Democrat.

Bulger is a legendary political figure in Massachusetts, where he carved out a reputation as a force to be reckoned with during his unprecedented 17 years as the president of the state Senate.

Bulger, who became UMass president in 1996, was paid $309,000 in salary and another $48,000 in benefits. His contract was set to expire in 2007.

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