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Briefings: Failure to Communicate? Sarno Spox Arrested…

UPDATED 11/22/19 11:01PM: To clarify that while Sullivan is described as “of Longmeadow” in some outlets, her address is actually in Springfield.

UPDATED 11/18/19 6:38PM: To include details of Sullivan’s suspension and to note reporting from The Republican on the circumstances of her arrest.

Marian Sullivan (via LinkedIn)

Marian Sullivan, the Communications Director for the mayor of Springfield, has been suspended following her arrest this weekend. Mayor Domenic Sarno announced the decision in a press release that appeared to preempt the eventual public disclosure. She apparently faces charges for malicious destruction of property at MGM Springfield although law enforcement have not confirmed this.

Sullivan has held the post since 2015 and has functioned as Sarno’s primary press contact and message manager. It was not immediately clear what the impact on Sarno’s staff would be or the circumstances of her arrest. The release announcing the suspension came from Deputy Comms Director Darryl Moss, but was not widely disseminated on the city social media channels.

“I’m shocked and very disturbed by the arrest of my communications director Ms. Marian Sullivan,” Sarno said in a statement according to media reports.

While her portfolio nominally covers the entire city, Sullivan’s position falls explicitly within mayor’s office as opposed to a formally nonpolitical department like the Clerk’s Office.

Since becoming mayor in January 2008, Sarno has had four communications directors. His first was Azell Cavaan, who also held the post under Mayor Charles Ryan. Within a year of Sarno taking office, Cavaan moved over a similar position in the schools. Thomas Walsh then became comms director until his resignation in 2012. James Leydon took over and held the post until Sullivan succeeded him. Leydon left to take the top comms job in Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office.

Mayor Domenic Sarno in 2017. (WMassP&I)

Sullivan’s selection as communications director came as a surprise. Unlike Leydon and Walsh, who rose up from within the mayor’s office, Sullivan was an external hire. Moss, who had served as deputy comms director since 2013, had seemed like a natural choice.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Sullivan, a 2014 graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, had held a communications internship with MGM in the summer of 2014. She had some political experience, working as a campaign organizer for the 2013 casino ballot question campaign. Between her initial involvement with MGM in 2013 and appointment to the mayor’s office, she also worked at SMU’s advancement office.

Within City Hall, Sullivan is known to be among Sarno’s most loyal aides and a true believer in his mayoralty. Reporters, generally, have mixed feelings. While not necessarily unresponsive to reporter requests—excluding outlets the mayor ignores as a policy—journos have groused she is less available to provide context and details off the record compared to her predecessors.

The full details of Sullivan’s arrest remain unclear. Springfield Police Department spokesperson Ryan Walsh said that Pearl Street was uninvolved in the arrest. Likewise, MGM also declined to provide details about the arrest, directing inquiries to Springfield Police and Massachusetts State Police.

Media reports indicate that Massachusetts State Police was the arresting agency. This would be consistent with plans laid out before the casino’s opening. While Springfield Police form an integral part of the security plan, including the creation of a new Metro unit, they do not have responsibility for public safety within the facility.

Rather, Staties patrol the casino’s interior, alongside MGM’s own security staff. That would, reasonably, place not only personal safety crimes but also cheating or gaming fraud under State Police. Compared to Pearl Street, State Police would have more resources to investigate these unique and complex offenses.

Tilt. (WMassP&I)

As of this posting, Massachusetts State Police had not replied to a request for information. However, State Police told The Republican that she was arrested for damaging property at MGM’s Cal Mare restaurant and vandalizing cars in the garage.

On Monday, The Republican obtained the police report, which describes Sullivan allegedly kicking cars and equipment and fixtures at Cal Mare. She was ultimately taken the Springfield State Police barracks while attempting to contact MGM and city officials, including Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.

The Republican reports Sullivan was identified as “of Longmeadow.” She is registered to vote in Springfield. On Friday, WMassP&I reviewed court documents which identify Sullivan with a Longmeadow address, but that is not correct. The address has a Longmeadow zip code, but is actually in Springfield.

Outlets have reported that Sullivan will remain suspended until her legal issues are sorted out. Moss, presumably now acting in her stead, did not return a request for comment on whether her suspension was with or without pay. City records indicate her current full-year salary is just shy of $67,000. Since this story was originally posted, the city has described Sullivan’s suspension as paid on the recommendation of the Law and Human Resources departments.

The Republican’s story indicates police found her intoxicated. Sarno’s statement indicates she needs “help” and his office would support her. That, other than loyalty alone, may explain why he suspended rather than terminated her.