Attorney General Edward W. Brooke moved yesterday to clear the name of the Massachusetts Crime Commission, temporarily sullied by the charge that two of its members--including former Harvard Dean Wilbur J. Bender '27--had changed their party affiliations in order to gain positions on the panel.
Brooke told reporters yesterday that in his opinion the Commission is "legally constituted" and said his office would oppose a motion in Suffolk Supreme Court by former Governor's Councilor Joseph Crimmins to have the Commission and its work declared invalid. Crimmins was indicted last month on bribery charges stemming from the Crime Commission's investigations.
The issue of the Commission's legality centers around the enabling legislation which provides that no more than four of its seven members can belong to any one political party. Both Bender and Sanford J. Fox, the other commissioner whose status is in question, admit to changing their affiliation from Republican to Independent less than one week before Gov. Volpe appointed them to the Commission in September, 1962, despite another state law which provides that in qualifying for a state board an individual's party affiliation will be determined by how he was registered two years prior to appointment.
Change of Party
Election records show, however, that Fox was registered as an Independent two years before his appointment. He changed to Republican to vote in the September, 1962, primary, and then switched back to Independent. Bender had been registered as a Republican since 1949 before switching to Independent.
On the basis of these records and the "two-year law," Brooke ruled that the Commission actually contains four Republicans--including Bender--two Independents, including Fox, and one Democrat, and is therefore legal. As a curious twist Brooke pointed out that Fox will have to resign from the Commission two years from Sept. 18, 1962, because as of that date he will be considered a Republican.
Bender told the CRIMSON Wednesday that he had changed his registration to "move accurately reflect my basic political feelings and history" and said no one had suggested he switch his affiliation in order to receive his appointment.