By Michael J. Ballway

MetroWest Daily News Correspondent

FRAMINGHAM -- District Attorney Marian Ryan made it clear at the end of Wednesday's debate that she's running on her record.

So is Michael Sullivan, her challenger for Middlesex district attorney in the Democratic primary election on Sept. 9.

While Ryan, a Belmont resident, touted her 34 years of experience as a prosecutor and record as a "progressive innovator" as district attorney, Sullivan, a former prosecutor and current clerk of courts for Middlesex County, criticized her for running a hostile workplace and for lack of transparency. He returned several times to the Jared Remy murder case from earlier this year, when the Middlesex DA's Office refused to release documents that detail how it handled Remy's previous domestic-violence arrest.

"I find it hard to believe you can trust someone that, at a horrific time, in a gruesome murder, they blame the media, that puts a spin on a public records request."

Ryan said she had withheld documents that named junior members of her staff so that the media would focus its attention on her. She said it would always be her policy not to "throw my staff to the wolves."

As for the workplace environment, which Sullivan said has led to high turnover, low morale and an "intervention" by human-resources officers, she responded: "I'm not going to get into a debate about individual personnel decisions."

She questioned whether Sullivan -- who said he would have released the full report -- had the experience to lead high-profile prosecutions and oversee the DA's staff, having served only four years as an assistant district attorney.


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"I've tried cases at every level," she said. "I understand the law, I've practiced the law and I've defended the convictions I've won."

As an example, she pointed to Sullivan's response to a question about three murders in Waltham, on Sept. 11, 2011, which have been linked to deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

"If they had just followed the phone records, I'm not saying the Marathon (bombing) wouldn't have happened, Mr. Tsarnaev would have been identified," Sullivan said.

"That kind of speculation ... shows the lack of experience and lack of feeling for those who suffered," Ryan countered. "That's exactly what we can't do in the DA's Office."

Sullivan said his own varied experience. He has also served as a Cambridge city councilor and mayor, and as a lawyer in private practice, is an advantage.

"What makes me the person to lead this office is that I didn't spend the last 34 years in this office," he said. "Morale is significantly lower than it was in the past. This is about rebuilding."

The debate, held at Framingham Public Library, was sponsored by the Framingham Democratic Town Committee and the MetroWest Daily News.