Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Probation Department Must Go to Patrick, Now

The Probation Department scandal is casting a dark force on government, but darker still is the fact that Representative Charles Murphy -- one of the most powerful Democrats in state government -- is doubling down, insisting there's no wrongdoing within the legislature, when all evidence points to the contrary. Representative Murphy is not helping himself here:
“Is there any evidence to suggest that jobs are for sale?’’ said Murphy. “Did Paul Ware say in his report that any legislator got money for jobs? The answer is no. He didn’t. It is not there. He says there is a statistical probability of something like that, a chance. That’s not evidence. And he was very clear to state that.’’
Emphasis mine. Ware's report is absolutely devastating to the credibility of our Government in Massachusetts -- and it certainly calls into question many legislators in the state legislature.
Ware, in his investigation, also pursued the Spotlight finding that probation was beset with a "pay to play mentality" in which scores of job seekers made contributions to legislators in apparent hopes of favored treatment. Ware said he could not prove that individual politicians got jobs for people directly in exchange for campaign contributions, which could violate state and federal bribe statutes. But he said statistical evidence shows that legislators tried much harder to get jobs for people who gave them campaign contributions. Ware said his job was to investigate problems in probation, leaving it to others to probe whether legislators broke the law, too.
It gets worse.
The special counsel makes it clear that O'Brien, a protege of former House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, was supporting legislators' job candidates in exchange for a bigger probation budget. O'Brien's political aides methodically kept track of legislators' favored candidates for jobs, showing that legislative leaders received by far the most patronage hires, Ware found.
Terrifyingly, it gets even worse.
Ware found that O'Brien's patronage machine was so extensive that some legislators rated their people on a scale of one to four, often giving the highest rating to people who were also campaign contributors. On one "Sponsor List" compiled for O'Brien, Ware found that 62 percent of the legislator-backed candidates got probation jobs -- if they also gave money. But only 25 percent of sponsored candidates who did not give money got probation jobs.
The legitimacy of our very state government is in peril with the Ware Report. With all due respect to Representative Murphy, the House leadership is the last body that should be making decisions about the probation department. This is especially true when Representative Petrolati is #3 on the House Totem Pole. This is a man who is so deeply embroiled in this entire scandal that he was not only compelled to testify about it (after holding out for a lengthy period of time), but he actually refused to answer any questions when finally questioned.

While Governor Patrick recognized the probation department as a "rogue agency," Representative Murphy "pushed back strongly" against the report. Who do we want making the decisions about how this agency is ran?

The fact of the matter is Governor Patrick is the only person in state government who has demonstrated the political courage and trust necessary to tackle the reforms this agency needs, and placing the agency under the executive branch will at least ensure someone is accountable for its actions and the way it is run. The leadership in the House and Senate must recognize that if trust is to be given to our state government, it cannot delay or somehow try to hold out. Too many of its members are potentially involved.


Anonymous said...

And why didn't Patrick refer the probation mess to DeNucci, Coakley, or the IG once he knew about the abuses? And how about Thomas McGee?
Dave Whelan

Anonymous said...

Note the following from the Senate website relative to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:

Joint Committee on the Judiciary
It shall be the duty of the committee on Judiciary to consider all matters concerning crimes, penalties and sentencing, criminal offender record information, judiciary, including the recall of judges, the salaries of judges, court clerks and court officers of the various courts, probation officers, juries and jury duty, parole, registers of deeds, correction issues previously sent to Public Safety (but excluding the retirement of judges and all other court personnel) and such other matters as may be referred.

You thinking McGee might have lots of explaing to do? Join me in asking him to explain himself.
Dave Whelan

Ryan said...

Dave -- I'm confident everything is going to be investigated and that those who are guilty of breaking the law will be found out.

I'd call on everyone to step forward and talk about what they know -- but first thing's first, we need to get the agency back into working order and that's only going to happen as a part of the executive branch.

Anonymous said...

Lets walk and chew gum. Ask McGee formally for answers and let the rest of sort itself out.

Quriltai said...

Eh. It sounds nice to say "must go to Patrick" if one likes Governor Patrick. However, Deval isn't going to be governor forever. Is it a good idea to accumulate more power in the Corner Office if it ends up being occupied by someone we don't like?

The dysfunction of this system is simply an outgrowth of the unchallenged one-party dominance of the Legislature, an aberration in time and place. However, transferring this system to the control of the executive gives it over to an agency that is inherently and necessarily a one-power actor. Seems we're exacerbating the conditions that allow this hackery.

Anonymous said...

Patrick isnt exactly a stranger to patronage.

Ryan said...

Patrick's proven himself a capable manager, and I haven't seen anyone complaining about his institutional reforms.

As far as worries go in regards to folding it into the executive branch... there's many different agencies that the executive branch is held responsible for and we all expect those agencies to work. I don't see how this would be any different. Not every governor is going to be as good in overseeing these agencies as others, but that's why we host elections. If they tinker and screw around with them, they'll get booted next election.

Anonymous said...

So will you join a group of 3rd Essex and Middlesex residents in asking Tom for an explanation of the probation matter?

Anonymous said...

Another good democrat

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