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Hitting the jackpot

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Tomorrow night’s Megabucks jackpot is an estimated $4.3 million. If you’re under 40 and not feeling particularly lucky but still like the sound of that much money, you could run for state representative and then get an appointment as a clerk-magistrate. If you keep the $110,000-a-year job until you’re 80 – which is not hard to do – you would make at least $4.4 million if the Legislature never passes another raise for you.

State Rep. Christopher Speranzo, come on down. The 38-year-old lawmaker, who kept his application quiet while he was running for reelection last November, was narrowly approved to become the clerk-magistrate of Pittsfield District Court by the Governor’s Council yesterday on a vote that required Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray to break a 4-4 tie.

This is not to say that Speranzo is unqualified. To the contrary, his resume equals or betters many current clerk-magistrates. But Speranzo is the latest lawmaker to join the ranks where more than 25 percent of the 83 clerk-magistrates have ties to Beacon Hill. It’s the only job in the state that has no mandatory retirement age and virtually no way to remove someone from the position.

There’s also an opening for an assistant clerk-magistrate job in Suffolk Juvenile Court. Peter Coyne, brother of plugged-in lobbyist William Coyne and Boston Municipal Court Judge Michael Coyne and hired for the position by then-clerk-magistrate John Bulger, is leaving the post after getting confirmed yesterday for a judgeship in the juvenile court.

The lifetime appointments of clerks and the political connections needed to land the job were issues CommonWealth highlighted in our Spring issue but ones that no one seems to want to address. Clerks have almost complete autonomy over hiring and firing and the process to remove clerks and their assistants is so onerous that it has only happened once – in 1992 – despite a rash of anecdotes about malfeasance and shoddy work ethics.

When House Speaker Robert DeLeo trumpeted his recent court reform bill that addresses many of the concerns that came from the Probation Department scandal, he did not include any attempt to reform the clerk-magistrate position, saying there was only so much the Legislature could do at once.

One senator who was involved in the shaping of the bill said DeLeo was “adamant” about excluding clerk-magistrates from the measure.

“The speaker was adamant that we not put it in,” said the senator, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t know why, you’ll have to ask him, but it (was) clear that’s not going to be addressed now.”

                                                                                                                                                            --JACK SULLIVAN   




BEACON HILL

Radio Boston reports on a bid by the state of Massachusetts to raise money for social services by offering private investors a chance to earn profits on the programs they fund. CommonWealth reports on social impact bonds in its latest issue.

Secretary of State William Galvin will move the 2012 primary to avoid a conflict with Rosh Hashana.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan says he will have to lay off about 30 city employees after the 200-member AFSCME union voted not to extend the 8 percent pay cut they agreed to in 2009.

Columbia Pictures cut a check for $114,500 to the city of Quincy for renting several city properties during the recent filming of a new Kevin James movie.

Braintree officials are putting a contract to install artificial turf fields at the high school out for bid again after the first winning bidder was nullified by the attorney general for not meeting the town’s Responsible Employer Ordinance.

Salem hired a harbormaster who is a civilian instead of a police offer, the Salem News reports. Harbormasters and their handling of moorings are the focus of a Jack Sullivan’s piece in the new issue of CommonWealth.

Saugus is searching for ways to plug a nearly $800,000 deficit, the Item reports.

The Lynnfield mother of 2-year-old twins who drowned last July says she received a card of support from fellow town residents Steven and Trisha Vinci, and now she plans to return the favor because the Vincis lost their 4-year-old daughter to drowning on Monday. The Item has the story.

The Boston Herald editorial page takes Boston mayor Tom Menino to task for his rapid-fire denunciation of things like triple-deckers and motorized bikes, rather than criminals themselves. The criticism echoes an earlier piece in Boston magazine, which depicted Menino frantically rolling out new anti-crime campaigns that did more to confuse cops and counteract each other than to reduce gunplay.

WHITEY BULGER

James “Whitey” Bulger pleads not guilty to a federal racketeering indictment charging him with the murders of 19 people. Peter Krupp, Whitey’s first attorney, tells Emily Rooney he doubts his former client can get a fair trial. The Herald’s Peter Gelzinis says Billy Bulger is the only person who could convince Whitey to throw in the towel. The Globe is selling e-books of its previous series on Whitey on Amazon.com.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The Globe’s Sally Jacobs, author of a biography of President Obama’s father, reports that the elder Obama told a US immigration official in 1961 that he and Ann Dunham, then five months pregnant with the baby who would go on to become president, planned to put their then-unborn child up for adoption.

In the latest on debt reduction negotiations, President Obama proposes cuts in Medicare and Social Security, reports the Washington Post. Karl Rove sees the debt crisis as a huge opportunity for Obama. Josh Green likens the Tea Party’s stance on the debt ceiling to a murder-suicide pact.

Rep. Ron Paul hates the TSA’s cute puppies.

ELECTION 2012

The Globe reports on US Senate hopeful Alan Khazei’s big fundraising lead over his fellow Democratic contenders. However, Sen. Scott Brown’s $2 million fundraising haul blew away all his would-be opponents; Brown now has $9.6 million in the bank.

The Bay State Banner looks at Setti Warren’s Senate run so far.

NECN reports on President Obama’s Twitter town hall, and talks to the editorial page editor of the Union-Leader in New Hampshire, who was one of the curators for the event. The Springfield Republican meanwhile rounds up some of the more amusing tweets.

GAY MARRIAGE

The eight states that allow gay marriage plus the District of Columbia have lower overall divorce rates than the states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, according to a Census data analysis by US New & World Report.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Fannie Mae is spending a lot of money just maintaining the 153,000 foreclosed homes on its books, WBUR reports.

Massachusetts’ improving economy with a declining unemployment rate has disqualified the state from extended federal benefits and resulted in many longtime unemployed workers in some of the hardest hit regions to have their assistance checks abruptly cut off.

Plans for a big mixed-used project in the Fenway were unveiled by the Boston developer Abbey Group in a filing with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

HEALTH CARE

Blue Cross announced it will repay to customers the $4.2 million severance portion of its much-criticized $11 million payout to former chief executive Cleve Killingsworth -- but Killingsworth will not repay anything to the company. NECN reports the move was a goodwill gesture, since Attorney General Martha Coakley found that Killingsworth earned the money.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A plant that would convert food waste into electricity moves forward in Haverhill even as neighbors raise concerns about odors, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Cape Cod was awarded funds in the state budget to study potential cost savings from wastewater management efforts, the Cape Cod Times reports.

The Cape Cod Times reports on the impending investigation of the Cape Light Compact and Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative by a panel appointed by the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who had many aliases, including Clark Rockefeller, heads to California to face murder charges, NECN reports.

The MetroWest Daily News looks at teen dating violence in the wake of Wayland teen Lauren Astley’s murder.

 

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