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The Download: Another patronage haven bites the dust

Posted in: Current Affairs
Tags: The Download



One by one, state government’s biggest patronage havens are being shut down. The state’s Probation Department, long an employment agency for politically connected friends of state lawmakers, got a makeover last year after rigged hiring practices were documented by an independent counsel. And now state Auditor Suzanne Bump is cleaning house at her office, turning out many of the employees hired by her predecessor, Joe DeNucci, who the Herald, in an editorial, says ran “a personal job bank for friends and relatives.”


Bump called in the National State Auditors Association to do a scrub of the office during the last 18 months of DeNucci’s 24-year tenure. The report found serious flaws in the way the office was managed, conducted investigations, and hired employees. As CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow reports, there were no minimum educational requirements for staffers; some didn’t have college degrees.

Bump yesterday fired 27 employees and demoted 12 others. She previously fired or accepted the resignation of 37 other DeNucci staffers. Old school all the way, DeNucci rants to the Globe and the Herald about the ungratefulness of Bump, whom he endorsed. “She probably wouldn’t be where she is without me,” he told the Herald. “She’s probably looking to run for governor.”

Check out Bump’s interviews with Emily Rooney and Jim Braude to see how the new auditor handles herself (still a bit shaky) and the different interviewing styles of Rooney and Braude. Rooney seems content to sit back and let Bump make her case, interjecting a question here and there. Braude is far more aggressive, interrupting Bump time and time again. But you have to like the way he keeps pressing her for an answer on whether the employees she sacked were incompetent. “I don’t think frankly anyone was incompetent, but they may have not been well-suited to the job,” she says finally.

Bump throws DeNucci under the bus in the nicest, most polite way possible. The audit may have shown that the office was a mess under DeNucci, but Bump says his audits led to prosecutions and the recovery of millions of dollars. Imagine what would have been happening if the office had been professionally managed?

                                                                                                                                                                  --BRUCE MOHL  




BEACON HILL

Opening arguments in the DiMasi corruption trial. Prosecution: DiMasi used his high office to line his pockets. Defense: the main person you’ll hear testify to that effect (Joseph Lally, a former co-defendant now cooperating with the government in exchange for a lighter sentence) is a lying, good for nothing, sleazebag. Peter Gelzinis notes that DiMasi’s wife showed up to the trial looking like a grieving widow, and says the trial “is going to show just how rancid sausage-making can be.” The Worcester Telegram describes the case against DiMasi as “complicated.” WBUR’s David Boeri describes DiMasi hugging and kissing his friends in the front rows, “the long-standing public persona of ‘My Pal Sal’ about to clash with the prosecution’s portrayal of ‘Sal the Thief.’” Be sure to check out the picture in the Globe of DiMasi and his family entering the courtroom. Does this guy look nervous?

The Springfield Republican praises the quiet dignity of Justice Barbara Lenk.

Senate President Therese Murray is getting behind a proposal to do away with the Governor’s Council. (Memo to Charlie Cipollini: She is a very important person, so you might want to take this seriously.)

The MetroWest Daily News supports Murray’s bill that would revamp the way state services are evaluated.

Sen. Steve Baddour lines up behind the health care overhaul that recently passed the House, telling a Newburyport business group that unions are “out of control in the State House,” adding, “If it was any other profession, most of them would be in jail based on what they were saying.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Census data shows the population grew older in every community in southeastern Massachusetts from Fall River to Wareham, which experts blamed mostly on the high cost of housing, according to the New Bedford Standard Times.  In Barnstable County, the Census Bureau found a sharp jump in seasonal homes.

The Salem News has an interesting story about a once-quiet neighborhood in Peabody that has veered wildly out of control with traffic, noise, and junk.

Haverhill officials discover a newly hired firefighter was recently the target of a restraining order and required to surrender his guns, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
 
The long-time chairman of the Gloucester Waterways Board, which oversees moorings in the harbor, is ousted. Mayor Carolyn Kirk wants the board to work more closely with the city on economic development issues, the Gloucester Times reports.

Lakeville and Middleborough officials are discussing an agreement to share water services so each town could add new development in outlying areas.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright plans to seek a $1.2 million override to help balance the budget that he is still finalizing.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Christie Coombs of Abington, whose husband Jeff died on one of the planes in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was one of 50 victim family members who met with President Obama at Ground Zero yesterday and urged him to come to Massachusetts to meet all 206 of the state’s families who lost loved ones that day.

The National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson parses Obama’s speech the night he announced Osama bin Laden’s death and found far too many “I’s” and “me’s” and not enough “we’s,” “teams” and “Bushes” for his conservative taste.

Republicans officially back off their proposed Medicare overhaul. The Wall Street Journal said yesterday the move would be part of the ongoing negotiations over deficit reduction, but the New York Times editorial page sees a touch of poll-watching, too.

Rep. Paul Ryan talks deficits, and says that while he supports automatic debt-reducing triggers, he doesn’t want tax hikes to be included in those automatic measures.

Florida moves to limit third-party voter registration.

ELECTION 2012

Brian McGrory can’t resist the low-hanging fruit that is Scott Brown, the important senator whose high position allowed him to see the photos the rest of us won’t. Joe Battenfeld calls Brown “Dan Quayle in a barn coat,” and says the gaffe could push fence-sitting challengers into the Senate race.

Tim Pawlenty brings the Onion’s Mitt Romney takedown to life and apologizes for trying to limit pollution.

Donald Trump: Goodbye to all that.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow explains in his weekly Globe column why the Filene’s pit in Downtown Crossing isn’t going away any time soon.

The New England Aquarium closed Thursday so a crack in the massive ocean tank at the heart of the museum could be repaired, NECN reports via AP.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals signs a billion-dollar deal to move to South Boston.

EDUCATION

Three Fall River schools, including two charters, will get an influx of new educators this fall with a partnership with Teach for America, the national program that trains new college grads as teachers in low-income, high-need urban areas.

The boys track coach at Westwood High School was fired. He tells NECN that it was because he let his runners train without shirts on, but the principal says it was “the regrettable outcome of an ongoing discussion,” whatever that means.

HEALTH CARE

Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, a member of the Health Care Quality and Cost Council, is urging Gov. Deval Patrick to use his regulatory powers to head off health plans signing new inflationary contracts with providers before the old ones expire and before the Legislature can act to control the costs. Via Not Running a Hospital Blog.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state is buying more than 840 acres of land in the Berkshires as part of its open-space preservation efforts, the Globe reports.

Hancock will receive an $156,600 annual payment in lieu of taxes from Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co for serving as the host community the state’s first onshore wind farm.

Pittsfield voices its support for an expanded bottle bill that would allow consumers to reedem other beverage containers in addition to soda and beer cans and bottles.

Former environment and energy secretary Ian Bowles hangs a shingle. One of his clients received millions in state aid under his watch.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Christian Science Monitor report examines what’s ahead for the five teens who have been sentenced to probation and community service  for their roles in the bullying and suicide of Phoebe Prince.  WBUR also has a story.

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