Mass. Legislators Deny Role In Probation Department Probe

By Katie Doyle
BU News Service 

BOSTON — As a federal grand jury continues to investigate the state Probation Department’s hiring and promotion practices, local lawmakers claim to know little about the investigation, saying they have not been asked to testify before the panel.

Photo by Brent Danley

“The only thing I know is what I read in the papers,” said Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, echoing the same answer given by a number of lawmakers, including Rep. Richard Bastien, R-Gardner, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton and Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford.

All said they have not been asked to testify.

“I have nothing to do with it, so I don’t know,” Arciero said. “I know about as much as you do by reading what I read in the Globe and the Herald and The Sun.”

The Probation Department has been the target of federal scrutiny for the past two years after the initial indictment of former commissioner John O’Brien and two deputies last March. O’Brien is accused of bypassing highly qualified applicants in favor of job seekers with political connections.

According to a Nov. 28 article in The Boston Herald, investigators are looking into whether a “jobs-for-votes” ploy was part of the Probation Department’s hiring system. The Herald said state Rep. Hank Naughton, D-Clinton, was asked to testify as to whether he was promised a job in return for his vote for Robert DeLeo for House speaker in 2009.

Former senator and former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, who was named in a 2010 report on the Probation Department as one of the politicians who recommended candidates for jobs, said he has not been asked to testify in the investigation.

“I’m really not going to say anything, but I haven’t, no,” he said.

Other members of the area’s legislative delegation say they know little about the ongoing investigation. Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, said he hasn’t heard much about the probation scandal since the last legislative session.

He said all he has heard was that Rep. Charles Murphy, D-Burlington, testified in June.

“I think that’s widely known at this point, but that’s the extent of what I’ve heard from rumors,” he said.

Lombardo said he was surprised there haven’t been more indictments at this point in the investigation.

“It seems like it’s been dragging on for a long time, the elephant in the room,” he said. “I know that it’s been in the air for many, many months now, and people have been expecting something to come down for many, many months now, yet nothing has,” he said.

Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, said in an email that she has not been asked to testify.

State Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, said there is sparse new information about the investigation. He only knows he has not been contacted by the grand jury.

“No, no, all that stuff was way before my time,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything at all. I was in Boston all day yesterday and didn’t hear a thing.”

Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, said he didn’t know anything about the status of the investigation. “Obviously, I’ve never been called,” he said.

Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, who said he has not been asked to testify, also said that he isn’t familiar with the investigation.

“I don’t have any contacts with the investigators, so I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

Eldridge said he has not received any calls from investigators, but noted the probation scandal has been a great concern of his.

“Generally, it speaks for the need for more transparency in government, including the Legislature, and that more of the decisions made on Beacon Hill are made out in the open,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted by: Michelle Johnson on