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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Friends of the General Court

Sal DiMasi. Dianne Wilkerson. Marie Morey.


The first two names are well known for the allegations (not yet proven in a court of law) that they enriched themselves at the Commonwealth's fiscal coffers. Morey, the Lawrence District Court probation officer accused of pocketing more than $2 million, might seem a stretch to join the pantheon of public misdeed.

But wait, tucked in the Globe story chronicling how court officials seemingly overlooked warnings about lax cash oversight, is this little gem about probation department run by the state's trial court system.
The Probation Department received a major funding boost two weeks ago, when the Legislature voted to override a veto by Governor Deval Patrick and restored a $4.3 million cut to its budget. O’Brien, who has close ties to many lawmakers, including House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and employs several legislators’ friends and relatives, also would not explain why the Probation Department should escape the kind of budget cuts most other state agencies have suffered. Records and recent studies show the department’s budget has ballooned over the past several years.
Programs for the homeless and for violence prevention hang in the balance until the state pulls out cash from hidden corners. A public infrastructure investment into a private project that has generated jobs and tax dollars is withdrawn after whispered suggestions of a political quid pro quo.

And the probation department gets $4.3 million restored to its budget.

One of the worst kept secrets on Beacon Hill is the use of the court system as a dumping ground for political plums. It would be fascinating if the Globe or Herald took a look at the number of former lawmakers or top aides salted away as clerks, deputy clerks and deputy assistant clerks in the district and superior courts.

It's the kind of back scratching that enables the probation office to keep its appropriation (and payroll) while human services get ravaged and savaged.

The virtual silence from legislative leaders is deafening.

DeLeo refused yesterday to be interviewed about the Lawrence case, but his spokesman, Seth Gitell, said in an e-mailed statement that prosecutors had painted a picture of “a disturbing financial scheme.’’

“The charges reinforce the need for strict financial review procedures and adequate oversight,’’ the statement said.

Senate President Therese Murray issued a statement saying the allegations “underscore the importance of having the best possible system of checks and balances in place to account for payments throughout the system.’’

In the meantime, 21 members of the House -- on a six-week end-of-session break -- refuse to take the five unpaid furlough days being asked of their employees. And 28 members of the House were laid off in a move that one member suggested reeked of political payback.

Glad the Great and General Court has its priorities straight.

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

This is outrageous.

December 05, 2009 9:50 AM  

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