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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hands caught in the cookie jar

So let me see if I got this straight: House Speaker Robert DeLeo is hiring a private attorney to take a look at the amount of money that the House has spent on private attorneys? And he won't make a commitment to letting the public know what the latest private attorney found?

While the Herald continues to mewl over a $31,000 painter and blast Deval Patrick for a net reduction in jobs, the House leadership is doing all it can to gloss over a sweetheart deal signed by former Speaker Sal DiMasi before he walked out the door last year.

The lawyers from Gargiulo/Rudnick were paid just south of $400,000 to represent the House in any legal matters arising from the investigation that led to DiMasi's indictment. The Patrick administration spent zero, using in-house resources for the same task.

When four disgruntled DeLeo foes held House business for a second straight day, the speaker offered a sop: spending more taxpayer dollars for another private attorney to see what the first private attorney spent taxpayer dollars on.
“If this review uncovers any inappropriate activity - and there is no indication at this time that it will - [Speaker DeLeo] will seek the strongest possible action under the law,’’ the statement said. “House members and Massachusetts taxpayers deserve nothing less. Speaker DeLeo believes that at times like these, Massachusetts taxpayers have the right to know that their tax dollars are being well spent.’’
Of course, as the Globe wryly noted, there was no indication of whether the results of this review would allow the public the "right to know that their tax dollars are being well spent."

Sadly, taxpayer dollars likely need to be spent -- just to ensure just the kind of impartiality that won't be available through a Speaker-paid exercise. An independent auditor, selected by a neutral party (if such a thing exists in state government). Or maybe State Auditor Joe DeNucci's team can do the job in a reasonable amount of time?

Meanwhile, I'd love to see more than a skim-the-surface effort from the Herald on Patrick's hiring practices. I see a net reduction of jobs and payroll despite the addition of a painter, a librarian and a game biologist.

Perhaps we can learn why there was the addition of a six-figure education commissioners? Did people leave, resulting in crucial jobs unfilled? What do these folks do for the job?

Innuendo about hack salaries won't do. Give us some facts to decide whether there is something real here -- or an opportunity for political opponents to score some points.

For example, how about taking a look at Treasurer Tim Cahill's assertion "he also made new hires in 2009, but said it was 'only a handful' and that he’s left positions open."

Investigative journalism only works when you investigate everyone's claims. And don't forget the great City News Bureau line: "if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

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