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MA. Government Nepotism: Unending state corruption raises taxpayer ire. How Many Friends and Relatives of Those In Elected Office Receive Lucrative Government or other Jobs as Pay Back for Government Financing and Contracts

May 30, 2010

Eagle Tribune

Editorial: Unending state corruption raises taxpayer ire

Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill may have spoken the truth about patronage in state government. But it is clear the gubernatorial candidate doesn’t get the fact that it is a problem.

Asked this week about the number of friends and relatives of those in elected office who end up receiving lucrative government jobs, Cahill responded, “Does that not happen in government all the time?”

He’s got that right.

Rather than hiring the best people for the jobs that need doing, state government has been on the “friends and family” plan for as long as anyone can remember.

Cahill’s dismissive response to a real problem that irks the heck out of taxpayers may have sunk his chances of being elected governor this November. Nor were those chances helped by reports of his close relationship with embattled state Probation Commissioner John O’Brien.

In applying for jobs with the state, at courthouses throughout the commonwealth, and even at the local level, too often who you know counts much more than what you know.

A recent Boston Globe report revealed in excruciating detail the web of relationships that allowed O’Brien to fashion a mini-empire from his position as head of probation functions statewide.

O’Brien was suspended from that job Monday; but this being Massachusetts, he will continue to receive full pay while outside counsel determines just how bad things are in a department the Globe had described as being rife with patronage and financial mismanagement.

O’Brien. He is but a symptom of this disease infecting the entire Massachusetts political culture.

 Gov. Deval Patrick attempted to reform the out-of-control agency months ago and was rebuffed by the patronage-happy Legislature. Patrick describes the Probation Department as a “rogue agency,” and each day, more information surfaces that proves his point.

Really, rouge agency – more likely par for the course

The abuse of the public trust seen in the operation of agencies like the Probation Department and the Essex Regional Retirement System is why taxpayer anger is on the rise. People such as O’Brien and former Essex Regional Retirement Board head Timothy Bassett simply became too comfortable spending your money as if it were their own.

Cahill, whose Treasury Department employs O’Brien’s wife and one of his daughters, is right when he says that’s just the way things have always been done here, but it doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.

We already know what we’ll get with Cahill — more of the same. His attempt to convince voters that he’s running as an independent-minded candidate for governor is a laugh.

Legislators on Beacon Hill have been noting for a while now that there’s a growing level of anger from constituents, who are furious over a broad range of issues. The gap between the public and our elected government seems to be widening, and that is a cause for great concern.

Reforming this corrupt system is the challenge now facing Patrick and the Legislature. If they can’t change the culture of corruption and nepotism that has prevailed for too long, they may find voters doing it for them in November.

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