Saturday, March 28, 2009

Patrick aides directed hiring of Walsh

The plot thickens as we learn today from the Globe, aides to Deval controlled the hiring of Walsh and her salary and her job description. This just won't go away for Deval and his band of party loyalists.

Contradicting a series of steadfast denials, internal e-mails show that Governor Deval Patrick's top aides controlled the appointment of state Senator Marian Walsh to a high-paying job at a state authority, from setting her salary to crafting her job description.

They also provided the agency's talking points for the news media in an attempt to quell a public uproar.

"I'm going to send you a proposed job description from [Patrick chief of staff Doug Rubin] soon," Patrick senior adviser Jay Gonzalez told the two top officials at the Massachusetts Health and Education Facilities Authority in a March 11 e-mail.

As of late this week, one of those officials, HEFA chairman Allen Larson, continued to say that the push to hire Walsh came from the authority.

"I would deny that," he said when asked if the Patrick administration engineered the hiring. "We have been looking for the additional staff expertise since I got on the board. We have been working with the administration to figure that out. But I do not consider this an orchestrated matter."

The e-mails indicate, however, that Larson and his staff worked closely with Gonzalez, Patrick's undersecretary of administration and finance, in the days leading up to the board's decision on March 12 to hire Walsh as a $175,000 a year assistant executive director. (After Patrick's action kicked up a political firestorm, Walsh requested this week that the salary be reduced to $120,000.)

The e-mails were released to the Globe after a public records request.

The salary level of $175,000 originated with the administration, the e-mails indicate. They also show that Rubin drafted Walsh's job description. Patrick's press office wrote the script for public statements by the agency.

On the weekend before the Patrick-controlled HEFA board unanimously approved Walsh's appointment as assistant director, Larson asked Gonzalez to justify why the Democratic lawmaker should be paid more than $128,500. That was the amount that a Burlington-based consulting firm, The Survey Group, reported as the average market base pay for the position.

Larson asked Gonzalez to contact Rubin for backup information that would support a $175,000 salary.

"Generally, it's lower than the $175,000 figure," Larson wrote to Gonzalez, referring to the consultant's survey of pay at other government agencies. "It would be helpful if Doug or others could send along some comparables so that we have substantive justifications."

There is no e-mail that describes how the administration responded, but other documents show that after the board vote, the agency's executive director, Benson Caswell, wrote Walsh offering her the job at the $175,000 salary. Another document shows Walsh's total salary package, which includes retirement benefits and healthcare coverage, would have totaled $242,442.

The entire story