Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seeking Justice

I am taking action, along with my Senate Republican colleagues, to bring justice to the Probation Department issue. A press release can be read below and a bill and a letter to the Attorney General can be viewed by clicking "Read more".

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts General Court
State House, Boston Massachusetts 02133-1053

DATE: November 24, 2010 PHONE: 617-722-1600

Senate Republicans Act on Probation Report

Taking action in the wake of a devastating report on the Massachusetts Probation Department, State Senate Republicans are filing legislation to remove the hiring autonomy of the department and calling for a sweeping investigation of the issues contained in the report issued by Independent Counsel Paul Ware.

Today Senators Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester), Richard Tisei (R- Wakefield), Michael Knapik (R- Westfield), Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), and Richard Ross (R- Wrentham) filed reform legislation that contains two parts, and are calling for its swift consideration.

The first part of the bill reflects language offered during budget debate earlier this year. That language would essentially reverse the action taken in 2001 to provide the Probation Department with autonomy over its employment practices, and to return control to the trial court.

A second section of the bill requires the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court to develop a plan to restore integrity to the department’s hiring practices and to ensure that only qualified applicants are hired according to a merit based system.

In a second action, the Senators are sending a letter to the United Sates Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, the Attorney General and the state’s Inspector General requesting them to undertake a swift and comprehensive investigation of the contents of Ware’s report. In the letter they point to the need for collaboration between these agencies to produce a thorough effort.


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Bruce E. Tarr
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
 Court assembled:

The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying bill:

An Act reforming the probation department.

Bruce E. Tarr
First Essex and Middlesex

Richard R. Tisei
Middlesex and Essex

Michael R. Knapik
Second Hampden and Hampshire

Robert L. Hedlund
Plymouth and Norfolk

Richard J. Ross
Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the Year Two Thousand and Ten

An Act reforming the probation department.

Whereas, The deferred operation for this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is forthwith to reform the probation department, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. The fifth paragraph of section 6 of said chapter 218, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 54-57, the following words:- ; and provided, further, that the commissioner of probation shall have the authority to appoint, dismiss, assign and discipline probation officers and associate probation officers within the several sessions of the trial court

SECTION 2.  Chapter 276 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 83, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 83.  Subject to appropriation, the chief justice for administration and management may appoint, dismiss and assign such probation officers to the several sessions of the trial court as he deems necessary. In any court having 2 or more probation officers, the first justice, subject to the approval of the chief justice for administration and management, may designate 1 probation officer to serve as chief probation officer and may designate other probation officers to serve as assistant chief probation officers, as he deems necessary for the effective administration of justice; provided, however, that a first justice may suspend or discipline any such probation officer who may appeal such suspension or discipline to the chief justice for administration and management; or said first justice may recommend the discharge of any said probation officer to the chief justice for administration and management who may discharge said probation officer after a hearing. The compensation of probation officers in the trial court shall be paid by the commonwealth according to schedules established in section 99B or in a provision of an applicable collective bargaining agreement.

SECTION 3. Section 98 of chapter 276, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentences:- There shall be a commissioner of probation, who shall have executive control and supervision of the probation service. He shall be appointed by the chief justice for administration and management for a term of five years and shall devote his full-time during business hours to the duties of his office.

SECTION 4. The chief justice for administration and management of the trial court shall develop and implement a plan to ensure the integrity of the hiring and employment practices of the probation department, and to ensure that the most qualified individuals are appointed to positions based on their qualifications. Said plan shall be submitted to the Supreme Judicial Court for its review and approval not later than thirty days prior to its implementation and shall be filed with the clerks of the House and Senate not later than one hundred and twenty days following the passage of this act.

SECTION 5. This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Attorney General Martha Coakley
Office of the Attorney General
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518

Dear Attorney General Coakley,

We understand that you are in receipt of the report of Independent Counsel Paul Ware, released by the Supreme Judicial Court on November 18, regarding abuses in the hiring practices at the Massachusetts Probation Department. This report details widespread fraudulent hiring practices in the department, possible violations of state and federal laws, and possible incidents of bribery and perjury. The report details serious and flagrant violations of department policy, violations of the public trust, and fraudulent waste of public resources.

Much of the report details the fraudulent, improperly motivated hiring practices at the department over the last nine years. The report finds that qualified candidates were routinely denied positions within the department in favor of less qualified candidates with politically favorable connections. According to the report, those in positions of power within the department, most notably the Commissioner, pre-selected candidates to fill positions before the hiring process had even begun. In many cases, the “objective” test scores of the applicants were artificially and fraudulently increased to ensure their advancement through the interview process and their eventual hiring. The report also outlines potential violations of state and federal laws by various state officials and employees.

If proven, the findings of the report show not only a grave violation of the public trust, but also illegal and fraudulent acts by several high ranking members of the department and state officials.

Given the wide ranging and serious ramifications of this report, we respectfully request that your office make a complete and thorough investigation into the findings made in the report, and to ensure that justice is brought to bear on individuals who have violated the laws of Commonwealth or the United States. When public servants abuse their positions for their own personal or political gain, or that of their acquaintances or political allies, trust in our entire system of state government is assaulted.

Restoring the faith of the citizens of the Commonwealth and the integrity of our state government demands that these widespread and flagrant abuses be investigated and any responsible parties be held accountable. We are writing to each of you to make this request, while recognizing that a joint effort by your offices may be necessary to bring justice to bear on this situation. We, therefore, defer to your judgment as to jurisdictional issues and respectfully request that your office take the first necessary steps to ensure that the potentially illegal acts disclosed in the Ware Report are properly investigated and prosecuted.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of further assistance.


Bruce Tarr
State Senator

Richard Tisei
State Senator

Michael Knapik
State Senator

Robert Hedlund
State Senator

Richard Ross
State Senator