By: Tom Duggan – January 29, 2013
Three years ago when Steve Grossman was just a candidate for Massachusetts State Treasurer he was a real person. When asked questions about simple concepts like “shouldn’t all laws carry a penalty for violating them?” he was eager to openly discuss his thoughts on the way government should be run.
Back then I asked Grossman on 980WCAP radio if he would help champion legislation to penalize those who refuse to comply with the state’s public records law (MGL Chapter 66).
“Absolutely, I will!” he said back then, expounding on his position that public records must be turned over to the public by all elected and appointed officials and with no penalties the law was basically unenforceable. In fact, back then, we could hardly get him to stop talking about the subject.
But that was then when he was less concerned with upsetting the political apple cart on Beacon Hill and more concerned with just telling it like it is and representing the voters instead of the insiders.
Since being elected State Treasurer however, he has refused to return our calls, come back on the radio or even discuss our impotent public records law in Massachusetts.
Now, two-plus years into his term as Treasurer (and considered the front runner candidate for Governor) Grossman wants nothing to do with the topic of holding public officials accountable or taking a stand on just about anything. We couldn’t even get him to comment on the simplest concepts directly, or indirectly.
So, the Valley Patriot caught up to Treasurer Steve Grossman at Mann Orchard during Restaurant week, where only a handful of reporters (and zero voters) showed up to meet the man who wants to be governor.
Asked why he has refused to keep his word on helping to change the public records law, Grossman did what most politicians do, he tried to change the subject, he bobbed and weaved, but by the end of the 10 minute interview he still hadn’t said anything at all.
“On the subject of disclosure, transparency and public records, first and foremost I can only speak for myself. If you ever, during my tenure at Treasury, need information, documents, things that you feel will allow you to be a more effective reporter, journalist and public servant of the people’s interests, I hope you never, ever, ever, get anything other than cooperation from my office in the treasury and the agencies that I lead or am chair of. I think it’s well known that I’m leaning strongly toward running for governor in 2014.”
But Mr . Grossman that wasn’t the question. The question wasn’t about you complying with the law, it was whether or not the joke that is our public records law is really a law at all since there is no way to enforce it.
“I know you are running for governor,” I said. “That’s why I thought it was important to ask you this stuff now; once you get into the heat of this campaign it’s going to be hard to get you to say anything the party doesn’t want you to.”
“Should I decide to run for governor and should I run and be fortune enough to be elected, I would plan to practice the same openness and transparency and accountability as governor of the commonwealth that I have as treasury in other words the citizens have a right to an open book from me as state treasurer. That’s the reason when I campaigned for this office that I said that we would put the states checkbook online if I became treasurer. And we did put the states checkbook online, it was Dec 5, 2011 and we continue to add to it as we put more and more agencies on the open checkbook so I can speak for myself. I can speak to what my intention is. I can speak to my absolute belief that the public has a right to know how every dime is being spent because, guess what, they are the ones that pay the taxes it’s their money’
Strike two, again Grossman kept trying to make it about him as if that is what I had asked.
“You are not answering the question,” I tried to respectfully redirect him.
“What about everyone else who may not want to comply with the law, shouldn’t there be teeth in the law? Shouldn’t there be a penalty if the law says you can’t do X and you do X? How can we have a law with no penalty for violating it?”
Instead of just making a simple common sense statement that everyone can agree with, like ‘all laws should have penalties for failing to comply with them’, Grossman tried to deflect the issue a third time.
“I’m not familiar enough with the specific laws nor about any laws that have been proposed to be able to comment on those, my father always said ‘When you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make one up’, so I can’t speak to new legislation that may be offered by members of legislature. All I can do is say that it is my intention, and I think that I have carried that out for more than 2 , to be open, accessible and transparent in all respects in treasury and every agency I run, which is the Mass School Building Authority, it’s the ABCC, the lottery, and a whole bunch of other agencies that I chair. I would practice in any other office that I held or where fortune enough to run for and hold in the future the same degree of transparency and openness regardless of what the current policy is, that’s just me and what I believe that’s showing respect for tax payers and for citizens that have a right to know. What I don’t want to do is give a lecture to other people who have other offices and agencies that they run, Ill let them make their own decisions”
Again, Mr. Grossman seems to be more concerned with what other elected officials will think of his answer than just being honest, or at least show concern with the right of the people to get public documents from their government. He showed no compassion for the voters of Massachusetts struggling to hold their government accountable. He was cold and callous, and seemed to be of the belief that the elite ruling class of white, male politicians doesn’t really have to be held accountable or for answering to the people as to how our laws should be enforced.
What he said over and over in this interview was that he believes in following the law HIMSELF, but if other people want to break the law, its really not his business. And this guy wants to be governor.
“Shouldn’t all laws have a penalty if you break them, if not aren’t they just suggestions? I am confused as to why you just won’t answer a simple…..”
“I don’t want to make a general statement about what laws we should and shouldn’t have,”
And there you have it. He is the State Treasurer, he wants to be governor, but he doesn’t want to tell people what laws we should or should not have. It would be comical if it wasn’t such a glaring indication of how our elite ruling class of white, male, elected leaders are more concerned with NOT taking a position that will upset someone, rather than just doing the right thing and advocating what is best for the taxpayers and the citizens. He continued….
“All I can tell you is that my philosophy and my belief and what I have practiced myself. In fact, since I have became Treasurer it’s that kind of openness and availability for public records to you and any other journalist who happens to ask for them, and I would ask for the same amount of openness in any other office that I run for.”
We get it, your an honest guy Steve, but you have no interest in holding others to the standard you ‘say’ you follow yourself. After all, it’s not like you are vying to be a leader in state government who will be in charge of changing and enforcing those laws.