The Valley Patriot has covered many state corruption stories in the past ten and a half years. What we observed in that time is that scandals come and go, but very rarely does anything ever change. Our editorial board sat down with State Representative Jim Lyons and Shauna O’Connell to ask them the gravity of the waste, fraud and abuse in state government and why nothing ever changes.
A corruption trial concluded last July exposing State Representatives and State Senators in leadership positions getting patronage jobs for their donors, friends and families in the state’s Department of Probation.
“The state probation corruption trial says it all,” Rep. Jim Lyons (D-Andover) said.
“What happened in that trial and what was revealed is a microcosm of what’s wrong with Massachusetts politics on a much broader scale. If you just look at that trial I think that will tell you all you need to know about what’s wrong with Massachusetts politics. In fact, thats been allowed to exist under the direction of the Speaker and the Senate President without any oversight at all.”
“Specifically what they did was they rigged the state hiring system to provide jobs for politicians. Since 2001, the Legislature, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President have been a microcosm of how state government has become an employment agency for Democrat Legislators and their friends and family.”
Asked if anything has changed since the revelation of corruption in the Probation Department, Lyons said that nothing has changed because the conviction of the Probation Commissioner is under appeal. He says that the Legislature is dragging their feet hoping that the issue will fade from the headlines and then continue with “business as usual.”
“There were supposedly some ethics reforms done in 2011, but what I think we need to do is go through every single agency in the state to make sure there are systems in place to make sure qualified people are hired and they are not getting the job because they are connected.”
“It is up to us as Legislators to do that. I do not see any Democrats calling for any real substantive reform except some of the Democrat candidates when they are running for governor. They talk about how reprehensible it is with the hiring but that’s only at election time, other than that I see no Democrats fighting the leadership to fix this corruption problem.”
Lyons says that a group of Republicans sent letters to the House Council, (Lombardo, Jeff Diel, Lyons and Shauna O’Connell) asking for direction on how to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.
“How do you change the climate of corruption on Beacon Hill? Elections are how you do it. We need more people in there who are willing to take on the power brokers on Beacon Hill and unless we get more people to do that, this is what you are going to get, business as usual.”
CRIME LAB SCANDAL
Lyons estimated that it’s going to cost $330M to the taxpayers as the result of that crime lab scandal where at least one state worker was faking lab results to help the state get more convictions. As the result of that scandal, guilty people are going to be set free as well as innocent people who were wrongly convicted.
“It’s a mess,” Lyons says. “Apparently the only person in the whole state responsible for that fraud was just the one person who was caught. We try to try and get a real investigation into these things and find out who else was really responsible and it’s outrageous. You can’t get anywhere. Everything is covered up.”
“You have to ask, how can only one person be responsible for all this damage? There’s no controls in place at all? Nobody else had to sign off or double check her work? And if that is true, to only have one person in a state agency who can have that kind of an impact is outrageous. This is the problem with the Deval Patrick administration, there is no accountability for anything.”
He has had agency after agency where there was scandal after sandal, but the outrage lasts for two or three days and then everything goes back to the way it was. The state is falling apart.
PHARMACY MANUFACTURING SCANDAL – BACKWARD PRIORITIES
“Then we have the pharmaceutical scandal where the compounding labs were not being inspected, they sent out pharmaceuticals all over the country, and hundreds of people got sick. Every restaurant, ice cream stand and sub shop in Massachusetts is inspected on an annual basis. So, I asked the Commissioner; ‘What’s the procedure that you have in place to inspect these compounding pharmacies that manufacture pharmaceuticals?’”
“Commissioner Smith looked at me and said, ‘there is nothing in place.’”
“So, we had manufacturing pharmacies in Massachusetts who had no inspection procedures in place. I could not believe it. I had to ask her, ‘are you telling me that there is nothing in place?’ She said ‘we will inspect on a per-call basis.’ So if someone calls with a complaint, they will come in, but they have no set procedures to do that, none, even to this day, long after the scandal took place. It’s unbelievable. In my little store in Tewksbury I have to have a back flow inspection twice a year. These backflow preventers last sometimes 30 years, how come they have to be inspected twice a year, yet we are not inspecting companies that make pharmaceuticals that can kill people if they take the wrong medications? It makes no sense at all, but this is what we have, this is how our state government is being run under a one party system.”
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Representative Lyons says that another part of the corruption problem with one party rule in Massachusetts is all the “nonprofits” that make millions off of state government. Many of those nonprofits and the people who run them are contributors to the Legislators and then benefit greatly by getting millions in state grants.
“The first thing people need to understand is, just because they are called nonprofit does not mean nobody profits. We did a review of the Department of Public Health (DPH) to see all the salaries that are spent by the executives. So, what happens is the DPH is funded to the tune of $600M. Then they give out grants to different nonprofits to do jobs. We took a look at all the salaries that these people make. 55% of the executives at those nonprofits make in excess of $125,000 a year. It’s a scam. It’s a cottage industry that has been created off the books of the government where millions, if not billions, go off to these folks and it becomes more and more legal patronage for politicians and their friends and families.”
YOU SCRATCH MY BACK …
“You had the Chairman of Education, Marty Walsh, who spent all her time advocating for Planned Parenthood in the Legislature. That’s fine, that’s her belief. But, whether you are for abortion or not, when she left she immediately took a job for $250,000 with Planned Parenthood. I filed an ethics complaint against her saying how can one leave the legislature as a proponent of Planned Parenthood and then take a job for a quarter of a million dollars. Remember, she was also the Chairman of the Education Committee when they tried to bring in Common Core. Not one hearing was held on Common Core to change what has been an exceptional education system that we spent billions and billions of dollars since 1993. It was put in to make Massachusetts #1 in the country, which we were, and they decided to change the whole education system without one hearing. It’s flabbergasting.”
“Mitchell Chester is the Commissioner of Education and is on the educational task force vested with making sure all these local school districts give these Park Tests out. Where is Mitchell Chester’s next job going to be?”
“Now, some school districts are starting to reject the Park Tests, but that’s because they are just now starting to learn about it. They are learning things nobody even knew about and that’s exactly what they wanted. They wanted to change the system without any public input, without any hearings, without any scrutiny. And now look at it.”