A Culture of Corruption

I know I have railed against corruption in Massachusetts state government in the past. I seem to  remember giving it up because no one else seemed to be too concerned about it. But the culture of corruption is like a prohibitive tax on human enterprise and it robs our communities of hope for the future.

Just lately, after a series of articles in the Boston Globe, the government of the Commonwealth has become aware that hiring at the Department of Probation has been rigged by members of the Legislature in exchange for favors of various kinds.

The Department of Probation is the information gathering arm of the Judicial Branch of government. If a judge is sentencing someone and wants to know what prior convictions the defendant has, or other relevant information, she or he asks for a presentence report from the Department of Probation.

Most people think of the Probation Department as the people in charge of monitoring defendants who are on probation, and that’s another important function. Defendants are sometimes out in the community earning money and providing some compensation for victims in the case — that kind of arrangement might be supervised by the Probation Department.

One might readily ask, if there is widespread favoritism, patronage, and corruption in this vital department, why is it brought to our attention by a couple of newspaper reporters? What about the people who are paid to see that the laws are enforced?

Well now it turns out that a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, the administrative head of the Judicial Branch of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, called some legislator, who has since pleaded the Fifth Amendment, to get a job for some relative or other.

As my daughter Sarah would say, “Wait… What?” A justice of the Supreme Judicial Court called a legislator to get a job for a relative. If judges make mistakes or show favoritism or, God forbid, take bribes, who is in charge of finding that out? The Supreme Judicial Court.

There is talk of putting the Department of Probation into the Civil Service System, which makes sense, but it ignores the culture of corruption into which we have had a tantalizing glimpse.

I remember many years ago when a Boston Globe article revealed that jobs at state parks were given to the relatives of legislators and their supporters. They asked some state representative, who had obviously not been briefed, and he said, “It’s always been done that way.”

Dude, you’re not supposed to say that. It’s the truth.

God bless them, but we have to stop relying on the Boston Globe to bring out the truth about corruption in Massachusetts, which is acknowleged and ignored by everyone who is in a position to do anything about it. We need a new sheriff in town.

I had hoped Governor William Weld, a Republican, would be a new broom that swept clean. Instead he immediately hopped into the sack with the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

Weld, who promisingly quit the Reagan Justice Department headed by Ed Meese because it was too corrupt, actually turned the largest patronage plum in the state, the university system, over to William Bulger to get him out of the Senate. I’m not making this up. You can check the record.

Bulger’s first official act as President of the University of Massachusetts was to take a fact-finding trip to Ireland. That’s what I would have done, too! Wouldn’t you?

When he was Senate President, Bulger’s law firm was paid more than $400,000 for what they admitted was less than two weeks’ work, from a developer with business before the Senate. The developer got what he wanted there. He knew where to shop. In Massachusetts, this is legal.

Here’s what I’m saying, in a nutshell. Take a look at the Massachusetts Legislature, and let’s not forget, all of county government in the Commonwealth, the Executive Council, whose soul function is graft, and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which was supposed to disband decades ago when the original bonds were paid off, and you’ll find patronage and corruption dating back for centuries.

We need a new sheriff in town.