Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Deval's "Trivial" Pursuit

Deval Patrick hires more pals
Reform-preaching gov adds 3 to plum posts
The Boston Herald, 5/1/09

By Dave Wedge

Gov. Deval Patrick - pushing new taxes and preaching reform - continues to practice old-style patronage politics, handing his campaign manager's sister a plum six-figure gig and hiring her close pal to an $83,000-a-year post.

Patrick, whose job approval rating has plummeted in the wake of a string of hiring controversies, gave his former campaign manager - and current state Democratic Party chairman - John Walsh's sister Patty Vantine a $105,000-a-year position at the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Vantine, a former bean counter for the state Democratic Party, had been making $85,000 working in the human resources division.

The Herald also has learned that Patrick hired Martina Jackson, a longtime campaign supporter and member of the Democratic State Committee, as the $65,000-a-year communications director for the Department of Elder Affairs.

Walsh said of his sister: "Patty is qualified for the position and was selected for the position after applying on her own."

Vantine, who has donated $1,200 to the governor since 2005, didn't wait long to make her mark, swiftly hiring her pal, Kathleen Reilly, as a DCR "fiscal officer."

Reilly, who lives near Vantine in their hometown of Abington, formerly worked in state government but had been a stay-at-home mom before landing the $83,000 post.

Reilly is also a Patrick supporter, donating $500 in 2006.

Jackson, who formerly served as director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty, has donated $750 to Patrick since 2005, records show.

Patrick this week has clashed with legislative leaders, slamming their plan to hike the sales tax, instead calling for a higher gas tax and other "targeted" increases. He also blasted lawmakers for dragging their feet on ethics, pension and transportation reforms.

"I feel very, very strongly about this reform agenda, and if we can't get it by conversation, we'll have to turn up the volume," Patrick said.

DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan called Vantine and Reilly "highly qualified and hardworking" and said, "They are valued members of the team at DCR."

Sullivan said Vantine has 20 years of experience and received the "well-deserved" position in July "while retaining her duties as human resources director."

Elder Affairs spokesman Juan Martinez said Jackson "serves an important role," coordinating the state's Grandparents Commission and organizing community events.

The governor has come under fire for hiring a Milton neighbor to a $120,000 state job, four administration officials to six-figure posts at quasi-public agencies, and two staffers to high-paying jobs at the cash-strapped Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Patrick also took a major political hit after tapping Sen. Marian Walsh for a $175,000 quasi-public-agency gig, which she later rejected.

The governor suffered yet another blow when it was revealed that the sister of his transportation czar, Jim Aloisi, had a $60,000-a-year do-nothing State House post.

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