^ Governor Baker has been put in the middle between Parker O’Grady (left) and State Senator Don Humason (right), whom O’Grady is challenging. (Photo from masslive.com)
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We’ve waited to opine about this matter until the accusations and reports had time to check and occasion to be checked upon. I refer to the news that an employee of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s “EEA” Division — Energy and Environmental Affairs — was harassed by her mangers over her connection to a Democratic candidate for State Senate; that she is the fiancee of said candidate and was told to have her affianced cease his candidacy against the incumbent Republican State Senator, or else. It appears that there’s truth to these reports; that Governor Baker was not told; and that his own office has begun its own investigation as to what happened and who did it.
“No one in our administration should ever, ever threaten anybody to engage in civic endeavors as a private citizen. Period. And I take that type of allegation really seriously. And like I said, let’s see what comes out of the investigation. It’s going to have a lot of input from our legal office and based on what comes out of that, we’ll make an appropriate call.”
That’s the state of things as I write. I have nothing to add to the facts, but I have plenty to say about them and about how they were handled.
First: the Governor was not informed. Look, guys : if you’re going to staff a State agency with patronage appointments — political people hired because of their commitment to the Baker team — that’s fine; patronage is necessary, or else politics will be left only to the ideologues. But if an agency is run by patronage employees,m expect politics to be played within it. Monitor the same. If politics arises, let the Governor know immediately.
The decision to staff an agency with political people has to be the Governor’s. It cannot be anyone else’s. Patronage is a controversial practice. The public is skeptical of it, and newspaper columnists feed that bias. So if you’re going to do it, you ought to SAY SO, and to monitor your decision carefully, so that said patronage hires don’t end up embarrassing you.
Second: The Governor’s immediate staff must include at least one, better yet more than one, political person who is on his core staff for just that purpose. Baker campaigned as Mr. Fix It, and he has been that; but if, as is evident now, he has also set up a political shop, the public is going to judge that aspect of him too, and he needs be as careful of it as he is of reforming the MBTA and the DCF. The phrase “Baker was evidently not told” should NEVER happen in an administration with a political component. The Governor should always be told; better yet, he should find out for himself. He shouldn’t wait “to be told.”
Third : patronage employees need to be told that they are just that : patronage employees, there for a political purpose, but until called upon, there to do the actual job they are put in. If the Governor wants a political staff — and that’s quite OK — he should hire one. If he wants said staff to do a regular state job as reward for doing politics, he should make it clear to said hires that they cannot mix the two commitments; that politics must be kept out of the state agency work.
Most elected officials know this. Most patronage hires know it too. But in the Massachusetts Republican party, experience of elected government is rare; few cadres have it; and thus they — and their elected boss — aren’r experienced in how to do it. This problem is not unique to Baker and Republicans. Mayor Walsh has sometimes found it difficult to keep political agendas out of city administration. Yet Baker faces a factor that Walsh does not : as a Republican, Baker stands on only 1 percent of Massachusetts voters. There is no margin for mistake.
Fourth : threats by a political employee cannot continue. Anyone at the EEA who made any sort of retaliation threat against Ms. Cynthia Lewis or anyone else needs to be warned, in writing, that any further recurrence will result in termination. The same message must be delivered to those in a position to inform the Governor. It’s axiomatic in patronage circumstances : any political appointee who embarrasses the boss is gone, no exceptions.
Finally : this editorial supports the use of patronage. If political parties forswear patronage, all those people who join campaigns in hopes of a job are told they’re not wanted. In which case only the ideologues remain. Today’s political parties suffer from too much ideology, too little continuity. Patronage gives politics stability and a connection to people other than think radicals and one-issue zealots. It is a conservative force. It should be used; but it cannot be used cavalierly, because the public dislikes it. Only if patronage employees contribute to good administration will they be tolerated by the voters.
This baker knows well. Time for him to establish ground rules for the politicals who he has put at the EEA — no exceptions.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere