Linsky says panel can’t probe Probation hiring

Aide: Post Audit barred from investigating Legislature

The chairman of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight says the panel does not have jurisdiction to investigate hiring practices at the state Probation Department because such an investigation would necessitate an investigation of the Legislature itself.

Republicans Rep. James Lyons Jr. of Andover and Marc Lombardo of Billerica asked Democratic Rep. David Linsky of Natick, the chairman of the post audit committee, to launch an investigation of hiring practices at the Probation Department under former commissioner John O’Brien, who recently was sentenced to 18 months in prison for running a rigged hiring system at the agency. The two lawmakers also asked Linksy to make referrals to the House Ethics Committee if any lawmakers were involved in the criminal activity at Probation.

Linsky, who was called as a witness at O’Brien’s trial in connection with a spate of hires that a jury deemed illegal gratuities, responded in a letter on Friday that said “our jurisdiction does not extend to the scope of your request.”

A Linsky aide noted that the statute establishing the post audit committee allows it to investigate virtually any aspect of state government “except any such agency or unit within the legislative branch.”

Lyons said he planned to review the law before responding, but expressed amazement at Linsky’s determination. “The judge has called it a massive corruption and the chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee says he doesn’t have the statutory authority to investigate?” he asked.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The situation illustrates how difficult it is for the Legislature to investigate its own members and its own actions. In this case, the situation is even more delicate because House Speaker Robert DeLeo was named as an unindicted coconspirator in the Probation Department scandal. DeLeo has said the jury’s guilty verdicts cleared him of any wrongdoing, but he has never fully explained why the agency allowed him to steer jobs at a new facility in Clinton to his colleagues. Most of the people who were hired at the Clinton facility were hired sight unseen. Linsky, the chairman of the post audit committee, was one of the lawmakers who DeLeo’s office allowed to refer someone for a job at the Clinton facility.