Baker replaces another authority chief
Commonwealth Corp post filled quickly; 4 board members abstained
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER has engineered the appointment of a new president at Commonwealth Corporation, a quasi-public authority engaged in workforce training efforts.
J.D. LaRock, a Northeastern University executive, was voted in as president of the authority last month, with his appointment effective July 1. He is replacing Nancy Snyder, whose contract is up at the end of June. By most accounts, Snyder has been doing a good job, but she was not given the chance to reapply for the post. Sources say there was no search process for her replacement and board members were notified of the coming change in leadership just days before the May 18 board vote.
Seven board members voted to hire LaRock and four abstained. Of the seven yes votes, six were state government officials; the seventh was the legislative political director of the Massachusetts Laborers District Council.
The four abstainers were all nongovernment employees. They included Susan Tracy, president of the Strategy Group; Oswald Mondejar, vice chair of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital; Thomas Webber, a retired human resources director; and Bill Davis, management director of Stance Capital.
LaRock did not respond to a request for comment. He is currently the executive director of strategic presidential initiatives at Northeastern, and has held several other posts at the university. He previously served as a senior advisor to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and was policy director of the executive office of education. He is the chair of the board of North Shore Community College and a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.
One source close to the Commonwealth Corporation board deliberations said many of the members had no problem with the governor putting his own person in charge at the agency, but they didn’t like the heavy-handed way it was done with no notice, no process, and no debate.
Baker engineered a similar change in leadership at MassDevelopment recently, replacing long-time CEO Marty Jones with an attorney who had donated heavily to the governor, lieutenant governor, and the state Republican Party. At the last minute, Baker’s candidate elected not to take the post because of illnesses in her family.
LaRock’s connection to Baker is unclear. LaRock donated $250 to Baker’s campaign committee in 2013 and $100 in 2014, but has made no donations to him since then, according to campaign finance records. On May 2, he donated $250 to Jay Gonzalez, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor and the right to challenge Baker.
Baker administration officials said LaRock was selected because of his strong credentials, but others speculated that he may have come to the governor’s attention through his chief of staff, Steve Kadish, who previously worked at Northeastern with LaRock.Baker’s moves to put his own people in charge at state authorities are not unique. Baker’s predecessor, Deval Patrick, felt the authorities were too independent; he reined in their power and put his own cabinet secretaries on the boards. Baker has not cleaned house at the authorities, but as employment contracts have expired he has moved to put his own people in charge.