Petrolati to step down, DeLeo vows changes
Speaker says current structure at probation is flawed
House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued two statements today saying he would lead the charge for changes at the state’s Probation Department and that Rep. Thomas Petrolati would be stepping down as the House’s third-ranking leader.
In the carefully worded statements, DeLeo said the current structure of the Probation Department is flawed and must be changed, but he didn’t indicate whether he thought the agency should be located within the judicial or the executive branch. He promised to file legislation addressing probation soon.
DeLeo announced that Petrolati, of Ludlow, who has been labeled among the biggest offenders in finding jobs in probation for supporters, will not seek to retain his plum assignment as Speaker Pro Tempore when the new term begins in January.
Petrolati’s attorney, John Pucci, said last week that the scathing report on probation hiring issued by Independent Counsel Paul Ware had vindicated his client.
Ware, tasked by the Supreme Judicial Court to undertake the probe in May following a series of media stories about patronage abuse, completed his report earlier this month and the SJC released it to the public last Thursday. As a result, the SJC has started efforts to fire suspended Commissioner of Probation John O’Brien, suspend his top aides, and launch a task force headed by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to make a top-to-bottom review of all judiciary hiring practices.
The SJC also referred Ware’s findings and thousands of pages of exhibits to state and federal law enforcement officials for possible criminal charges. (Click here for CommonWealth’s story.)
In his most extensive comments to date on the 307-page report, DeLeo did not say if he would support moving the Probation Department to the executive branch and pairing it with parole, as proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick, or retaining oversight with the judiciary, as supported by the judges.
“The current structure of the Probation Department is flawed and must be changed,” he said. “To this end, today I met with Gov. Patrick to discuss plans for reforming the department. I will be working with my colleagues to craft legislation to address these flaws and this legislation will be an immediate and top priority for me.”DeLeo did not comment on legislative involvement in the growing scandal, saying only “on a personal note, I am saddened and upset at what I read in the Independent Counsel’s report.”
He blamed the problems on the Probation Department, even though the investigation by Ware found legislators regularly sought to use their influence to get jobs for friends, family, and contributors.