The price of leadership
Hecht, who bucked DeLeo on term limits, is demoted
CORRECTION: Several corrections were made to the original version of this story, all of them dealing with the pay of leadership positions in the House. Specifically, Rep. Jonathan Hecht’s leadership stipend was incorrect in the original version, as were the stipends of Reps. Harold Naughton, Patricia Haddad, Byron Rushing, and the heads of the two new House committees.
THERE IS A price to pay when you’re not a member of the Democratic inner circle at the State House. Just ask state Rep. Jonathan Hecht.
Hecht, a Watertown Democrat, held an unpaid vice chairman’s position on the Elder Affairs Committee last term, but lost even that relatively low-level leadership job in in the shuffling of chairman and vice chairman positions that were announced Thursday. Though no one is saying why, it’s a good bet that Hecht’s impassioned plea and “yes” vote last month on behalf of a Republican amendment that would have retained term limits for House Speaker Robert DeLeo cost him his leadership position. In fact, none of the 11 Democrats who opposed DeLeo on the term limits vote received a chair or vice chair position.
But on the flip side, it clearly pays to stay on DeLeo’s good side, as state Reps. Garrett Bradley, James O’Day, and Harold Naughton have learned. Bradley, considered a growing confidant of DeLeo’s, was promoted to a newly created position of second assistant majority leader. The slot pays the same $15,000 as his previous gig as division chair, but it’s higher up the leadership ladder.
“We have term limits, they’re called elections,” Bradley shouted into the microphone during the debate. “Why would we limit ourselves in these negotiations by having an individual who is viewed as a lame duck?”
But Hecht, a Stanford- , Tufts-, and Harvard-educated lawyer, likely buried himself by bringing up the ghosts of speakers past who have left office under clouds – and indictments. The last three speakers before DeLeo – Charles Flaherty, Thomas Finneran, and Sal DiMasi – were all indicted and convicted on felony charges. The rogue’s list prompted DeLeo to push for term limits when he first took over, a stance he changed last month as he entered his final term. It was that flip-flop that apparently bothered Hecht.
“Absent term limits, there are no real checks on the speaker’s longevity in office,” Hecht said in his address to the House. “How many speakers have left office willingly? Very few, and none at all in the last 25 years.”
Hecht could not be reached for comment Thursday.
O’Day and Naughton were two of the legislators called to testify in the Probation scandal trial in federal court last summer. The two were among several lawmakers who prosecutors claimed were handed jobs in the Probation Electronic Monitoring office in Clinton to give to friends or supporters in exchange for backing DeLeo’s bid for the speaker’s chair. Both O’Day and Naughton testified their support for DeLeo had nothing to do with being able to get friends a job and DeLeo has denied swapping jobs for votes. In the assignments unveiled on Thursday, Naughton retained his $7,500 chairmanship of the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security while O’Day was moved up to the desirable Joint Committee on Municipalities & Regional Government, which is a direct line to local officials.
Overall, DeLeo’s leadership team stayed pretty much intact, with Rep. Ronald Mariano staying on as Majority Leader, Rep. Brian Dempsey as Ways and Means chair, Rep. Patricia Haddad as Speaker Pro Tempore, and Rep. Byron Rushing as Majority Whip. DeLeo receives $35,000 over the $60,033 base salary as speaker while Dempsey receives an additional $25,000 and Haddad and Rushing each get an extra $15,000.
DeLeo had some extra sweeteners to dole out this year. In addition to the new post created that Bradley assumed, the House also created new standing committees in Redistricting and Technology and Intergovernmental Affairs, each position carrying a $7,500 pay hike. Both committees were created to match changes made by the Senate. In addition, DeLeo had 13 chairmanship posts to fill that were left vacant by departures during last session and by some representatives who did not seek reelection.
Rep. John Fernandes of Milford was tapped to co-chair the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, a position previously held by Eugene O’Flaherty, who left to become corporation counsel for Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. Walsh’s old job as chairman of the Ethics Committee was given to Rep. Christopher Markey of Dartmouth. Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who represents Boston’s North End and used to serve as an aide to DiMasi, will serve as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, which gives him access to a broad fundraising base in the financial industry.
When DeLeo laid out his agenda for the upcoming session earlier this month, he made a point of saying he would reach out to and include regions previously underserved in the Legislature, particularly districts in western Massachusetts. But of the 45 leadership posts and chairmanships DeLeo made, only eight came from western Massachusetts beyond Interstate 495.Even though the appointments came nearly two months after the start of the legislative season, no one will be out any money. The extra pay for leadership positions is set aside for the full year so each chairman and vice chairman will get a retroactive lump sum for the four paychecks that they missed and the remainder will be paid out in equal increments in their checks going forward.
“I’m proud of the strong leadership team that is in place for the 189th session,” DeLeo said in a statement. “We matched the best people for the right positions. This skilled team will help us accomplish the important work ahead of us.”