Friday, December 10, 2010
Milton State Senator says "everything is on the table" for probation department reform
Joyce on panel to fix probation department

BOSTON — They only have a month to make their recommendations, but state Sen. Brian Joyce said they’ll get started by doing a lot of listening.
The Milton Democrat is one of the nine legislators and lawyers who have been named to a new, bipartisan State House working group that will come up with a plan to reform the state’s scandal-ridden probation department.
The group is supposed to deliver its recommendations – for a comprehensive overhaul bill – in January. Shortly after the group was announced Thursday, Joyce said that “everything is on the table” – from Civil Service hiring for future probation jobs to moving the department from judiciary to executive control.
The group’s formation comes three weeks after the state Supreme Judicial Court’s independent counsel, Paul Ware, issued a scathing report about rigged hiring under now-suspended Probation Commissioner John O’Brien of Quincy.
The report detailed how O’Brien and Rep. Thomas Petrolati of Ludlow spent years arranging preferential hiring for hundreds of supporters and donors, including family members.
Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray of Plymouth and House Speaker Robert DeLeo each chose three people to serve on the new group. Joyce is chairman of the Legislature’s joint Committee for State Administration and Government Oversight. He is the only member of the new group who comes from the South Shore.
The group also includes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia Creem and David Sullivan, the top lawyer for Patrick’s administration and finance office.
Joyce said the group has had one informal meeting.
While Patrick, Murray and DeLeo have all said they favor Civil Service hiring, Joyce declined to say which changes he could support.
“We’re going into this with an open mind and a strong determination to ensure that the probation department is functioning at the highest level possible and, most importantly, that the public’s trust is restored,” he said.
As part of its work, the group will review “best practices” from other states’ probation services and hear from Massachusetts experts, “to see what makes the most sense” for legislative reform, Joyce said.
As other legislators have, Joyce defended the general practice of “helping a family in need” – by circulating a laid-off constituent’s résumé, for example.
“But we shouldn’t have sham interview processes,” he said, referring to the probation department controversy.