Patrick Shakes Up Cabinet Amid Array of Controversies

The suit challenges legislation signed by Deval Patrick, then the state's governor, prior to last year's midterm election. / AP

The suit challenges legislation signed by Deval Patrick, then the state's governor, prior to last year's midterm election. / AP

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The Boston Globe is reporting that Gov. Deval Patrick (D., Mass.) will announce a major shakeup of his cabinet today, although details of the decision are still under wraps.

Governor Deval Patrick will announce Thursday the departure of nearly half his Cabinet as he begins his final two years in office, and the ­addition to the administration of Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral as public safety secretary, according to people with direct knowledge of the shakeup.

Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez, Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, Public Safety and Security Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan, and Education Secretary Paul Reville are all leaving the administration, said people who knew of the staff changes. They requested anonymity to divulge details before the formal announcement.

The personnel changes are a result of an array of controversies surrounding Patrick’s top officials.

Public Safety and Security Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan ran into trouble for recommending Sheila Burgess to be the state’s highway safety director. Burgess, a longtime fundraiser for Democratic campaigns, was forced to resign after it became clear that she was given the $87,000-a-year position through patronage alone. Not only did the highway safety director have a driving record that included “seven accidents, four speeding violations, and two failures to stop,” but she also had no experience in public safety, transportation, or government administration.

Heffernan is taking the fall for Patrick, who excused himself from explaining the hiring by stating that all Burgess’ employment records were destroyed.

Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby came under fire for an evidence tampering scandal that occurred under her watch. According to the Boston Herald, email records show that Bigby was aware of a drug lab mishandling evidence in at least 90 cases for seven months and allowed it to continue without investigation.

Also included in the cabinet shakeup is Education Secretary Paul Reville, who survived controversy in 2009 when he got caught lobbying for the approval of a charter school, based solely on improving Patrick’s reputation on education policy. Reville warned in an email that a rejection would get Patrick “permanently labeled as hostile” to charter schools and “cripple us with a number of key, moderate allies.”

Government employees have had their way with the Patrick administration from the start. Since Patrick took office in 2007, the number of government workers making over $100,000 a year rose by 40 percent, and the government has managed to pay out $127 million to state employees for unused vacation time.

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