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editorial

John O’Brien deserves indictment, but real villain is system

The name atop last week’s blockbuster federal indictment may be that of John J. O’Brien, the former Massachusetts probation chief who is accused of running a corrupt hiring system. But there’s a bigger villain identified by the painstaking 56-page document: the Commonwealth’s friends-and-favors political culture. O’Brien’s fate is now in the hands of the court. But it’s for voters to grapple with the larger problems his case has exposed.

The indictment argues, in laborious detail, that O’Brien gave jobs to unqualified but politically connected applicants. According to federal prosecutors, O’Brien hired candidates recommended by Senate President Therese Murray at least three times, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo at least 10 times. Each hire, prosecutors allege, amounted to a bribe: O’Brien gave the lawmakers’ picks a job, and in return he got budget increases and bureaucratic clout.

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