The state’s 11 prosecutors’ offices are contending that the Patrick administration’s request for $30 million is not enough for them to deal with the costly fallout of the drug lab scandal centered on former state chemist Annie Dookhan.
This week, Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez formally notified top lawmakers that the administration wants to create a $30 million reserve account to pay for Dookhan-related expenses through February.
Under the administration’s plan, prosecutors and other government agencies facing new demand for services linked to the drug lab scandal would have to ask Gonzalez for the money, wait for his approval, and then file monthly progress reports on how the money is being spent, said Gonzalez’s office.
Joseph D. Early Jr., the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said in a statement that the dollar amount requested by the administration falls short of the amount prosecutors need to fix a problem they did not create, while acknowledging Gonzalez’ role as a fiscal gatekeeper.
“Secretary Gonzalez has the responsibility to watch the public funds to make sure they are spent correctly,” Early said. “However, without the proper resources the district attorneys will not be able to fix this mess.
In a phone interview, Gonzalez said the supplemental budget request is expected to help defray Dookhan-related costs for prosecutors and other agencies for “a few months.’’
The administration “absolutely’’ will then ask lawmakers for more when, and if, a need is demonstrated, he said.
“It’s impossible to know what the ultimate costs are going to be,’’ Gonzalez said. “We’ve got a process in place that allows us to meet that need and also do it in a transparent, responsible way.’’
The Globe has previously reported that the MDAA has asked for at least $10 million; the judiciary has said it needs $8.76 million; and the city of Boston says it needs $15 million. The Committee on Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, has not made public the amount they want, but have signaled it will be significant.
Early, who is district attorney for Worcester, also said in his statement: “This is not a problem that in any way, shape or form the district attorneys created. However, we cannot fix the problem without proper resources, and we will not sit by and watch this be our undoing. The resources are critical.”
The administration’s request must be approved by Beacon Hill. In a statement released Friday, the Senate Ways and Means chairman, Senator Stephen Brewer, Democrat of Barre, said he is prepared to find ways to provide funding to address the Dookhan issue.
“We have an obligation to fix this, and we have a commitment to the residents of the Commonwealth to maintain the integrity of this system, and that is what we will do,’’ Brewer said.
Dookhan is accused of mishandling and manipulating drug evidence that may have helped convict hundreds of people or led them to plead guilty, during a Department of Public Health career that began in 2003 and ended when she resigned in March.
She has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of misrepresenting her educational background. She is free on $10,000 cash bail.
The Patrick administration and Attorney General Martha Coakley initially contended that Dookhan’s impact was limited to about 100 Norfolk County cases. But State Police assigned to Coakley’s office discovered a far greater problem over the summer and have alerted prosecutors that at least 34,000 criminal cases, involving 60,000 drug samples, may have been tainted.
The judiciary has estimated that 136,000 drug cases passed through the court system during her career and until the lab where she worked was closed this year.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.