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State labor chief replaced amid website problems

Joanne Goldstein.

Josh Reynolds/Globe File

Joanne Goldstein.

Governor Deval Patrick announced Friday that he is replacing his state secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Joanne F. Goldstein, who had been facing questions about the troubled launch of the state’s new online unemployment benefits system built by Deloitte Consulting.

In a press release, Patrick said Goldstein will be replaced by Rachel Kaprielian, who is currently the state’s registrar of motor vehicles. As registrar, Kaprielian entered a $76.8 million contract with Deloitte in 2012 to overhaul that agency’s online system.

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Goldstein will be taking a job as an associate vice president at Northeastern University.

Patrick at a State House press conference Friday thanked Goldstein for her service and downplayed problems that have plagued the unemployment website as a reason for her departure.

Asked whether the new secretary could hold Deloitte’s feet to the fire, Patrick insisted she could.

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Goldstein, in a brief interview after the press conference, said she feels she is leaving the unemployment system in good shape. As to the timing of her departure, she said it was simply a job offer too good to resist.

The state Department of Transportation announced on its blog that Celia Blue, the department’s assistant secretary for performance management and innovation, has been named registrar of motor vehicles to replace Kaprelian.

Goldstein has faced criticism over rollout of $46 million computer system to manage unemployment claims that left hundreds of users struggling to get unemployment benefits after it went into operation July 1. The contract, awarded before Goldstein became secretary, provided few protections for taxpayers and little oversight of consultants, according to a Globe analysis.

Deloitte delivered the project, riddled with technical problems two years late and $6 million over budget.

The Globe’s coverage and an onslaught of phone calls from angry claimants led the Legislature’s Senate Post-Audit and Oversight Committee to begin an investigation into the problems with the computer system last fall. The committee, chaired by State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, a Newton Democrat, is expected to conduct another hearing, likely this month.

Patrick did not mention those issues in his press release, or offer any reason for the abrupt change in his Cabinet.

“I sincerely thank Joanne for her four years of dedication and commitment to our workers, job seekers and employers through some of the Commonwealth’s most challenging economic times,” Patrick said in a statement. “I am thrilled that Rachel has agreed to take on this new role, and I am confident that she is prepared to continue the difficult work of getting our residents back to work, and preparing both our workers and employers for the jobs of the 21st century economy.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at michael.levenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.
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