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Probation officer tells of promotion

Federal jury told of alleged hiring irregularities

A state probation officer told a federal jury Friday that she filed a union grievance in 2006 after she was unfairly passed over for a promotion. She was set to participate in an arbitration hearing, she told jurors, which would have forced probation officials to testify under oath.

Before the arbitration could occur, her superiors offered the woman a different promotion, she testified Friday in the public corruption trial of John J. O’Brien, former probation chief.

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Sheila Dintaman, 58, said she has a master’s degree and had worked as a Greenfield District Court probation officer for more than two decades when she applied for a promotion to an assistant chief in Franklin Superior Court, in late 2005.

Dintaman filed the grievance when she lost the position to Frank Glenowicz, a politically connected probation officer whose experience had been in juvenile court. At first, department lawyers denied her grievance. But when she appealed to an arbitrator, Dintaman was offered a new job at the department’s community corrections center, as a probation officer in charge, Dintaman said.

Prosecutors sought to use Dintaman’s testimony to demonstrate what they characterize as unfair hiring practices and to show that probation officials sought to avoid testifying about Glenowicz’s appointment under oath.

Earlier Friday, a state judge who served on a probation hiring panel told jurors that Dintaman was her number one candidate and that she was surprised — “I was upset,” she said — to learn that Glenowicz was appointed instead.

“I said, ‘Don’t ever ask me to be on another one of these panels,’ ” said Superior Court Judge Bertha Josephson, adding that O’Brien’s deputy William Burke told her at the time, “That’s somebody else’s decision, and that’s the way it goes.”

Prosecutors have charged O’Brien, the Probation Department commissioner from 1998 to 2010, as well as Burke and top deputy Elizabeth Tavares with racketeering and mail fraud in allegedly running a rigged hiring and promotion process.

Prosecutors say the defendants favored candidates who were sponsored by state legislators over more qualified candidates. In exchange, the legislators routinely boosted the department’s budget, helping O’Brien build his political clout.

The prosecutors charge that O’Brien committed a crime by creating an organized scheme and making people go through a bogus hiring process, then falsely certifying to judges that he followed proper policies and procedures in making appointments.

During several days this week, key prosecution witness Francis Wall, a retired deputy commissioner, laid out for prosecutors how O’Brien allegedly preselected candidates and had subordinates select those candidates in hiring panels, to make it look as though he had established a proper process.

Wall testified under an immunity agreement that protects him from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation. But defense lawyers called Wall a fraud who embellished his testimony to favor prosecutors.

On Friday, Brad Bailey, an attorney for Tavares, forced Wall to acknowledge that he encouraged Tavares to lie to a grand jury investigating the Probation Department. Tavares had told Wall she was going to admit to preselecting candidates, but he complained to her that it would contradict his own statements made under oath.

“You were asking her to lie for you, weren’t you,” Bailey argued. Wall had said he had lied before only “to protect the commissioner.”

Defense attorneys also sought to use Judge Josephson’s testimony to show that patronage hiring existed in the Probation Department before O’Brien was granted hiring authority. She recalled heading a Superior Court Probation hiring committee around 2000 and receiving a call from state Representative Thomas Petrolati. She said she did not call him back.

Separately, Josephson said, her chief Superior Court justice at the time, Susan DelVecchio, gave her a piece of paper with four names.

“She was hopeful these people would make it through the interview process,” Josephson said. “I told her I can’t tell the committee what to do, and she accepted that.”

Josephson said she later listened in on a phone conversation DelVecchio had with former state representative Salvatore F. DiMasi, a powerful legislator who eventually became House speaker. Josephson said she heard DelVecchio say, “Well, next time, send me some . . . candidates who can make it through an interview.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at MValencia@ globe.com.
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