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Legislators said they suggested candidates for Probation jobs

Two state legislators told a federal jury in the trial alleging corruption within the Probation Department that they had secured jobs in the department for friends, without those friends even needing an interview.

State Rep. James O’Day, a Democrat from West Boylston, and state Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr., a Democrat from Clinton, each testified that influential House leader Robert A. DeLeo contacted them in 2007, asking if they wanted to recommend anyone for a job. The jobs were in the Probation Department’s recently expanded electronic monitoring program in Clinton.

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“He asked if I knew anyone who might be interested in working at that facility,” O’Day said.

O’Day recommended a friend he worked with at the then-Department of Social Service, and who had helped with his political campaign. The friend was offered a job the day he filled out an application, O’Day testified. Naughton said he recommended the son of a friend, who was also given a job.

Both legislators later supported DeLeo in his quest to become House speaker.

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Prosecutors sought to use the legislators’ testimony to show of the sway a powerful legislator like DeLeo could have over Probation Department hiring.

Prosecutors allege that John J. O’Brien, the Probation Department’s commissioner from 1998 to 2010, and top deputies Liz Tavares and William Burke III ran the department like a criminal enterprise by favoring job candidates who were sponsored by legislators over more qualified applicants.

In exchange, prosecutors say, legislators routinely boosted the department’s budget, helping O’Brien build his political clout. The jobs were considered “political currency.”

The defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison on charges including racketeering and mail fraud. Prosecutors say the defendants created an organized scheme, making applicants go through a bogus hiring process. O’Brien then falsely certified to judges that he followed proper policies and procedures in making appointments, prosecutors allege.

Lawyers for the three defendants argued that nothing they did was illegal, even if they hired politically connected candidates, saying the practice was widespread on Beacon Hill.

The defense lawyers pointed out that the state legislators did not believe they did anything wrong, and have not been accused of wrongdoing.

More coverage:

Ex-Probation official discusses discipline

6/20: Ex-Probation kept messages directing him to favor candidates

6/20: Voicemails in the Probation case

6/17: Probation supervisor says family friend aided promotion

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.
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