Governor Deval Patrick today proclaimed himself “done” with questions about the events leading up to Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray’s car crash last fall, saying he has personally spoken to his No. 2 and is satisfied there was nothing nefarious that preceded the accident.
Patrick also said that releasing cell phone records that might prove or disprove his belief would set a “terrible precedent” for the administration.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on this with the lieutenant governor and I’ve asked lots and lots of questions, and he has answered them openly and totally and I’m convinced of them,” Patrick said this morning after his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM. “And, by the way, I think asking him to prove a negative is wildly unfair and unreasonable.”
Both during the radio show and after with reporters from the Globe and Boston Herald, both of which have requested records of Murray’s cell phone activity the morning of the crash, the governor refused to ask the administration’s service provider to release an itemized bill that would show who the lieutenant governor called, when, and for how long.
Earlier this month, the administration released the records it now receives - which list its cell phone charges in broad categories but do not detail individual calls - and noted it was voluntarily complying with the state’s public records law, which does not apply to the Governor’s Office.
“We have made available every record there is. The issue today is do we create a record to satisfy the Herald, or the Globe?” Patrick said during his radio interview.
When co-host Margery Eagan noted there have also been questions from the public about the incident, Patrick replied: “Do we create a record? That is a terrible precedent. The lieutenant governor has a job to do. I have a job to do. That job is not about creating records to prove a negative. … I’m done. We’re moving on.”
The Globe had requested records of calls to and from Murray from March 1 to Nov. 18, 2011, partly in hope of shedding light on the circumstances surrounding Murray’s rollover, which totaled his state-owned Ford Crown Victoria.
The Massachusetts Republican Party, seeking to tweak Patrick over the subject, issued a press release - with screen shots - showing how the records could be instantly accessed over the Internet.
“The only way to bring closure to this story is to tell the whole truth, instead the administration is stonewalling the public,” said GOP Executive Director Nate Little.
Murray has repeatedly said he was not talking on the phone when he crashed at 5:26 a.m. on Nov. 2.
Murray has given shifting accounts of the accident’s cause, initially blaming a patch of ice, but later agreeing with State Police who suggested that he fell asleep at the wheel.
The lieutenant governor told reporters that he left his Worcester home after one of his daughters crawled into bed with him. The questions arose after he explained that he was driving on a highway in the predawn darkness surveying damage from a snowstorm and also grabbing coffee and newspapers.
The accident scene in Sterling was more than a dozen miles from his house.
Patrick’s deputy chief counsel, E. Abim Thomas, wrote to the Globe on Feb. 16 that the administration no longer receives an itemized phone bill that identifies individual calls made on state-owned cellphones.
Although the administration could request an itemized bill from its cellphone provider, Verizon Wireless, Thomas said that the state’s public records law does not require officials to request an itemized bill just to satisfy media requests.
“There are no other records in our custody that are responsive to your request, and we are not obliged to create a record in response to your request,” wrote Thomas.
The administration initially rejected a Globe request for Murray’s phone records Nov. 18, but the Globe appealed the decision to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who urged the governor’s office to reconsider the request.
Patrick told the Globe and Herald today: “Like I said, we’ve given you every record we have. We’ve gone beyond what is required of the law, and I’m done.”