State Auditor Suzanne Bump vigorously denied on Wednesday allegations made by a former top aide who says Bump used her State House office for campaign work and sought to curry favor with a labor union in connection to an independent audit of the troubled Department of Children and Families.
“All of these allegations against me and my office are without merit,” Bump said in a statement. “I will be conducting a vigorous defense of my reputation and my office’s ethical standards.”
Laura Marlin, who worked for Bump for seven years before abruptly leaving in May, leveled the allegations in a federal lawsuit she filed Wednesday that accused Bump of violating whistleblower laws by forcing her to resign after Marlin protested what she called overt electioneering on taxpayer time.
Marlin alleged that Bump distributed nomination papers from her state office earlier this year and scheduled a campaign-related meeting there to seek the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union Local 509, one of the state’s most politically potent unions.
After Marlin protested the meeting, Bump moved it to another venue, according to the suit. Bump later told Marlin that she should have contacted SEIU’s political director while working on a March audit of the Department of Children and Families, according to the suit. Many department workers are SEIU members.
In her statement, Bump declined to discuss Marlin’s departure, saying she respected her privacy rights, “so I will not elaborate on the reasons for asking for her resignation other than to say that it was for cause.”
But Bump said she never crossed any ethical boundaries between her government work and her political activity.
“I have never asked or had others ask any of my staff to conduct campaign activities on state time or in state buildings,” she said. “I have never scheduled nor have I held a meeting with a labor or political organization in the State House for the purpose of seeking an endorsement. Most importantly, I have never allowed any organization or individual to influence the conduct or independence of an audit.”
But Republicans pounced on the allegations in Marlin’s suit to blast Bump, a Democrat running for reelection this fall.
“These unconscionable allegations of illegal campaign activities and a rigged audit of the Department of Children and Families to protect political supporters are more disturbing evidence of the corruption created by one-party rule on Beacon Hill,” Patricia Saint Aubin, a Republican candidate for auditor, said in a statement.
Saint Aubin said “there may be grounds here for a criminal investigation.”
Charlie Baker, a Republican candidate for governor, called the allegations against Bump further evidence of the problems created by Democratic control of state government.
“The deeply troubling allegations that the public servant charged with keeping state agencies honest was conducting campaign activities on the taxpayers’ dime and influencing audits for political gain serve as another stark reminder of a lack of accountability and transparency under one-party rule,” Baker said in a statement.Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.