Two days after being sued for wrongful termination, Governor Deval Patrick on Friday defended his decision to fire the former chairwoman of the state Sex Offender Registry Board.
“The fact is that she influenced inappropriately, or attempted to influence inappropriately, a hearing officer, and that’s a matter of record,” Patrick told reporters, referring to Saundra Edwards, the former board chairwoman who was forced to resign last September.
Edwards filed suit Wednesday in Essex Superior Court against Patrick and the state, alleging that the governor fired her without cause for her handling of a case involving his brother-in-law, Bernard Sigh.
Her lawyers wrote in a civil complaint that her firing was the result of Patrick’s “wrongful, personal interest in retaliating against, and punishing [Edwards], because [Edwards] placed the best interests of [the registry board] and the public ahead of Defendant Patrick’s personal and political interests.”
The outgoing governor rejected Edwards’s claim, saying Friday that “people do things like this sometimes when they’ve been called out.”
William H. Sheehan III, a lawyer for Edwards, said she stands by her allegations.
Sigh pleaded guilty in 1993 in California to raping his wife, Patrick’s sister, and served jail time, court records show. The couple reconciled and later moved to Milton. A hearing officer for the Massachusetts registry board, A.J. Paglia, ruled in August 2007 that Sigh did not have to register as a sex offender in the Bay State, according to court records.
Edwards disagreed with Paglia, who ignored a supervisor’s order to refrain from ruling on Sigh’s case pending a review by the state attorney general’s office, according to the Edwards lawsuit.
She ordered Paglia and other board staffers to undergo training on the elements of sex crimes, and Paglia resigned rather than comply, her complaint said. Paglia eventually settled his own lawsuit with the state for $60,000.
On Friday, Patrick conceded that the case had been difficult for him. “But we can’t have officials inappropriately interfering with the independence of hearing officers,” Patrick added.