Moving to alleviate a growing political headache, Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced a shakeup at the state’s energy and environment agency, which has been plagued by scandals in recent months.
Baker announced the results of an investigation into an allegation of political intimidation within the department. The probe found that Jared Valanzola, a Department of Conservation and Recreation personnel officer, “did attempt to coerce” a co-worker to persuade her fiance not to challenge a Republican state senator.
Energy and environment officials are “moving to terminate” Valanzola, officials said. Administration officials called the behavior “unacceptable.”
At an afternoon press conference at the State House, Baker said he had been “astonished” by “some issues” at DCR.
“Anybody who engages in any of the kinds of activity that have been associated with either this investigation or some of the stuff that’s been reported on with respect to the misuse of state property and all the rest, we will deal with that, and we will deal with it aggressively,” he said.
The governor also hinted at additional changes at the parks department.
“We’ll be making some announcements about DCR probably shortly,” he said.
Officials said Valanzola “misrepresented his role in Cynthia Lewis’s hiring process to investigators” and gave investigators testimony that was at odds with other “credible” witnesses.
The administration also accepted the resignation of the agency’s chief operating officer, Michael Valanzola, who is related to Jared, despite “no conclusive evidence” that he sought retaliation against Lewis. Officials said his resignation was “necessary to restore confidence in the human resources function for the secretariat.”
Officials said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton “has begun to employ new personnel at the secretariat level to oversee human resources functions.” Lewis remains on administrative leave at her request, officials said.
Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.