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After arrest, son of Polito supporters lands a job in the administration

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton (above) has a new $72,000-a-year employee: Anthony  Virgilio, who was charged with OUI and leaving the scene of an accident in 2015 and then left his court job.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton (above) has a new $72,000-a-year employee: Anthony Virgilio, who was charged with OUI and leaving the scene of an accident in 2015 and then left his court job.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/File 2016

It seemed that Anthony G. Virgilio’s career in state service might be in jeopardy after he was charged with OUI and leaving the scene of an accident. He soon left his job as a court officer, but within a year had landed a newly created $72,000-a-year job for a member of Governor Charlie Baker’s Cabinet.

Virgilio, a 37-year-old Peabody resident, is the son of supporters of Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. His new job as “facilities health/safety and records field manager’’ is in the office of the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary, Matthew A. Beaton, a close Polito political associate.

Virgilio was hired in August to fill the job, which did not require a public posting to attract applicants or a background check.

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Top Baker aides refused to answer repeated questions about whether Polito played a role in the hiring or to make the lieutenant governor or Beaton available for an interview. They acknowledged only that Polito has met Virgilio’s parents at campaign events.

Virgilio’s parents, Anthony Sr. and Therese Virgilio of Lynnfield, have made four $1,000 donations to Polito’s campaign committee over the past two years, starting with two donations just days after Virgilio left his job in May 2015 as a court officer.

The other two were made on June 28, 2016, just weeks before he was hired by Beaton.

Both Beaton and Polito live in Shrewsbury and have worked closely in local politics for years. He was elected to the House seat Polito vacated in 2010. She was instrumental in placing him in Baker’s Cabinet.

The elder Virgilio also donated $1,000 to Governor Charlie Baker in May 2015 — the only contribution the governor has received from the family since taking office.

Neither Virgilio nor his parents returned calls seeking comment.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has been plagued by a series of small-bore scandals in recent months.

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Baker faced embarrassing headlines last year when employees of the agency’s Department of Conservation and Recreation used state resources at a July 4 party for GOP insiders.

Last fall, environment officials were accused of retaliating against an employee whose fiance was running against a Republican senator; the episode resulted in the resignation of one top agency official and the firing of another. Another had to resign for misusing his state car’s flashing lights and siren.

The governor himself had to fend off charges he indulged in patronage when the DCR hired his campaign driver, an experienced law enforcement officer, to serve as head of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Those controversies have laid bare what is well known in political circles: namely, that the agency is a patronage magnet for supporters of governors and lieutenant governors, going back several administrations, a situation that undercuts Baker’s attempts to project a profile as a beyond-reproach leader who is above the usual politics of Beacon Hill.

The Baker administration and Beaton’s office have circled the wagons around Virgilio and its decision to hire him. They refused to release Virgilio’s resume to back up their claims that his 10-year employment history as a $69,000-a-year court officer gave him the credentials for his job at the energy agency.

The only on-the-record comment that administration aides offered noted that neither Virgilio’s status as a recovering substance abuser nor his arrest should have been an issue in his hiring.

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“The administration does not preclude those who overcame a substance misuse issue from employment,” said Lizzy Guyton, the Baker administration’s communications director.

Virgilio was picked up in January 2015 by State Police on Route 1 in Lynnfield, where he was slumped over the steering wheel of his car, according to the arrest records. He had stopped in the middle of an intersection after sideswiping another vehicle.

He was charged with operating under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to identify himself to an officer, and resisting arrest, according to the State Police report.

In a plea deal two months later, the OUI charge was continued without a finding for a year. The other charges were dropped. He lost his license for 60 days and was fined $600.

He was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety program and submit to drug testing.

He left his court officer’s position on May 4, 2015. Court administrators said they do not comment on personnel issues.

The Baker administration’s refusal to release Virgilio’s resume or application for the job contradicts a July 2015 opinion from the secretary of state’s Public Records Division.

The division’s then-supervisor, Shawn A. Williams, said Supreme Judicial Court rulings state that certain information in applications and resumes is public because “the public has a legitimate interest in knowing whether public employees possess the qualifications, applicable degrees, and certifications to perform their jobs.’’

The job description provided by Beaton’s office says Virgilio is responsible for identifying workplace hazards and assessing risks to health and safety, recommending accident prevention and workplace safety, and implementing safety controls.

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Speaking on background, Beaton aides justified the hiring by saying Virgilio’s work as a court officer gave him experience in enforcement of workplace safety standards; data collection, monitoring, processing and storage; and development of reports regarding personal-injury claims.

But the Massachusetts court system’s job description for court officers at his level does not reflect those responsibilities.


Frank Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.