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Mass. Dems ask IG to investigate Baker environmental hires

The Democratic Party of Massachusetts isn’t giving Governor Charlie Baker any slack on his administration’s hiring practices, this time with a letter to the state’s inspector general asking him to investigate what appears to be the administration’s favorite department for allies and family — the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

State Democratic Chairman Gus Bickford, in a letter Wednesday, asked IG Glenn A. Cunha to “undertake a comprehensive audit of EEA’s hiring practices.” Bickford notes that Baker himself proposed these sort of audits as a candidate in 2014, when he vowed to root out patronage hiring practices.

The letter was prompted by a Globe report last week that outlined how more than half a dozen hires in the state’s environmental agency have political and personal ties to Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and EEA Secretary Matthew Beaton.

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“Patronage appears rampant at the EEA, where we have seen a steady stream of jobs provided to personal friends of this administration, many of which were never publicly posted,’’ Bickford wrote.

Democrats have had no qualms over the years using the state payroll for patronage, such as the Probation Department scandal that occurred under that party’s control of the Legislature.

The rub here is that Baker made a big deal about how he would crack down on the practice — a point Bickford used to needle Baker.

“As a candidate, Governor Baker himself proposed regular audits of state agency hiring practices by the Inspector General’s office, but there is no record of him ever making such a request once taking office,’’ he told Cunha. “His administration’s rampant record of patronage in the EEA has clearly demonstrated that an independent review by your office is in order.”

Baker spokesperson Lizzy Guyton dismissed the Democratic move, saying the governor has pursued “the highest level of transparency” by creating an online tracking system for new hires.

“The administration will continue to pursue reforms to human resources practices and is pleased to have saved taxpayers millions of dollars by shrinking the size of state government for the first time in nearly 20 years,” Guyton said.

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The IG’s office declined to comment on the matter.


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