Baker defends budget chief’s hiring of friends, says they’re ‘qualified’
Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned on a pledge to root out cronyism in state government, gave a vigorous defense Monday of his budget chief, Michael Heffernan, and a slew of well-connected associates that Heffernan hired, including campaign donors and fellow Wellesley Country Club members.
In a testy exchange with reporters, Baker said he has “full confidence” in Heffernan, a former Republican candidate for treasurer whom Baker first installed as commissioner of the Department of Revenue and, last year, elevated to his Cabinet as secretary of administration and finance.
Baker had vowed on the campaign trail in 2014 to give Beacon Hill “strong medicine” on patronage hiring, and, emboldened by a scandal in the Probation Department, declared that “who you know is more important than what you know.”
The DOR employees, he argued Monday, aren’t the same.
“Every single one of those people was qualified to do their job,” Baker said at the State House, adding: “So we’re going to outlaw people from Wellesley from working in the administration?
“I don’t have a problem with people who are qualified from working in our administration. In fact, I think that should be our objective. What I have a problem with is people who aren’t qualified.”
In some cases, Heffernan’s hires played golf at the same country club as their boss or donated to his failed campaign for state treasurer.
Among them was 59-year-old Philippe M. Mauldin, who now serves as the $140,000-a-year chief of staff to Heffernan’s hand-picked replacement atop DOR. Mauldin, formerly of Fidelity Investments, lives two homes away from Heffernan in Wellesley.
Heffernan also tapped another Wellesley resident, William McNamara, who — like Heffernan — plays golf at the Wellesley Country Club. The 55-year-old, also once of Fidelity, now serves as deputy commissioner for legislative affairs and policy director at a salary of $141,000 per year.
Baker bristled at questions about the hires, saying many of them took the jobs because they were “public-spirited” after respected careers in the private sector.
“Now we’re getting to the point where we’re saying that people who aren’t from government, aren’t in government and never served in government, somehow are cronies?” he said.