Democrat says Baker slow in responding to police OT scandal
BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s Democratic challenger said Wednesday the incumbent should adopt a “sense of urgency” and fire the head of the Massachusetts State Police and his secretary of public safety in the wake of the overtime abuse scandal that has shaken the state’s top law enforcement agency.
Jay Gonzalez, who served as a top aide to Baker’s predecessor, Democrat Deval Patrick, argued during a news conference in front of the Statehouse that Baker reacted too slowly after reports initially surfaced more than a year-and-a-half ago of potential misuse of state police overtime, and since has failed to fully implement reforms announced months ago.
Campaign officials for Baker strongly defended the administration’s response to the scandal and dismissed the call from Gonzalez, who won his party’s nomination in the Sept. 4 primary, to oust State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin and Secretary of Public Safety Dan Bennett, whose office oversees the state police.
Three former lieutenants were indicted last week on state charges that they received thousands of dollars for overtime hours they didn’t work.
Six troopers, including one who was also named in the state indictments, have been charged by federal prosecutors in their ongoing probe of overtime fraud. Three of those six have agreed to plead guilty.
Baker, Gonzalez said, “should finally act with a sense of urgency to fix the culture of corruption and management failures that have resulted in state police officers stealing taxpayers’ money.”
In April, Baker and Gilpin unveiled a series of policy directives including the disbandment of Troop E, which patrolled the Massachusetts Turnpike, and the activation of GPS vehicle locators in state police cruisers.
On Monday, the state police announced a contract with Ernst and Young to audit and assess the department’s management systems and monitoring of employee compensation and benefits.
“Governor Baker and his public safety team have for months been implementing the very reforms his opponent is today demanding,” said Terry MacCormack, a spokesman for the campaign, in a statement.
The Democrat contended the administration has fallen short on several of its promises, including quarterly audits of top earners in the state police, and a 40 percent reduction in overtime in another state police unit.
Gilpin was promoted by Baker last year to head the state police after the abrupt retirements of two other commanding officers. Gonzalez called for her to be replaced by someone from outside the department who is not part of the culture of the state police.
Massachusetts law, however, appears to forbid an outside appointment, as it requires the administrative head of the state police to be someone who already serves in the department in a rank higher than lieutenant.