By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON — Former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien, accused of running a rigged hiring process favoring the politically connected, at one point appeared “frustrated” discussing which applicants should be moved along in the process, a former probation personnel official testified Tuesday.
“They’re a bunch of pigs. It’s never enough,” O’Brien said, according to Janet Mucci, the former human resources chief, who said O’Brien was “pointing to the State House.”
O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, are on trial for allegedly rigging the hiring process to shuttle jobs to people with the backing of state lawmakers and others. In 2007 and 2008, probation officials attempting to help Rep. Robert DeLeo in a future bid for speaker gave the Winthrop Democrat 10 purportedly temporary positions to fill in the probation department’s new electronic monitoring facility in Clinton, prosecutors say.
Mucci said O’Brien directed her to make photocopies of resumes for the electronic monitoring jobs so that the fax machine header from DeLeo’s office was removed from the documents.
Mucci said that not every successful candidate supplied a resume and she was not aware whether anyone within probation had “actually laid eyes” on the individuals before they were hired.
“Jack would give me the name and number of somebody and I would just call and offer them the job,” Mucci said. She said if the person accepted the job she would instruct that person to fill out an application, and said the majority of the temporary hires still held the positions by the time she retired in 2011.
In 2007, when the probation department was hiring people to fill daytime slots at the electronic monitoring, or ELMO, facility, there was no difficulty finding willing applicants, Mucci said. When the department sought people to work on nights and weekends, in 2008, it was more difficult to fill jobs, Mucci said.
The retired personnel chief said she and O’Brien never discussed posting the ELMO positions, though in 2008 she began moving through a list of applicants for associate probation officers to ask if any of them were interested in doing the remote monitoring work. Mucci said she looked for minority candidates to reach out to from that list because “we didn’t have enough from the people we already hired,” and acknowledged that using the list to fill the remaining slots could have been O’Brien’s idea.
Reps. Harold Naughton, James O’Day and former Rep. Robert Rice, who are all from central Massachusetts, previously testified they received a phone call from DeLeo or a DeLeo aide telling them about a job available within ELMO in 2007. Rep. Anne Gobi previously testified that DeLeo casually approached her in 2008 and offered her the chance to make a recommendation for an ELMO job.
Defense attorney Christine DeMaso suggested former Chief Justice of Administration and Management Robert Mulligan had directed the positions be filled with temporary hires, and cited the Trial Court manual that set probation department policy, noting it excludes requirements for job postings or interviews when someone is hired on a temporary basis.
DeMaso also asked for a mistrial, arguing that answering machine messages former probation official Ed Dalton recorded of Mucci instructing him to advance particular names should not have been admitted as evidence because Mucci was not a co-conspirator. Judge William Young denied the motion, but said he could revisit it.
Mucci said she didn’t recall leaving the messages for Dalton, though she confirmed it is her voice, and she said Richard O’Neil and Ellen Slaney, both friends of Dalton, told Mucci she passed names of preferred candidates to them, too, ahead of interviews.
Beyond the ELMO hires, federal prosecutors contend that scores were manipulated in the regular hiring and promotion of probation officers, so that applicants with political connections received the highest scores and the jobs.
Mucci said she doesn’t remember passing along any names of preferred candidates, and said other regional supervisors told her they “didn’t recall” her calling them about preferred candidates, though she was aware that people in the commissioner’s office passed along names of candidates who were supposed to advance in the hiring process.
Under questioning by Brad Bailey, Tavares’s attorney, Mucci acknowledged that the stamped signatures on many of the hiring documents that were sent to Mulligan for approval, were done by Mucci or other lower-level staffers.
O’Brien and Tavares’s signatures and stamped signatures appeared on a range of documents shown to the jury Tuesday, and Mucci testified that much of the personnel communication was conducted through the U.S. Postal Service – a key component for the eight counts of mail fraud that prosecutors are pressing. Another key aspect of the fraud case are material misrepresentations that the defendants allegedly made in order to convince Mulligan to approve appointments, such as the certification that they followed Trial Court policies in making the appointments.
Mucci testified that when O’Brien learned of a particular candidate who failed to advance through an interview, he would ask to speak to the regional supervisor who participated in the interview, and would “look agitated” as “his face would get red.”
“Fair to say his face turned red pretty often?” DeMaso asked.
“Any emotion turned his face red,” said Mucci, who described him as pleasant to work with, and said that she likes him.
Mucci said her own countenance conveyed her displeasure when she heard that Joe Dooley would be given a job. Dooley allegedly had the backing of Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, as he moved up through the ranks to become chief probation officer at Taunton District Court.
“I know I made a face like I-didn’t-think-he-should-get-the-job face,” said Mucci, who didn’t specify what job she was referring to. She said, O’Brien told her, “I have to do what I have to do, something to that effect.”
Mucci will be back on the stand Friday, after court takes Wednesday and Thursday off.