|Mitchell Adams will step down once his replacement is found.|
Tech agency’s head is forced out
$264,000-a-year innovation group’s chief finds himself on governor’s list
Governor Deval Patrick has decided to replace another high-paid leader of an independent state agency, increasing his control over the web of quasi-public organizations as he begins his second term.
Yesterday, the Patrick administration said it has forced out Mitchell Adams, the longtime head of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which is charged with fostering innovation.
Adams, 66, who has run the quasi-state agency for nearly a decade, has agreed to step down once a replacement is found. The collaborative said that Adams, who earns about $264,000 a year, is entitled to a year’s severance under his employment contract.
In a statement, Adams said, “I am proud of our work to strengthen the state’s innovation economy, speed the adoption of health care technologies and expand economic opportunities across Massachusetts.’’
The move came a week after the director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, Thomas J. Kinton Jr., said he will retire in July, ending a 35-year-career at the authority after a dispute with the administration over his pay of $295,000 a year. He will receive a $459,000 payout for unused sick time when he leaves.
In December, the Patrick administration asked Robert Culver, head of the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, to resign. Culver, who led the agency for seven years and was paid $299,000 a year, agreed to stay on while they begin the search for a successor.
The administration also recently eliminated the job of Nicholas Paleologos, who ran the state’s film office, as part of a reorganization of its marketing programs.
Most of the changes have focused on economic development. Last year, the Legislature gave the governor more control over economic development agencies, including the technology collaborative and MassDevelopment, in an attempt to better coordinate and streamline their efforts.
“Today’s announcement is in keeping with our efforts to better align the missions of the state’s various economic development agencies so that our job growth policies are coordinated and effective,’’ said Kimberly Haberlin, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
Haberlin said the administration is considering whether to make additional changes at these quasi-public development agencies.
Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a Boston think tank that supports free-market policies, said Patrick is trying to gain more control over the agencies and cut salaries of their top officials — salaries that sometimes exceed the governor’s.
For example, the administration recently replaced the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s general manager, Daniel Grabauskas, who earned $255,000 a year, with Richard Davey, who is paid $110,000 a year less.
Stergios said it is too early to say whether the changes will help create more jobs in Massachusetts and reduce spending at the agencies. “The governor has over the past four years often said: ‘Give me more power and I will fix it,’ ’’ Stergios said. “Now the governor owns it.’’
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is charged with promoting innovative sectors, such as the life sciences, including biotechnology, and alternative energy. But its role has been diminished by the creation of two new state agencies, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
In 2009, for instance, the job of steering money to Massachusetts clean energy firms was transferred from the tech collaborative to the Clean Energy Center.
Nevertheless, officials at the tech collaborative say the agency still plays a major role in supporting health care technology, broadband, nanotechnology, and other areas. A spokeswoman noted that the collaborative has won $75 million in federal grants over the past 18 months.
Wendy Everett, a nonprofit leader who has worked with Adams for years, chalked the administration’s move up to politics.
“It’s a political decision and not a reflection of Mitch’s ability and his track record or his capacity to do the job,’’ said Everett, president of NEHI, a nonprofit health policy institute in Cambridge. “He’s just an extraordinarily imaginative visionary thinker.’’
Adams was the state’s revenue commissioner under Governor William F. Weld and was a financial administrator at Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
He also ran HWT Inc., a company that uses data-mining tools to help audit health care payments.
Adams, a Harvard University alumnus, serves on the boards of Harvard and the Boston Athenaeum.
Todd Wallack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.