The governor’s transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., is leaving his job, after less than one year in his position.
James A. Aloisi Jr.
He told his staff today that he will not be staying on after Nov. 1, when the nature of the position changes as part of a recently passed transportation system overhaul.
A statement released by his office this afternoon did not provide a reason.
“In the coming weeks and months, he looks forward to continuing his work with the dedicated employees of our state's transportation agencies and authorities to implement the landmark transportation reforms signed into law earlier this year by Governor [Deval] Patrick,” the statement said.
Aloisi, whose many feuds with public officials included a high-profile fight to oust the director of the MBTA, Dan Grabauskas, drew controversy from the start for his role in the Big Dig. He served as a former general counsel to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and a private lawyer working on the project.
Jeff Mullan, executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the former second-in-command at the secretary’s office, has long been mentioned as a possible successor. A state official said Mullan was indeed a candidate, but that no decision has been made.
Aloisi was Governor Deval Patrick’s point person in passing a recent transportation overhaul bill that will consolidate several agencies and eliminate the turnpike authority. Aloisi took over after Bernard Cohen, the previous transportation secretary, resigned in December 2008.
Aloisi was a lobbyist and veteran of state government who has been at the center of the Big Dig and other major transportation projects and controversies for the past three decades. He was considered politically savvy and well-connected, but he had a bumpy ride during his tenure as transportation secretary.
“Aloisi has been more accessible and willing to talk than any other secretary of transportation that we’ve been able to work with over the past 10 years," said Lee Matsueda, an organizer with the T Riders Union.
But House Minority Leader Bradley Jones said that Aloisi made a number of mistakes during his tenure, citing, among other things, his push to oust Grabauskas and traffic jams at Turnpike toll booths over Easter Sunday.
"It comes as no surprise to me that with the election season heating up and with the Governor’s poll numbers sharply declining, Governor Patrick has decided to remove a liability," Jones said in a statement.
Aloisi figured most recently in the controversy over the ouster of Grabauskas. Grabauskas resigned under pressure in early August after a marathon meeting of the MBTA board. The board, which is chaired by Aloisi, voted 5-3 to accept the resignation and to pay Grabauskas $327,487 to settle the remaining nine months of his contract, including salary, vacation, and sick days.
Grabauskas has argued that Governor Deval Patrick and Aloisi wanted to fire him so he could be blamed for a proposal, since shelved, to raise fares by nearly 20 percent. Grabauskas's supporters said the pressure to oust Grabauskas was political, noting that Patrick is a Democrat and Grabauskas was appointed by Republican Governor Mitt Romney. Patrick and Aloisi have maintained that performance, not politics and personalities, was the driving force in the removal of Grabauskas.
The relationship between the two men deteriorated in mid-August when Aloisi criticized Grabauskas in the wake of the release of an NTSB report critical of the MBTA. Aloisi told an interviewer that he had tried to reach Grabauskas to discuss the report, without success. Grabauskas called that statement "a lie."
In an email to an aide obtained by the Globe, Aloisi wrote, "He referred to me as a liar, so I guess he has set his own stage."
Just a few months into his tenure, Aloisi had prickly relationships with other public officials and subordinates. He disparaged Senate President Therese Murray's approach to transportation legislation, saying her idea of "reform before revenue" was a "meaningless slogan." Also, he called Turnpike Authority board member Mary Connaughton a distraction and a "gadfly." Alan LeBovidge, the former head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, was not speaking regularly with Aloisi when LeBovidge resigned in May.
In March, Aloisi got into trouble with the administration itself. A top aide to the governor scolded him for making an unauthorized blog posting that strongly criticized The Boston Globe, saying the move was "not smart" and admonishing Aloisi to follow directives from the governor's office when making future public statements, according to e-mails obtained by the Globe.
The Globe had reported that Aloisi's sister, Carol, held $60,000-a-year salary in a State House position with an apparent lack of responsibilities.
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