The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the power of the state's chief administrative judge to rescind a Probation Department job offer to an applicant who already had six relatives working in the court system.
The court said that the job applicant, Stephen P. Anzalone Jr., had no right to a job in probation, an agency now under investigation over allegations of widespread political favoritism.
Probation Commissioner John J. "Jack" O'Brien wanted to hire Anzalone, the son of O'Brien's college football teammate, as a probation officer in August 2007. But the offer was subject to the approval of Chief Justice for Administration Robert Mulligan. O'Brien and Mulligan have sparred for years over O'Brien's hiring choices and, when Mulligan learned of Anzalone's extensive family ties among court employees, he vetoed O'Brien's job offer.
Anzalone's attorney, Kevin G. Powers, argued that Mulligan waited too long -- six months -- before overruling O'Brien. But the SJC said today the time delay was less important than ensuring the integrity of hiring for the 2,000-plus jobs in the Probation Department. Anzalone's father and his sister already work in probation, while four other relatives also work for the courts.
"Ordering the trial court to accept Anzalone as an employee would, among other things, run counter to (Mulligan's) statutory duties to promulgate and enforce standards of appointment, including nepotism standards," Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote for the unanimous SJC. "We decline the invitation to issue such an order."
Mulligan suspended O'Brien as commissioner in May after the Globe revealed that at least 250 friends, relatives, and political supporters of politicians and court officials are now employed in the Probation Department, including O'Brien's own daughter.
At the same time, the Supreme Judicial Court appointed an independent counsel, Paul F. Ware Jr., to investigate allegations of corruption within the agency. Last week, Ware demanded the right to interview Representative Thomas M. Petrolati, the House's third-ranking leader, about his influence in the department, a request the lawmaker has refused to comply with.
In 2001, the State Legislature took away much of Mulligan's control over O'Brien's hiring decisions, but left him the right to veto job offers if court procedures are not followed properly.
In Anzalone's case, Mulligan asserted that Anzalone did not fully disclose the number of his relatives who worked for the court system. On his job application, Anzalone claimed only three relatives in the system, omitting three cousins who work for the court.
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