House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo today defended recommending his godson and others close to him for jobs in the state Probation Department, even as he pledged to rid the troubled agency of fraud, abuse, and patronage.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the release earlier this month of a devastating report that found that state lawmakers had turned the agency into a patronage haven, DeLeo said legislators have a right to suggest people for jobs.
"We recommend folks, whether itís for school or housing, whatever it may be," he told reporters after emerging, with Senate President Therese Murray, from a meeting in the governor's office in which the three leaders discussed the Probation Department's problems.
"We make recommendations for people for jobs. Itís just that. Itís a recommendation," DeLeo said. "What happens thereafter Ė whether they get the job or they donít get the job Ė depends upon the folks making the decision. I can tell you I do not put any undue influence on anyone relative to the hiring or not hiring of the person."
DeLeo sponsored 12 people for jobs in the department, seven of whom were hired, according to the report by Paul F. Ware Jr., a prosecutor who was appointed by the state's highest court to investigate the agency following a series of reports by the Globe Spotlight Team. One of those hired was Brian Mirasolo, who at 28 is one of the youngest chief probation officers in Massachusetts history. DeLeo said Mirasolo achieved that title through his own merit.
"I wrote a letter of recommendation for him," DeLeo said. "And that was the extent of my recommendation of Brian. Upon his getting the probation job, from there on, I had nothing to with his elevatuion from there. He must have proven it by his excellent work record."
DeLeo, Murray, and Governor Deval Patrick all reiterated pledges to make reforming the agency one of their top priorities in the new legislative session next year.
"Everybody is taking it seriously," DeLeo said.
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