Governor Deval Patrick is not embracing the popular outrage over the $8.6 million in compensation given to Cleve L. Killingsworth, the former chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, who resigned abruptly last year.
Patrick, who propelled his reelection campaign by repeatedly excoriating his Republican challenger, Charles D. Baker, for taking a $1.7 million salary as chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, pointedly declined to criticize Killingsworth over his much more substantial haul.
"My focus is on how we get costs down in the system and, in particular, how we get premiums reduced, and we’ve been doing a lot of work in that area, and I’m not going to be distracted from that,” Patrick said today, in response to questions from the press. \
Asked again about the appropriateness of Killingsworth’s severance package in light of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s status as a nonprofit heath insurer, Patrick shot back: “I got your question. That was my answer.”
Killingsworth, a major Democratic donor, has given $5,000 to the Massachusetts Democratic Party and $1,500 to the governor's campaign fund.
Patrick’s comments came a day after Attorney General Martha Coakley, who oversees nonprofit organizations, announced she would investigate the compensation deal that Killingsworth negotiated with Blue Cross’ board.
“I understand why the public is upset,’’ Coakley said told the Globe yesterday.
“This is a CEO of a not-for-profit,” she said. “Our job is to understand the thought process of the board, what was the diligence that they employed in determining the terms and amounts, and were there appropriate deliberations in terms of their duty as a nonprofit.’’
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