Governor Deval Patrick today pointedly declined to offer his support for Jeffrey B. Mullan, the state’s transportation secretary, who has given shifting accounts of why his agency withheld information from the public about a corroded 110-pound light fixture that crashed in the O’Neill Tunnel last month.
Questioned last week about Mullan's five-week delay in telling the public about the falling fixture, Patrick said he had confidence in Mullan and was ready to put the issue to rest. At the time, Mullan had explained that he did not tell the public because he wanted to time to
inspect the other lights in the tunnel and repair any problems.
But addressing reporters at a Roxbury school this morning, the governor said he was troubled by a new report in today’s Globe that Mullan did not disclose the issue for five weeks because his own staff did not tell him about the problem for a month. Patrick said today that Mullan only told him about the problem a day before telling the public.
Asked if anyone should be fired over the issue, Patrick said: “I’m about getting the facts first and I want to get the facts.”
“It’s a problem not just for you all, but for me that the facts sort of trickle out in bits and pieces,” he said. “The secretary is going to get those facts now and report to me and report to you.”
Patrick said the most important issue was that the light fixtures are now secured. But asked about Mullan, he said, “What he has to sort out is why there is such a breakdown in communication within the transportation organization.”
Patrick stopped at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School to visit a fifth-grade classroom and hold a photo opportunity before flying to New York City for a fund-raiser for his newly opened federal political action committee, the Together PAC.
On Wednesday, the director of the PAC, David O’Brien, had insisted that Patrick's dinner at a Manhattan restaurant was not a fund-raiser but a “prospecting event” intended to line up donors for the future. O’Brien had said that no checks would be solicited at the event.
But the governor said today that O'Brien's account was not accurate, and that the dinner was, in fact, a fund-raiser. “I hope they’re going to pony up,” Patrick said. “That’s the point.”
Patrick refused to disclose the names of the donors attending the dinner.
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