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State auditor cuts 31 workers

Bump says layoffs to free funds for pivotal new hires

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION “I made it clear that I was going to retool the office,” State Auditor Suzanne Bump said after laying off 31 workers this week. ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
“I made it clear that I was going to retool the office,” State Auditor Suzanne Bump said after laying off 31 workers this week.
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / January 27, 2011

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In a move that has saddened her predecessor, state Auditor Suzanne Bump has laid off 31 employees in what she says is an effort to strengthen the office.

Bump said in a telephone interview last night that the staff members, who work mainly as administrative assistants, began receiving termination notices Monday and that the process will conclude next week. She said the decision was made in part to free up funds to hire more workers who will perform direct auditing functions at the office, which investigates fraud and mismanagement at state agencies, among other tasks.

“I made it clear that I was going to retool the office to make sure that it had the strongest possible staff in order to realize my vision for making government work better,’’ said Bump.

Bump said she did not have figures available last night on the seniority status of the laid-off employees. None of the workers will receive severance pay, but they may apply for pension benefits if they qualify, a spokesman said.

Bump said that staffing levels in the operations side of the office have been “considerably reduced’’ in recent years, which “made even more acute this problem of overstaffing in support positions.’’

But A. Joseph DeNucci, whose tenure as auditor ended this month after 24 years, said last night by phone that it pains him to see the layoffs, which affect some people who worked for him for more than a decade.

“A lot of people that worked for me called me, and they’re a little upset,’’ he said. “The budget is going to be weakened, so she knows more about it than I do. . . . I’m not angry at her or anything. She has to do what she has to do, but it hurts.’’

DeNucci also said that he did not lay anyone off when he first took office. “You’re talking about people that have kids,’’ he said.

Bump said the decision on layoffs was not easy.

“I’ve never taken terminations lightly,’’ she said. “I understand these are people [with] families.’’

Christopher Thompson, a spokesman for Bump, said the human resources staff is meeting individually with each laid-off worker, and State Police are present during the meetings, according to protocol.

In another matter, Bump intends to review public subsidies for Evergreen Solar, the energy company that recently announced plans to close its Devens plant and move more than 800 jobs elsewhere, despite receiving millions of dollars in public funds.

With the Patrick administration saying that it could recoup only $13 million of the $31 million the state invested in Evergreen Solar, Thompson said Bump has developed an internal team and strategy to evaluate these investments. “The auditor’s review will take a broad look at many different tax incentives, and the tax incentives granted to Evergreen Solar will be reviewed in this broader context,’’ he said.

Greg Bialecki, State Housing and Economic Development secretary, said last week that Evergreen had received $21 million in cash grants — $20 million to help build its facility and $1 million for work force training — plus $7.5 million in investment tax credits and a long-term lease on state land valued at $2.7 million.

Bialecki estimated the state can recoup $13 million, including the $7.5 million investment tax credit, which he said will not be claimed, $3 million in state grants that were tied to a job creation formula, and land costs.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.