Snapshots from the Probation Dept. probe

Independent counsel Paul F. Ware Jr.'s report is replete with examples of alleged corruption in the Probation Department's hiring and includes many revealing excerpts from witnesses who testified before him. Some examples summarized and compiled by the Spotlight Team:

'I don't know what to believe'

As the Probation Department's legal counsel, Christopher J. Bulger knew state rules demanded that hiring decisions be made solely on the basis of merit. He told Ware he "assumed" there was political influence anyway, but didn't know it for sure.

"I am telling you I don't know what to believe," the son of former Senate President William Bulger testified last month.

Perhaps he could have found some proof when the probation agency's legislative liaison, Maria Walsh, pointed to a list of candidates, sponsored by politicians, on her computer screen at work. Bulger said he advised her to turn the list over to the independent counsel. He said he didn't look at it himself. But he told Commissioner O'Brien about it.

"I -- again, what I -- the feeling I had --" he stammered when asked to explain how he described the list to O'Brien without having seen it.

Ware concluded that many of Bulger's answers were "blatantly false," and that he should be considered for termination, criminal investigation, and sanction by the Board of Bar Overseers.

Bernie Dow Bernie Dow

Bernie Dow's path to promotion

It took Bernie Dow 31 years to get his probation promotion at Worcester District Court. And don't think he wasn't trying.

From the late 1970s until 2005, Dow, the nephew of a judge and a Holy Cross graduate, was rejected six times for promotions he sought on merit.

In late 2004, Dow saw postings for two jobs in Worcester District Court, but when he approached his boss about them, it was clear to Dow that he wouldn’t get the job. That night, he and his wife decided to try a new path to promotion: Campaign cash.

“I knew I was not going to get that job on my qualifications alone,” Dow testified, as part of the independent counsel probe.

First, Dow contacted then-Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi’s office and simply asked a DiMasi aide for help. The aide made no promises, but said, “We’ll work on it,” Dow testified.

Then, Dow began giving money to DiMasi. He donated the maximum $500 in the fall of 2004 and another $500 in early 2005 just as interviews for the promotions began.

Apparently, it worked. Dow testified that DiMasi's aide, Danny Toscano, told him the night before his final job interview that one job was "already spoken for, but you’re going to get the assistant chief probation officer's job.”

Before his interview in Boston the next day, he saw Toscano, who shook his hand and said, "Congratulations.''

"It is appalling," Dow said, referring to how he got his promotion.

'Pressure from the Legislature'

Douglas MacLean, the son of retired state Senator William Q. "Biff" MacLean of Fairhaven, a former Beacon Hill power broker, had a long history of heroin abuse before he "aggressively" pursued Probation chief John J. O'Brien for a probation job. That's what James Casey, former chief probation officer of the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, told Ware.

MacLean wanted to be assigned to Wareham District Court, where his father's "cronies" were working, Casey testified.

But even O'Brien, with his penchant for bending the rules for politicians, knew that MacLean was a problem candidate, telling him point blank in 2004: "You'll never be a probation officer as long as I'm the commissioner of probation, Doug."

Several months later, Casey got a call from the commissioner's office, telling him he was being assigned a new "acting" probation officer, a term he'd never heard before. The new hire? Doug MacLean.

Casey was livid. "I was physically upset and I remember throwing a few things around my office," he told investigators.

Months later, he asked O'Brien what had happened to make him change his mind. "He just said, quote, 'I had tremendous pressure from the Legislature.' "

Penciling it in

There was nothing subtle about the instructions on how to score job candidates that Deputy Commissioner Francis Wall gave to a colleague, Edward McDermott.

"Deputy Commissioner Wall says to me: 'And, by the way, the commissioner's top choice is Joe Jones or Mary Jones,' " testified McDermott. "And I says, 'Well, what does that mean?' And he said to me, 'That means that that candidate has to get the highest score in the interview.'"

McDermott acknowledged that he would "stretch" the score he gave to Jack O'Brien's choices. But just in case he didn't stretch far enough, Wall would wait until McDermott was done, so he could make his own score high enough to get the candidate to the top of the list.

Interviews were done in pencil to allow fraudulent rescoring if necessary, Ware said.

There were times, McDermott said, when he might have given a candidate a score of 2 on a question, and Wall "said, 'Can you live with making that a 3?' I would say, 'Well, okay,' and I'd make it a 3."

Marc Pacheco Marc Pacheco

Something in return

Joe Dooley was angling for an acting assistant chief probation officer's job in Taunton District Court in 2005 and was unsure about his prospects until he spoke to his friend and sponsor, state Senator Marc Pacheco. Pacheco told him point blank that Jack O'Brien had assured him that Dooley would get the promotion -- or the job would be left vacant.

Dooley, who got his promotion and is now Taunton's chief probation officer, also told investigators that Pacheco repeatedly asked him to solicit campaign donations from other probation employees. He admitted fund-raising for Pacheco even though state law prohibits public employees from soliciting or collecting political contributions.

Pacheco remembered the episode differently. He testified under oath that O'Brien never promised Dooley that he would get the job or the job would be frozen. He also denied ever asking Dooley to raise funds among Probation Department employees.

The independent counsel, however, believed Dooley, concluding he had no motive to incriminate himself and was more credible than the longtime state senator.

Laurie O'Brien Laurie O'Brien
Jack O'Brien Jack O'Brien

A fund-raiser, then a job

When Jack O'Brien's wife, Laurie, went job hunting at the state lottery in 2005, her husband left little to chance. The commissioner had dozens of probation employees make campaign donations to state Treasurer Tim Cahill, whose office controls the lottery. Most of these employees had never donated to Cahill before and have not donated since. Senior staff organized a trip to Cahill's July 6 fund-raiser while eating lunch in the cafeteria at One Ashburton Place, the independent counsel found.

Before the flurry of donations, Laurie O'Brien was under consideration for a job working the overnight shift as a computer operator. A week after the fund-raiser -- at which probation employees donated $4,000 -- Laurie O'Brien was looking at a much more desirable job: a daytime position in customer service. The lottery's personnel director testified that he had hundreds of candidates to choose from, but Laurie O'Brien, who apparently never filed a job application, came out on top. She started working in September.

The O'Briens' daughter, Kelly, was also hired by the Treasury a few months later, described by one treasury official as a "surprise employee." Edward Ryan, a legislative liaison with Probation, testified that he also called the Treasury to recommend Kelly.