By Jess Bidgood
Mar. 15, 2011
BOSTON — Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo is proposing that the state's troubled Probation Department overhaul its hiring practices in an effort to put an end to the patronage practices found rampant there.
During a speech to the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, DeLeo said he'll file a bill that would require applicants for jobs in the department to pass a test modeled on the state's police exam. "Unless applicants exceed a required score, they cannot advance in the interview process. Period," DeLeo said.
DeLeo's measure would also prevent hiring managers from looking at applicants letters of recommendation until after they had been named finalists — and it would make any recommendation letters for hired candidates public records.
Last summer, an investigation by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team — and later backed up by a review commissioned by the state's Supreme Judicial Court — found evidence of systematic corruption, in which friends, relatives and financial backers of powerful state legislators were given jobs at the department. Candidates without political connections were unlikely to be hired.
DeLeo's reform proposal differs from Gov. Patrick's recommendation that the Probation Department and the state's Parole Board be combined and brought into the state government's executive branch; DeLeo's proposal would keep it in the judiciary.
In his speech, DeLeo also expressed his intention to revisit gambling legislation during this session.