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Bump Moves To Insulate Auditor's Role From Companies Inherited From Her Husband, Will Run In '18

Auditor Suzanne Bump
Auditor Suzanne Bump
Mike Deehan/WGBH News

After a day's speculation that she may leave her post, state Auditor Suzanne Bump says she's going to finish her term and seek re-election in 2018.

Bump responded to an article in Monday's Boston Globe that she may be impelled to leave office in order to run the addiction treatment business formerly owned by her late husband.

But in a statement Tuesday morning, Bump said she's committed to her job as the state's top independent efficiency investigator.

Due to her husband Paul McDevitt's death September 12, Bump now owns two Quincy companies he owned and operated. The companies, Modern Assistance Programs and Map Test, offer substance abuse and addiction treatment services, including drug testing, to private organizations. State conflict of interest regulations bar state employees, including elected officials, from benefitting from private companies that may have a stake in state business.

"Let me be clear, I remain committed to the work of the office of the state auditor," Bump wrote in a statement issued Tuesday morning. "I will be completing my current four-year term, and I intend to seek re-election in 2018." 

Bump says she's taking actions to separate herself from the businesses she now owns. She's hired a new CEO, and so won't have any day-to-day authority over the two companies, the statement says.

"I leave it to the CEO and professionals there to maintain Paul's legacy of compassionate service in the fields of mental health and substance abuse treatment," she wrote.
Bump wrote that her ownership of private businesses raise "no known conflicts of interest for me as an elected official."

"Nonetheless, I will be informing the State Ethics Commission of my new ownership interest as soon as the necessary legal and operational details have been finalized," she wrote. "Further, I always will keep uppermost in my thinking not just my legal obligations but my ethical obligations as a government accountability officer."

"There doesn't appear to be a conflict because the companies are not dealing with the government and that's really where the rubber hits the road," said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a government watchdog group. "If there's no dealings with the government, our main interest as voters is: 'Is she devoting full time to her duties and is she able to give the Commonwealth her full passion and attention?'"

Wilmot suggested that if Bump doesn't let the companies affect the time she spends in her role as auditor "there isn't a real concern on that level."

If the companies do start doing business with the state and Bump is involved, Wilmot said, there would be ethics disclosures and potential recusals by Bump, Wilmot said.

"But that's kind of a longshot because they haven't done business with the Commonwealth," Wilmot said.

Before Bump made it clear she's staying, House Speaker Robert DeLeo didn't rule out pursuing the job for himself.

"Should that question come up, of course everyone and anyone would be interested in thinking about it and talking about it," DeLeo told reporters Tuesday morning.

It's the House that would control who gets named to fill the office, and DeLeo controls and the House. It's happened before. In 1969, Speaker Robert Quinn participated in a joint session of the Legislature which resulted in his own election to fill the vacant Attorney General's seat. In 1981, a member of House leadership, John Finnegan, was selected to fill the vacanct auditor's seat by a vote of his own colleagues. The House outnumbers members of the Senate 160 to 40, giving the House Speaker abundant influence over who fills vacant constitutional officer positions.

Sen. Dan Wolf from Cape Cod tangled with the state ethics Commission in 2013 because the company he founded and owns much of, Cape Air, is contracted with the quasi-public state agency that operates Logan Airport. The commission ruled that he must divest his shares of the regional airline or resign his Cape and Islands Senate seat. Wolf appealed and eventually a new regulation allowed him to keep his seat, but not until after the ethical questions helped derail his fledgling 2014 gubernatorial campaign. 

Bump was elected auditor in 2010 and again in 2014. She previously served as Gov. Deval Patrick's labor and workforce development secretary.

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