As I posted some time ago, I have been trying to get my arms around the Walsh versus Rush race for the Suffolk & Norfolk senate district (Marian Walsh’s district). My online browsing led me to an interesting story at Boston.com involving a discrimination lawsuit against James J. Rush, the former chief probation officer at West Roxbury District Court and, I believe, Representative Rush’s father. The Boston.com story is particularly useful because it actually has links to a couple of depositions given in the case, one by Judge Coffey of the West Roxbury court, the other by Representative Rush himself. Judge Coffey testified that Rush, who has served on the Ways & Means Committee, had an “overriding presence” at her courthouse:
Mr. Rush is on the House Ways and Means Committee. Right now the trial court, and in particular the probation department, faces the real threat of budget cuts. There’s been talk of furloughs within the trial court, of layoffs, and there is a fear and concern among employees that they run the risk of losing their jobs if the legislature doesn’t fund the trial court budget and in particular the probation department.
The probation department has a separate line item than the trial court, and Jack O’Brien has exclusive control over that line item. It’s not transferable to Chief Justice Mulligan.
Accordingly, it’s my understanding that a lot of employees believe that loyalty and allegiance to the legislature, and in particular to Mr. Rush, ensures job safety and protection.
To be sure, Rep. Rush denied that he had “influence” in the Probation Department (although the story reports that Rush’s father had been recommended for his job by then-Speaker Finneran). But in a race where I haven’t been able to get a grip on real policy differences between the candidates, this seems like a fairly important issue to those of us (EB3 please avert your eyes!) deeply concerned with the culture of patronage at the Probation Department. Where there doesn’t seem to be that much else on which to base a choice, I find myself not inclined to vote for a candidate who seems to be treating a courthouse as his fiefdom.
More broadly, this kind of thing is a great example of why, in my opinion, the Probation Department budget should not have its own line item, but should instead be part of the general appropriation for the Trial Court.
[Not sure why a poll is appearing below the post!]