Yesterday, the Globe ran a piece about Charlie Baker’s attempt to weaken state ethics law so that his revenue commissioner would still be able to make $300,000 by serving on two corporate boards:
Governor Charlie Baker has sought a change in state law that would allow his revenue commissioner to be paid $300,000 a year to sit on two major corporate boards, a move that has alarmed ethics specialists who say such a policy change would undermine the tax agency’s integrity.
The governor wanted the Legislature to change a statutory restriction so that Commissioner Mark E. Nunnelly, a wealthy venture capitalist who has worked without a state salary since his appointment in March, could keep his positions on the boards of Dunkin’ Donuts and Genpact Limited, a Bermuda-based information technology services firm.
State law prohibits the commissioner from engaging in any outside business for profit, as a way to prevent private financial interests from influencing public decision-making.
We often hear about how Charlie is a “moderate,” but this effort shows very clearly whom Charlie Baker works for. And it shows what his vision of “good governance” and “sound management” really entails.
Thankfully, Karen Spilka, Senate Ways & Means chair, recently blocked the measure, noting that Nunnelly should “devote his professional efforts full time to the Commonwealth as we expect of other commissioners.”
But how did it even get to the Senate in the first place?
Bob DeLeo, of course, as the Globe explains today:
Governor Charlie Baker’s attempt to clear the way for his revenue commissioner to sit on corporate boards was quietly embedded in a House budget bill, with no notice to nearly anyone on Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s leadership team, including the chairman of the committee overseeing the state’s tax code and its enforcement.
The House chairman of the Legislature’s revenue committee, which oversees tax issues and revenue department practices, said he did not know Baker’s proposal to lift the ban on outside business activities was approved in the House budget bill. He said he was never consulted on the matter.
“I didn’t know about it until I read the story,’’ said state Representative Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat. “I was surprised and happy that the Senate caught it, even though we didn’t.”
Asked Monday at a State House press availability why nearly none of his leadership team or members knew of the language, DeLeo said he approved the change because he was assured that Baker had received approval from the State Ethics Commission.
He said his Ways and Means Committee chairman, Brian Dempsey, was either “told or he checked it out, and all ethics questions had been clarified and this was approved.’’
Asked why it was never discussed, DeLeo said only that he raised it with Dempsey. House sources confirmed that the proposed change in state law was never discussed at leadership sessions. Dempsey’s office did not return a call seeking confirmation.