The state drug lab scandal, caused by a chemist whose alleged mishandling of evidence will affect an estimated 136,000 criminal cases, is going to cost the state money. What it must not do is result in the long-term growth of the state bureaucracy.
So far, $40 million has been requested by the state’s judiciary, attorney general, and some communities to deal with the fallout of the case, and state district attorneys are expected to seek at least $10 million to re-prosecute these cases. Most of these expenditures are justified, but some, such as the judiciary’s proposal for 18 additional probation officers and 14 more associate probation officers, may be an effort to use the scandal to expand fiefdoms. Governor Patrick and legislators must separate worthy financial requests from those that are exploiting this mess.
The last scandal of this magnitude to hit the state was in the Probation Depart ment, and an independent prosecutor was brought in to successfully expose the damage done and offer suggestions on preventing a reoccurrence. While the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley will undoubtedly do a fine job in investigating the actions of the chemist accused of tampering with drug case evidence, a larger probe of how this happened, why protective measures failed and why it took so long for it to be reported should come from an investigator outside of government.