Dems, GOP knock Baker in DCR flap
BOSTON >> Gov. Charlie Baker is facing calls to take further disciplinary action against two senior state employees who used state resources to throw a private party on July 3 in Boston, with groups representing Democrats and Republicans urging Baker to fire both employees.
Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy and Deputy Commissioner Matthew Sisk will be suspended without pay next week for using taxpayer money on a private party at the Beacon Street home of a prominent state Republican Party leader, and will be off the job Sept. 2-9, the state confirmed Wednesday.
Roy and Sisk have paid the state back more than $800 for the state resources they used to plan and host the party, which coincided with the Boston Pops Independence Day dress rehearsal concert at the Esplanade's Hatch Shell, a DCR property. The party was held at a condo owned by Ron Kaufman, the state's Republican national committeeman.
But the Massachusetts Republican Assembly (MARA) is urging Baker to fire both men -- saying the incident is "part of (a) broader pattern of Baker behavior" -- and is asking Sisk to resign from the Republican State Committee.
"I'm genuinely curious," MARA National Director Brian Kennedy said in a statement. "Don't people usually end up in jail for stealing taxpayer resources instead of this 'it's all cool if he pays it back' thing?"
Roy and Sisk used DCR-rented golf carts driven by DCR employees working at the Esplanade to ferry guests from the party to the Hatch Shell for a Boston Pops Independence Day dress rehearsal concert, according to a memo DCR's director of administration and finance sent to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton on Tuesday.
"A big part of the public trust is ensuring the people on our team play by the same rules everbody else plays by," Baker told WCVB investigative reporter Mike Beaudet on Wednesday. "I think the fact that they self-reported to the Ethics Commission and that the Ethics Commission ruled on it and they paid back any of the money (that) involved taxpayer funds is a good message."
Beaton on Thursday morning told Boston Herald Radio, "This is the exact opposite type of thing that we like to see our employees doing."
One DCR assistant spent more than three hours of work time "making phone calls, sending emails, preparing invitations and maintaining a guest list" for the party and a second assistant spent one hour "gathering a guest list, preparing invitations and making phone calls," according to the memo.
"Welcome to the world of Massachusetts Republicans, where the rules do not apply, where the motto is do as I say not as I do, and where a blatant disregard for the law is met with a slap on the hand and a time out," Massachusetts Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Cincotti said in a statement. "These are high ranking Baker Administration officials not preschoolers, and their actions should be dealt with accordingly."
Asked to clarify whether the Democratic Party would like to see Baker fire Roy and Sisk, Cincotti said that would just be a start.
"Dismissing these two Baker administration officials is only a first step in trying to repair the public trust," he said in a statement. "They have a lot to come clean about. If they don't, it's like putting a band-aid on a broken leg."
A spokesman for Baker declined Thursday to comment on the fresh criticism from the MARA and Democratic Party statements, and instead referred the News Service to a day-old statement.
But Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey said she thinks Baker has done enough to discipline Roy and Sisk, saying she does not "think this was an issue of crimes."
"I think the administration took the right action. You've got to take swift immediate action. That is intolerable, unacceptable and I'm glad the administration took the action that it took," Healey told reporters Thursday at an event in Roxbury. "The administration took the appropriate action, it appears. I don't know all the specifics of the matter."
MARA, whose members include some of the more conservative members of the Republican State Committee and some who lost their seats on the committee to Baker-backed candidates, endorsed Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher over Baker in the 2014 GOP gubernatorial primary.
Now MARA has set its sights on Sisk, who became DCR deputy commissioner for operations after serving as chairman of MassGOP's nominating convention and was endorsed by Baker in his campaign to be re-elected to the state committee earlier this year.
MARA President Mary Lou Daxland said Sisk's actions are "totally unacceptable" and "are an insult to every honest state worker." She said Sisk should be fired from DCR and resign his spot on the state committee.
"The state committee should be taking a very, very hard look at Matthew Sisk. He should be asked to resign from the state committee for the mere fact that as Republicans we don't use state funds to fund a party," Daxland said.
MARA said the misuse of taxpayer funds, specifically by Sisk, is "part of (a) broader pattern of Baker behavior." Asked to clarify, Daxland cited former Baker senior adviser Jim Conroy's work spearheading Baker's effort to overhaul the Republican State Committee earlier this year.
Daxland, who lost her seat on the committee to a Baker-endorsed candidate, said Conroy -- who ran Baker's successful 2014 campaign, later became a senior adviser to Baker and has since left the administration -- tried to dissuade some Republicans from continuing their campaigns against Baker's endorsed state committee candidates.
"Our Party cannot continue to be embarrassed by Baker Employees like Conroy and Sisk," she said in a statement. "It will be the best combined Quarter-of-a-Million dollars the governor ever saved the Commonwealth to see Sisk follow Conroy out the door."
Andy Metzger contributed reporting.
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