Gov. Patrick to seek $30 million to cover Mass. lab scandal costs
BOSTON (AP) -- Massa chusetts Gov. Deval Patrick planned to seek $30 million to cover the initial costs stemming from a testing scandal at a state drug lab that threatens to unravel thousands of criminal cases.
The governor separately agreed Wednesday to a request from the state's attorney general to name an independent investigator to examine broader issues surrounding the now-closed lab.
Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the Boston lab, is accused of skirting protocols and faking drug test results. She has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice. Officials said she tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving about 34,000 individuals over a nine-year period at the lab.
Patrick will file an appropriations bill with the Legis lature today to cover costs associated with the scandal for at least the next several months for the state's court system, prosecutors, public defenders and other agencies, Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez said in a conference call.
The money would come from one-time tax and legal settlements exceeding $10 million that are normally deposited into the state's stabilization fund, commonly known as the "rainy day" fund. If settlements fall short of the $30 million needed, the remainder would be drawn from money already in the reserve account.
Gonzalez said it was too early to pin down the ultimate cost of the scandal and said additional appropriations could be necessary in the future.
"This is a very unique situation," he said. "I think we have an obligation to address the issues associated with this and to fund the costs that agencies are going to incur."
"In so doing, we also have an obligation to the taxpayers to ensure that we aren't funding anything other than that," he added.
Coakley, who is conducting the criminal investigation into the alleged mishandling of drug evidence, asked earlier Wednesday for the appointment of an independent investigator to look into broader issues surrounding the testing scandal.
"The failure at the Hinton Lab represents a major breakdown of the criminal justice system, and I know your office shares our commitment to fixing it and restoring faith in our system," her top deputy wrote in a letter to Patrick's chief-of-staff, calling for the outside review of the policies, practices and oversight at the lab.
The governor had originally requested that Coakley, in addition to her prosecution of Dookhan, conduct the broader review of the lab to determine if failures may have impacted other cases beyond those handled by a single chemist.
Kimberly Haberlin, a spokeswoman for Patrick, said the governor felt the attorney general was capable of an impartial review of the lab's operations but nevertheless agreed to the request for the outside probe. The review would be "critical to assessing the integrity of the entire lab and ensuring the criminal justice system meets its obligations to fairness," Haberlin said.
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