Critics slam Patrick for moves
Then there were the helicopter rides.
Now Gov. Deval L. Patrick's latest expense is on staff for his wife. The state has hired a $72,000-a-year chief of staff whose job is to schedule Diane Patrick's public appearances and media availabilities, The Eagle has learned.
Diane Patrick's aide also gets a slice of office space in the governor's third-floor suite.
The last governor's wife to have a full-time secretary was Kitty Dukakis, whose husband left office in 1990. Since 1990, the governor's staff has scheduled the first lady's appearances.
Patrick is simply being more efficient by using one person, said his spokesman, Kyle Sullivan.
"Mrs. Patrick has a full-time job as a practicing attorney, so staff assistance relative to her official duties as first lady is necessary," Sullivan wrote in a statement e-mailed to The Eagle.
Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, was already concerned about putting what she called a tax-and-spend Democrat back in the corner office.
The staff member for his wife comes at a time when Patrick recently asked cities and towns to brace for a $1 billion shortfall and state departments to cut budgets by 5 percent to 10 percent.
"This could be just the beginning," Anderson said. "He's creating an image of royal governorship that we're not accustomed to at all."
Add to that image a brand new Cadillac DeVille, which Patrick bought to replace one of the Ford Crown Victoria's used by his state police security detail to drive him around. The black luxury car sports tinted windows and seat warmers and is being leased at $1,166 per month.
Patrick laughed off the flashy purchase, saying he is using tax dollars wisely.
"Have a good look at the budget, see the choices we have made, see the investments we intend to make to move Massachusetts forward and make judgments on the basis of the big and hard decisions and not the small trivial ones," Patrick urged taxpayers.
Besides the other costly buys, his wife's staffer could hurt Patrick's image as he paints a picture of a cash-strapped budget.
"I think there are limited resources coming out of the governor's office, and it depends on how (the staff member) is used," said Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "I think he needs to be thoughtful about it. It was the governor, not the governor's wife, who was elected."
A state-sponsored chief of staff for the governor's wife isn't unheard of. Rhode Island's first lady Suzanne Carcieri has a secretary who earns $67,000 annually.
Diane Patrick, who has kept her full-time job as a lawyer at the Boston office of Ropes & Gray, plans to use her new platform to call attention to early education and homelessness issues, Sullivan said.
Ann Romney, who occasionally spoke at events concerning multiple sclerosis, did not have staff. Former Gov. A. Paul Cellucci said that his wife, Jan, did not have any staff or an office, but he said that was because she wasn't very involved as a first lady.
Kitty Dukakis, who had her own office and a staff member, said she found the prospect of spotlighting issues dearest to her heart very attractive.
"We're not elected, but there are certain expectations," said Dukakis, who met with Diane Patrick and talked about the duties of the first lady. "There are doors that are clearly open for spouses which weren't opened before, and it makes an activist spouse want to get involved and have some say as to what is going on."
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