The Boston Globe put the spotlight on the Massachusetts Probation Department again today, reporting on a huge case NAGE recently won in Suffolk Superior Court. The story pillories ousted Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and the Probation brass who condoned or ignored an ongoing scandal over hiring and promotions within the department. National President David Holway, referring to the Superior Court decision, told reporters, “Finally, someone has taken affirmative action to address the misdeeds in [these] cases." (Read the Globe story)
As the Globe reported, in a rare move, a Suffolk Superior Court judge vacated 11 arbitration awards involving questionable promotion practices in the Probation Department, agreeing with NAGE that the awards were originally issued based on witness testimony that may have been false.
NAGE filed the civil case to vacate the awards in December 2010; the Superior Court-ordered remedy requires the selection of a new arbitrator to determine whether or not the Trial Court violated the rights of each of the 11 grievants in the promotion process. Namely, was the original award tainted by false testimony and as a result, was the grievant unfairly denied promotion by the Trial Court’s selection of a different candidate for promotion?
“Filing an application to vacate the award of an arbitrator is rare,” said Holway. “Filing a claim on the basis of alleged fraud and abuse is even rarer. The decision of the Superior Court supports our allegations and provides some measure of justice to our aggrieved members.”
In each of the 11 cases, NAGE initially argued that, among other concerns, it suspected pre-selection was involved in the promotional interview process. The findings of the Ware Report showed that most witnesses had likely falsely testified before arbitrators in the 11 cases and had denied that pre-selection played a role in the promotion process.
The probation scandal, initially reported by the Globe, led to the resignation of the entire Massachusetts probation leadership, including former commissioner John J. O’Brien. O’Brien is facing state criminal charges and he and many top Probation officials are subject to a federal investigation.
Paul. F. Ware Jr., the independent counsel who initially investigated the department, concluded that O’Brien and his top deputies may have violated federal law by running a bogus hiring and promotion process. The Ware Report disclosed that under O'Brien, hiring and promotion often involved pre-selected finalists for jobs, and those candidates eventually chosen were frequently politically connected. The Globe further found that more than 250 employees of the Probation Department had personal connections to politicians and court officials, or gave at least $500 to state legislators since 2002.
Shortly after the Ware Report was issued, NAGE in June 2011 filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the Trial Court and the Probation Department, alleging the Trial Court’s promotional process was fraudulent and violated members’ First Amendment right to be free from discrimination based on political affiliation. NAGE cited the independent counsel's finding of widespread "abuse and systemic corruption" in the hiring and promotion process.
The remedy NAGE seeks is the reopening of the process for filling the positions that were filled on the basis of candidates’ political affiliations. More than 100 probation officer employees have filed claims with the union indicating they believed they were illegally denied promotion.
“We will hold accountable the individuals and departments who systematically engaged in a conspiracy to deny members their right to hiring and promotion within the Probation Department and the Trial Court,” said Holway. “The depth and breadth of the corruption here is almost beyond comprehension and its reach extends beyond just the member. We owe it to our members and their families to seek justice to the fullest extent.”