AAA  Jul. 9, 2014 4:25 PM ET
Speaker: No 'quid pro quo' in probation hiring
By BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES 
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(AP) — Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday strongly denied assertions by prosecutors at the federal trial of the state's former probation department commissioner that DeLeo traded jobs for votes or deliberately spared the agency from the budget axe.

Claims of a "quid pro quo" were "inaccurate and inflammatory," the speaker said in a statement issued by his office.

Prosecutors said in a court filing this week that such an arrangement had existed between DeLeo and former probation commissioner John O'Brien, who is being tried along with two deputies for allegedly rigging the agency's hiring process to favor applicants referred by powerful lawmakers, in exchange for favorable legislative action on the budget or other matters.

DeLeo has never been charged with any crime. He reiterated his denials in a meeting with reporters following a House Democratic caucus on pending gun control legislation.

"Any statements or any innuendo that there was any quid pro quo in terms of jobs or money or whatever is false and untrue, and anyone who says that knows it is untrue," DeLeo said.

The Winthrop Democrat also said he never increased the probation department's budget to create jobs that legislators could fill with their preferred candidates.

Former state Rep. Charles Murphy, who chaired the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, testified Wednesday at the trial that during the height of the recession in 2009, when across-the-board cuts were being made in state government, DeLeo instructed him not to reduce the agency's budget.

"He indicated to me that the probation budget would not be cut. I pushed back and I suggested that the optics as such, if we left probation unscathed, it wouldn't reflect very well," Murphy testified, according to the Boston Herald.

Asked about Murphy's testimony, DeLeo said he did not recall making such a request and suggested that if the probation department was spared budget cuts during the recession, it was for public safety reasons, not patronage.

"I don't have any independent memory of any particular year as to how probation was treated, except to say that they did not get any special treatment," he said.

Several current or former state lawmakers, including some who sponsored candidates for probation jobs, have been called to testify at the trial. But DeLeo insisted that none has testified that he or she was promised a job in exchange for a vote, or that such promises led him or her to support DeLeo when he first ran for the speakership.

The probation department scandal has roiled Beacon Hill for several years.

A scathing 2010 report by independent counsel Paul Ware suggested an understanding between O'Brien and certain lawmakers linking generous state funding for the department to O'Brien's willingness to give jobs to favored applicants.

"Through all of these years, never once have they found any type of wrongdoing or any type of criminal activity on my part," DeLeo said Wednesday.

The speaker said he had not been asked to testify at the trial, though his name had appeared on an earlier list of potential defense witnesses.

Associated Press
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