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Even though Massachusetts appears to have broken even on its deal with Evergreen Solar, the company should still return some of the financial incentives it received from the state now that it has closed a factory that employed hundreds of workers, Gov. Deval Patrick said Thursday.
During his monthly radio appearance Thursday on WTKK-FM, Patrick was also critical of comments made earlier in the week by Michael El-Hillow, Evergreen's chief executive. El-Hillow told a hearing of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee that the company did not intend to pay back the more than $20 million in grants it received from the state to help build the plant in Devens.
Patrick said El-Hillow was not Evergreen's CEO when the deal was struck with the state several years ago and was "completely out of the loop" on the negotiations.
"I haven't met this new CEO, I heard what he said (to the committee) but he shouldn't have said it," Patrick said.
El-Hillow was chairman of Evergreen's board of directors when the deal was negotiated, according to Michael McCarthy, a company spokesman. El-Hillow later became chief financial officer and was named CEO in September 2010.
Patrick said the state would continue to seek "clawbacks" from Evergreen, a term used to describe repayments when a business that receives incentives does not live up to its end of the bargain. But he also acknowledged that the state probably didn't lose money on the Evergreen deal.
"I would say the actual math of it suggests that the commonwealth just about broke even when you consider the income taxes on the payroll, but it's still a blow and it's not the commitment that they made."
In addition to about $20.8 million in grants, state officials say Evergreen was also the recipient of more than $10 million in tax and lease incentives.
McCarthy declined to comment directly on the governor's comments Thursday, saying he wanted to first see a transcript of the remarks. But he reiterated comments made by El-Hillow to the committee on Tuesday, when the CEO said that despite the closing of the factory in January the company had met 85 percent of its commitments to the state in the first three years of the deal.
About half of the 800 employees that were laid off have since found new jobs, in part because of the training they received while working for Evergreen, El-Hillow added.
McCarthy said talks between Massachusetts and the company over possible clawbacks were ongoing.
"There have been very good and open discussions with the state," he said.
Also during the "Ask the Governor" program on Thursday, the governor said he was sick of "excuses" from health insurers about why they can't lower the cost of premiums. At the same time, he stopped just short of directly criticizing not-for-profit insurers that pay their board members.
Asked about the announcements Wednesday from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan that they would continue paying their boards, Patrick said he understands the public's anger over the issue, but added: "I'm trying to pick my fights."
The governor said his focus was on legislation that seeks to lower the cost of health care for consumers. He acknowledged, however, that recent controversies over the board pay and a lucrative severance package given to Cleve Killingsworth, the former chief executive of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, had left a bad taste.
"I think anyone would be crazy not to appreciate the symbolism of all of those things together, and how it makes the rest of us look like chumps," the governor said.
This program aired on March 31, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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