Independent gubernatorial candidate Timothy Cahill says patronage is a part of politics, but politics played no role in his decision to hire the wife and daughter of the state's probation commissioner.
The state treasurer said Monday he knows Probation Commissioner John O'Brien, and O'Brien has supported his political career in their hometown of Quincy. Yet he said that didn't influence his decision to hire O'Brien's wife, Laurie, and one of the couple's daughters.
O'Brien's hiring practices have been the subject of front-page stories in The Boston Globe.
"There's no personal relationship. He's not hanging out at my house or anything like that. He's a political supporter, or has been for a while, but that didn't influence the decisions I made about his members of his family," Cahill said of John O'Brien. "We had openings for positions. They applied for those positions. I've known Laurie O'Brien for a long time, because she's a Quincy resident."
Cahill also offered a defense of political patronage. Asked about descriptions of seemingly highly qualified applicants being passed over for jobs in favor of those related to politicians, the treasurer asked: "Does that not happen in government all the time?"
He added: "Obviously, it is part of the political process. It's an unfortunate part when it's been brought to this level." Cahill noted none of his family members work for O'Brien.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker said Attorney General Martha Coakley should investigate, but Cahill said that is not needed. Rather, he supports returning oversight for the department from the legislative branch to the judiciary.
"The Legislature has empowered him," Cahill said, "and they have created this probation monster that's out there and it's up to the Legislature to but it back, put the genie back in the bottle, put it back where it belongs."
He said if oversight is returned to the judicial branch, then it "could determine whether Commissioner O'Brien should stay or should leave, and they can reorganize the place around making it work for probation, making it work for public safety."
Cahill spoke after he and his wife, Tina, watched daughter Makena participate in a panel discussion about social media and political campaigns. The treasurer sat silently at the side of the room, but his wife asked a question during the event.
Later, the treasurer was picking up the endorsements of the patrolmen's and superior officer police unions in Quincy. He said after a month of negative ads against him by the Republican Governors Association, "It's nice to know that people are going to stand with you."
Patrick, meanwhile, was addressing students at a final candidate forum sponsored by Suffolk University's Rappaport Center.
This program aired on May 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.