Patrick Discusses Sex Offender Board Shakeup

Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that a number of factors, including the handling of a case involving his own brother-in-law, led to the decision to dismiss two top officials at the state's sex offender registry board.

The governor, in his first comments since returning from an overseas trade mission, cited a "cumulative loss of confidence" in the board, which tracks and classifies sex offenders.

That loss of confidence resulted in the dismissal of board chairman Saundra Edwards, who was relieved of duty last week. Executive Director Jeanne Holmes was placed on leave.

Patrick pointed to what he called a failure to update regulations and cited cases where the board's decisions were reversed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

"The final straw was a settlement of a lawsuit which happened not quite a year ago now that involves some, inappropriate at least maybe unlawful, pressuring by the chair and the executive director of a hearing officer to change the outcome of a case," Patrick told reporters Monday.

That case involved his brother-in-law, Bernard Sigh, who was convicted of raping Patrick's sister Rhonda Sigh in California in 1993. The issued surfaced during Patrick's first run for governor in 2006.

The hearing officer filed a lawsuit in 2008 alleging that he was demoted after he raised concerns that Edward, Holmes and others were trying to influence his decision that Sigh not have to register as a sex offender. He also said Edwards and Holmes prevented him from releasing his decision and attempted to rewrite it. After he released his decision, the officer said his duties were diminished and he resigned in 2008.

The case was scheduled for trial in May, but the sex offender board agreed to settle before the trial with a $60,000 payment to the hearing officer. That settlement was finalized in April.

Patrick said the administration undertook a "months-long process of reviewing candidates" before announcing the decision to replace Edwards with Anne Conners, an investigator for the state Department of Early Education and Care.

A message left for Edwards was not immediately returned Monday.

In an unrelated case, the Supreme Judicial Court last year overturned the classification of a former escort service manager as a low-level sex offender by the board, saying it was "arbitrary and capricious" for the board not to consider "the substantial evidence presented at the hearing concerning the effect of gender on recidivism."

During the 2006 race, Patrick said Sigh pleaded guilty to the crime and served a short prison sentence in California.

In 1995, a year after his sister moved to Milton, she reconciled with Sigh and the couple has raised their two children, according to Patrick.

The public revelation of the 1993 incident struck a personal chord for Patrick. In 2006, the then-candidate said the couple's children were unaware of the incident until the stories were printed.

On Monday, he said the revelations, "nearly destroyed their lives."

This article was originally published on September 22, 2014.


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