Baker, Bump continue to clash over DCF audit

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker delivered a forceful rebuke of Auditor Suzanne Bump’s review of the Department of Children and Families, calling the claims in the audit released last week “irresponsible” and in some cases “simply not true” in a letter to DCF staff.

Baker wrote a nearly two-page letter to the DCF staff thanking them for their work and applauding their efforts over the past two years to improve the agency. But he also outlined his problems with Bump’s focus and messaging.

“I appreciate that the Auditor also cares about ensuring these children are safe. But for this report to ignore nearly everything you have done for the past two and a half years to improve the agency’s ability to do its work strikes me as wrong,” Baker wrote.

The charges and counter-charges back and forth between Baker’s administration and Bump over the days since the audit was released highlight the sensitivity around an agency whose well-documented problems at the end of Deval Patrick’s eight years in office served to sour his standing with the public.

From the Sun archives: The road to tragedy at DCF

Mass. buoys transportation security following Manhattan bus bomb

Massachusetts planned to up the visibility of law enforcement at transportation hubs following the detonation of a bomb in New York City’s main bus terminal Monday, but Gov. Charlie Baker said there were no known threats to the state.

Baker told reporters his administration had been in touch with the Fusion Center, an information-sharing cooperative of state and federal law enforcement, following the morning explosion that injured five, according to the New York Times, including the suspect who was taken into custody.

Polito: Commonwealth makes inroads against opioid crisis

When Gov. Charles Baker and I ran for office, the opioid epidemic was not an issue we expected to focus on. But we’ve heard heartbreaking stories from people about loved ones struggling with an opioid-related addiction everywhere we’re gone.

On Beacon Hill: Sins of the husband [+video]

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — The national sexual harassment scandal got a face in Massachusetts last week – the visage of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s husband.

All other dealings on Beacon Hill were blocked out like an eclipse by the bombshell report in The Boston Globe that Rosenberg’s husband of one year, Bryon Hefner, had allegedly sexually assaulted at least four men.

Three of the men, who all work in the political arena and shared their stories anonymously, claim that Hefner grabbed their genitals in social settings, sometimes with the Senate president mere feet away. Another alleged that Hefner forcibly kissed him as he bragged about the clout he wielded over a legislative body for which he didn’t work and never served.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who has worked closely with Rosenberg for years, was the first to call for a full investigation hours after the story broke, but he was followed by others, including Rosenberg himself, who gave his blessing for Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to spearhead a full probe that Rosenberg, who intends to retain his title for now, will recuse himself from.

An Amherst-based Democrat, Rosenberg seemed to be clinging to the edge of a cliff Friday as staff, Chandler and Tarr huddled in the office next to the president’s hashing out a plan to bring on a special investigator to look into the allegations against Hefner, including impacts on Senate operations.

Watch: Rosenberg addresses Hefner accusations

Visibly shaken by the allegations against his husband, Rosenberg faced the cameras roughly 24 hours after Hefner’s alleged transgression were put on public display in what Rosenberg called the “most difficult time” in his political and personal life.

Rosenberg announced in a prepared statement that Hefner would be seeking in-patient treatment for alcohol dependence, and he encouraged anyone with a story to tell to come forward without fear of retribution. The Globe reported the four men were still not ready to take that step, but the door has been opened.

Rosenberg also said he was confident the investigation would show that Hefner had no influence over Senate business. “If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true,” Rosenberg said.

The only two men to call outright for Rosenberg to resign or step aside as Senate president were Republican candidates for office. U.S. Senate candidate John Kingston and state Senate candidate Dean Tran spoke out on Thursday, while the Democrats running for governor remained silent.

MassGOP followed up Friday with blast emails to local media posing a series of questions that it said Democratic senators should answer, the first being, “Do you still have confidence in him and his leadership of the chamber?” The party also suggested that Rosenberg’s claims of being unaware of his husband’s alleged behavior were “dubious.”

“Democrat Senators have questions to answer about the Senate President’s leadership — given that they have the ability to determine his future. The MassGOP is committed to holding these Democrats accountable on behalf of voters, who deserve answers,” said MassGOP spokesman Terry MacCormack.

The State House may have been lousy with rumors of succession planning and senators angling to fill the void if and when Rosenberg were to step aside, but those senators were adamantly denying the water-cooler talk … for now. Succession talk is not a topic lawmakers usually like to go public with — loyalty playing the role that it does in politics — but there’s a time and a place for everything, and senators appeared to be struggling with that question.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • More on the Hefner harassment accusations
  • Markey on World AIDS Day, McGovern on Russia probe
  • Legislature OKs $2.7 million for pot panel operations
  • Watch: Tarr on Hefner, Rosenberg and what’s next
  • State DAs poised to reverse thousands of tainted convictions

Gov. Baker, Polito to seek second term in 2018, advisor says

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will run for re-election in 2018, according to a senior political advisor, marking an expected, but significant turning point as Baker’s political team begins to take steps to build the campaign apparatus that will be necessary to win another four years in office.

The formal announcement may not come as a surprise, but it does signify a milestone in the 2018 election cycle and officially makes the popular Republican and his lieutenant governor the first GOP ticket to seek a second term since Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci in 1994.

“The governor and lieutenant governor intend to seek re-election and will begin to build a campaign organization over the coming months. With the election still a year away, their focus remains on the bipartisan work they were elected to do,” advisor Jim Conroy told State House News Service.

Nurse staffing levels likely to have major impact on 2018 health policy debate

BOSTON — The threat of ballot questions led the Legislature and Govs. Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick to pass healthcare laws in each of the past two legislative sessions, and the stars are aligning for a possible repeat scenario in 2018.

A spokeswoman for the coalition behind an initiative petition setting strict nurse staffing ratios in hospitals told State House News Service that organizers have collected more than the nearly 65,000 signatures needed to satisfy the largest signature requirement on the path to the 2018 ballot.

“We collected well over the required amount of required signatures, and ahead of the deadline, all were delivered to the cities and towns for certification,” said Kate Norton, spokeswoman for The Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care. “In fact, we have already received many certified signatures back from the municipalities.” The committee plans to turn its certified signatures in to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office on Wednesday, Dec. 6.