State lawmakers are being warned not to make verbal job recommendations and to use caution when making written recommendations. The advice comes after the State Ethics Commission issued an advisory that suggests these actions could be perceived as unethical.
“Right now I think you have to hold off on making any letters of recommendation. My office, we probably have ten or fifteen on hold right now and we’re not going to write anything until we get a clarification on what we can and can’t do,” said Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Dorchester), chairman of the House Ethics Committee.
“Relatively soon we’re going to have another meeting with the members of the Ethics Commission, hopefully that will clarify any questions that we have and we can go from there,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
Making job recommendations has long been considered by lawmakers to be routine. Last year, Senate President Therese Murray defended the practice after being outlined – but not charged – in a probation scandal for supporting three employees hired to the state’s Probation Department, who were less qualified than other candidates.
“My office receives scores and scores of requests, every week, every month, for references or referrals, recommendations of private, public institutions, institutions of higher learning, health care, you name it, that’s what our constituent offices do,” said Murray.
Three top probation officials were indicted by a federal grand jury last March for rigging the hiring process at the probation department in favor of candidates sponsored by powerful lawmakers.
In 2011, state lawmakers passed a law that bars state agencies from considering written job recommendations until the end of the hiring process.
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