STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - THURSDAY, AUG. 21, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AG CANDIDATES QUESTION COAKLEY'S SETTLEMENT WITH LOBBYING FIRM

The two Democrats running to replace Attorney General Martha Coakley on Thursday raised questions about a settlement her office reached with a lobbying firm. Both prefaced their criticism by basing it on what they had read in published reports about the settlement, with Maura Healey, a former prosecutor who worked for Coakley until late last year, saying Coakley didn't go far enough in the case, and former Sen. Warren Tolman said he had concerns "at first blush." Coakley's office said last week it had reached a settlement with the Brennan Group in which the firm would pay $100,000 to the Franciscan Hospital for Children and avoid civil or criminal charges. Coakley's office contended that the company collected fees illegally contingent on the firm's success on winning state funding for the hospital. Coakley's office has also previously argued there were "significant impediments" to a criminal prosecution, including issues with the statute of limitations and credibility with a key witness. "I think it's incredibly important that when there are allegations of corruption or fraud on the system, illegal lobbying activities, you absolutely take them on, you investigate them and you hold people accountable for not playing by the rules," Healey told reporters on Thursday. Healey added, "It is incredibly important. Now based on the reports and what I've read today, I don't think the attorney general went far enough.


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" Tolman said, "I don't know the facts here. It's cause for concern, frankly. And I don't want to say yes, no, or maybe, because it may be -- who knows what happens with the secretary of state's [inquiry]." Healey and Tolman are competing in the Democratic primary on Sept. 9. Republican John Miller is also running for attorney general, an open position since Coakley is running for governor. - G. Dumcius

MONEY FOR BRIDGEWATER HOSPITAL ON GUV'S DESK

The legislative branches swiftly passed and sent to the governor Thursday, a spending bill providing $1.8 million to Bridgewater State Hospital for staffing. The bill, which hit the House floor and was sent to Gov. Deval Patrick during lightly attended House and Senate sessions Thursday also requires the Department of Correction to report by this October on the positions hired with the additional funding and "the results of any accreditation applications." The spending bill (H 4418) was part of legislation filed by Patrick in July. The governor said then the Bridgewater money is "to ensure patients committed there are getting the best possible care." The hospital has been subjected to criticism over its handling of patient safety with critics saying it treats mental health patients there like prisoners. A DOC spokesman said the $1.8 million is part of a $10 million plan for improvements to Bridgewater State Hospital. In addition, the Senate sent to the governor Thursday, a bill establishing safeguards for portable climbing walls, along with a slew of local bills. The legislation that now requires only Gov. Deval Patrick's signature includes an additional eight on-premises liquor licenses for Topsfield, as well as six all alcohol and seven beer and wine licenses for Holyoke restaurants. Other bills that made it out of the Legislature and headed for the governor Thursday include legislation authorizing Harwich to establish a Private Ways Betterment Fund, and tax exemptions for affordable rentals in Truro. - A. Metzger/SHNS

PATRICK AT EVENT FOR GENERAL THURSDAY MORNING

Gov. Deval Patrick attended a remembrance ceremony for U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene, the highest ranking officer killed in Afghanistan military operations. Greene spent some time at Natick Soldiers Systems Center, where the remembrance will be held. The governor's press office announced his attendance a half hour before the 10 a.m. start of the event. The event is closed press and the governor does not plan to speak to any members of the news media afterwards. - A. Metzger/SHNS