Top Mass. probation dept. official resigns in wake of hiring scandal

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Another top official in the state’s probation department has resigned, following an investigation into corrupt hiring practices in the department. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that Elizabeth V. Tavares, first deputy commissioner, resigned a day before a disciplinary hearing in which she was expected to be fired.

Deputy commissioner Elizabeth V. Tavares resigned in advance of an expected firing, over corrupt hiring practices in the state's probation department.

Tavares was suspended with pay in November, after the release of a report by special counsel Paul F. Ware which said the department’s hiring practices were riddled with fraud and “systemic corruption.”

Ware reported that important jobs were handed out as rewards to campaign donors, after politicians sent letters of recommendation to Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien asking him to intercede on the applicant’s behalf. Thousands of phony job interviews were held to create the illusion of an open hiring process, even though jobs had been already committed to the politically connected.

The report said Tavares was “at the heart of perpetuating the sham selection process” and passed along O’Brien’s favored candidates to a hiring committee that was already told who it should hire. “First Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Tavares was central to the process, admitting that she received names of favored candidates from the commissioner and funneled them to other deputy commissioners and regional supervisors in order to ensure that the commissioner’s candidates received final round interviews,” according to the report.

After the report was released, the State’s Supreme Judicial Court recommended that Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien be fired, and that Tavares and two others, deputy commissioner Francis M. Wall and legal counsel Christopher J. Bulger, be put on administrative leave “pending the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings.”

A federal grand jury is considering charging the officials with fraud and extortion, and the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, has assigned a team of prosecutors to the case to determine if state laws were broken.

The Ware Report

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