Transportation hires kick political drama into high gear

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State Auditor Diana DiZoglio speaks to reporters inside her State House office last month. DiZoglio is targeting the use of NDAs in state government. (Chris Lisinski/State House News Service)

If Gov. Maura Healey did not have enough on her plate, she may now have State Auditor Diana DiZoglio to worry about

It is not that the active state auditor is conducting a special audit of the governor’s office, as she is attempting to do with the Massachusetts Legislature.

DiZoglio is auditing everybody. She is conducting performance audits of all state agencies in relation to the use, or misuse, of severance settlements and non-disclosure agreements, (NDAs), over the past 12 years.

It is just that, according to a Boston Globe story last week, DiZoglio appeared to have singled out the Healey administration and respected veteran transportation official Thomas P. Glynn, a close Healey advisor.

Glynn is currently Healey’s chairman of the MBTA board of directors. The Globe story implied that Glynn was a target of the investigation over his separation policies for terminated workers at Massport when he headed the agency from 2012 to 2018.

DiZoglio denied it. “No, absolutely not,” DiZoglio said. DiZoglio, who would not know Glynn if she fell over him, said. “We are auditing the use of taxpayer funded NDAs across the board in Massachusetts state government.”

DiZoglio has made a big deal out of non-disclosure agreements. She signed one herself when she worked as a legislative aide at the State House. Since then, DiZoglio has campaigned against their use as a state representative and later as a state senator.

Glynn supporters believe that the disparaging story, based on a generic letter by DiZoglio, was leaked by aides to Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca, a Glynn rival, who not only has issues with Glynn but resents Glynn’s closeness to the governor.

The leaks were designed to damage Glynn’s relations with the governor to benefit Fiandaca.  Glynn, a straight shooter, was a key player in Healey’s transition team.

It was Glynn, for instance, not Fiandaca, who recommended that Healey hire Phillip Eng, former president of the Long Island Railroad, to head the troubled MBTA, an agency that Glynn once ran himself.

It also bothered patronage-minded local politicians that Eng brought in four highly paid transportation colleagues from New York — rather than local patronage hires — to restore the MBTA to its past transportation acceptability.

Glynn will also have a major say in recommending who will replace Massport Executive Director Lisa Wieland who is stepping down from the agency that runs Logan Airport to take over National Grid’s New England operations.

Wieland, with Glynn’s recommendation, replaced him as head of Massport when Glynn stepped down from the post in 2018 after serving for six years.

Once a patronage haven for connected politicians, like the MBTA, Glynn and Wieland professionalized the airport and increased international passenger travel by 65%.

The fear is that, with the wrong appointment, Massport, which has some 1,500 employees, could return to the bad old days when patronage not professionalism was common.

Fiandaca, once commissioner of the Boston Department of Transportation, knows about patronage. She turned heads at the State House when she awarded a $900,000 no-bid consulting contract to Teneo Strategy for an MBTA management study.

The executive director of the firm is former Boston Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who also happens to be Fiandaca’s former brother-in-law.

Fiandaca has also hired a half dozen or so people from Boston City Hall to fill top positions when those jobs could have gone to Healey supporters or, God forbid, to qualified outsiders.

The question remains over who will have the most influence with Healey when it comes to replacing Wieland. Will it be Glynn or Fiandaca?

State House insiders would bet on Glynn, a professional with more professionalism and transportation savvy than anyone around, including Fiandaca. That is why his detractors sought to belittle him in the eyes of the governor with a Globe story.

But surely Gov.  Healey knows better. There is a lot at stake. Logan Airport is a vital economic powerhouse for the state and the region.

The Wieland replacement is probably the most important job the governor will fill in her first term. It is important Healey gets it right.

I’d listen to Glynn.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.

 

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