Broadside: The News With Jim Braude

Broadside: The News With Jim Braude

Analysis and commentary on the top stories of the day

Mass. Official: Serious Lapses in Oversight at Drug Lab

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    NEWSLETTERS

    House oversight hearing grills Health and Human Services Secretary about lab management, quality control (Published Friday, Jan 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Ally Donnelly) - Mass. legislators were intent on holding state officials' feet to the fire for the scandal at the now-shuttered state drug testing lab.

    But from Health and Human Services Secretary Judy Anne Bigby, the woman at the top, they got little in terms of answers.

    Bigby testified before three House committees at an oversight hearing at the State House Wednesday afternoon, maintaining that Annie Dookhan was a rogue chemist who faked drug test results, putting tens of thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy and putting nearly 200 drug suspects back on the street.

    Committee Chair David Linsky called the scandal a failure of government and said drug testing was supposed to be the easy part of criminal investigations.

    "When I hear that no one was keeping control of the chain of custody, my head almost explodes," he said.

    Legislators came back at Bigby again and again on what kind of oversight the lab could have had to allow Dookhan to allegedly abuse her position, unchecked for years, and questioned whether or not there could have been a larger cover up.

    "Ultimately, even with checks and balances, excellent policies and procedures -- if an individual decides to behave in this way, I don't know that that can always be prevented," Bigby testified.

    Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan, who's agency took over state drug testing, said of the first 388 cases reviewed, nearly half, or 195 people convicted of or in custody for drug crimes tied to Dookahn have been released and are back on the streets pending further action.

    Ally Donnelly has more on the story in the attached video.