(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston) – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has announced a shakeup in his Cabinet; four members of his Cabinet are leaving.
There is some controversy surrounding two of the outgoing secretaries, but both of them, as well as the Governor’s office, insist no one is forcing them out the door and they are leaving based on their own decisions and their decisions alone.
“In addition to being wise advisers, Mary Beth, Paul, JudyAnn and Jay are also my friends.”
Governor Deval Patrick got emotional at a State House news conference announcing that half of his cabinet would soon be leaving, including two secretaries under fire in recent weeks and months, like Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby.
“I think she's been fabulous and I would hang on to her if I could,” said Gov. Patrick.
Bigby, a primary care physician, has been celebrated for her work in improving public health and access to care in Massachusetts, but she has seen her legacy tarnished with two major scandals under her watch: the meningitis deaths following lax oversight at a Framingham compounding pharmacy and the state's drug testing lab scandal, which has put in jeopardy at least 34,000 criminal cases and could cost the state tens of millions of dollars.
Outside the press conference, Bigby told a crush of reporters she has no regrets in how she's handled either crisis.
“Quite frankly, I don't....I was secretary of the agency under which all of those people deep down in served,” she said.
“I bear the responsibility. We had a criminal in drug lab. We have a situation of lax oversight in the compounding pharmacies. ....we have some gaps there that we intend to close in law and have begun to close in practice,” said Gov. Patrick.
Bigby said she told the Governor months before either scandal broke that she would not be signing on for his last two years in office.
We wanted to ask public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan why she decided to leave after recently telling reporters she loved her job, but she left the news conference quickly.
Heffernan was criticized after recommending former highway safety chief Sheila Burgess for her job, despite a driving record littered with crashes and violations.
“Sheila Burgess shouldn't have been hired. It's an embarrassment and that's it,” said Gov. Patrick.
Asked if there is any truth to rumors that he would work to have Heffernan appointed to the judiciary, the Governor said, ‘well, you know, she'd make a great judge and that's all I'm gonna say about that right now.”
As for Bigby, she does not apparently have a new job yet but is exploring her options. She will be replaced by John Polanowicz, the president and CEO of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center.
Heffernan will be replaced by Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, leaving that powerful position open for the Governor to fill.
Commonwealth Health Insurance Authority Director Glen Shor will replace Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez.
Brockton School Superintendent Matthew Malone will replace Education Secretary Paul Reville.