Friday, February 17, 2012

Press to Patrick/Murray: Can You Hear Us Now?

I went "paperless" on all my bills a long time ago. So, like Patrick Administration, I do not receive itemized cell phone bills.

But if I find myself needing to check out the particulars on my usage for any given month, day or hour - dating back to day 1 of my Verizon Wireless contract - all the specific info I could ever want is but a few mouse clicks away. Amazing, these internets.

For one reason or another, when they came into office the Patrick Administration decided to stop receiving itemized cell phone records for the dozens of Executive Office staffers who use state-issued smart phones. Why? "Efficiency." Here's a blurb from the State House News:
In letters responding to requests for information from the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, state Public Records Division Assistant Director Shawn Williams said that during a phone conversation last month Abim Thomas, deputy chief counsel in Gov. Deval Patrick's office, told him that the executive department does not receive detailed cell phone invoices, but does receive summarized invoices.
"Attorney Thomas explained that the Department formerly obtained detailed invoices, but changed this practice at the beginning of the Patrick Administration in January 2007," Williams wrote in a letter dated Thursday. "The Department now receives summary invoices that indicate usage information for each respective period, by user, but provide no detail as to incoming or outgoing calls."
Asked what spurred the 2007 change, Kimberly Haberlin, Gov. Patrick's press secretary, said in an email to the News Service, "Nearly fifty members of the Executive Office staff use a blackberry for work. Changing to summary invoices streamlined our billing process and helped achieve administrative efficiencies."
It is hard to argue with the Administration's reasoning. God knows, particularly when paying bills with taxpayer money nothing gets in the way of "efficiencies" quite like "details" and "information." Such things quite often result in other efficiency-busters, like "questions" or even "criticism." Best to just pay the bills and take it on faith that EO employees and electeds aren't using their state-issued phones to - oh, I don't know - talk to political operatives or make fundraising calls. If ignorance is bliss, intentional ignorance is ecstasy.

It is obvious that if the Administration (oft self-described as the most transparent in history) wished to reveal the particulars of LG Murray's cell phone usage, it could easily obtain the information. According to the Herald today, "Patrick officials released summary invoices to the Herald yesterday, insisting they don’t have itemized bills. But a notice on one of the Verizon bills states: 'Have more questions . . . Get details for all your Usage Charges at'" Presumably Administration officials have the password. But they aren't inclined to take that step. In the words of an Administration attorney, "There are no other records in our custody that are responsive to your request, and we are not obliged to create a record in response to your request."

So: the Patrick/Murray Administration doesn't have detailed cell phone records for state-funded accounts... because they deliberately choose not to receive such records. And although they could obtain the information requested with relative ease, no law obligates them to do so. No word if the official statement included an emphatic raspberry or only the implied one.

This whole ongoing mess continues to tarnish the Patrick/Murray brand, even among its most ardent supporters. There is nothing the media likes less, after all, than a public records stiff-arm. The Globe's Brian McGrory is particularly searing today:
[A]s questions of ethics touch his own administration recently, Patrick has coiled into a ball of sanctimony and denial. And the truth is, ethics issues in the form of Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray’s close relationship with ousted Chelsea Public Housing chief Michael McLaughlin aren’t just touching the administration, they’re giving it a Swedish massage...
When Patrick dismissed this paper’s request to supply Murray’s state cellphone records yesterday on the night of his infamous car crash, it was politics as usual on Beacon Hill - “same old, same old,’’ as the governor once said.
That'll leave a mark.


  1. It such a simple thing. Timmy is not the sharpest tool in the shed, there is a 95% chance that his password is his either his name or 1234. Let the contest begin.

  2. Just because you choose to get invoices without the call details doesn't mean you can't ask for them when you want them.

  3. Murray's crashed car is but a metaphor for his career. Yipee! Couldn't have happened to a more sizable dope.


No spamming, flaming, cursing, or other such nonsense tolerated. Thanks for engaging on those terms - Greg