The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on October 24, 1992 · 15
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 15

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 24, 1992
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THE BOSTON GLOBE SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1992 15 Weld eyes steps toward solving DSS problems ByToniLocy GLOBE STAFF Gov. Weld's administration is exploring short- and long-term steps that can be taken to solve problems in the embattled Department of Social Services while the governor awaits the findings of a special commission. Weld said yesterday that he has asked Charles Baker, incoming secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, to analyze a second report, compiled by Andersen Consulting for the governor's Special Commission on Foster Care. Weld said he told Baker to have the analysis on his desk next week so some action can be taken pending the commission's findings. The commission, headed by law yer Gael Mahoney, is expected to deliver its report in January. Asked his reaction to the Andersen report, Weld said he had not read all of it, but "from everything I've read, they are headed in the right direction." The Andersen report, which was obtained by the Globe on Thursday, described the DSS as lacking leadership and suffering from "an organizational breakdown" that is endangering children's lives and is subjecting youngsters to "continued, often worsening abuse and neglect." If no action is taken to rectify the situation at DSS, the report predicted, society would pay later - through increases in social, public safety and medical costs for the children it fails. But the report credited DSS social workers and staff with somehow managing to keep the agency from completely collapsing. Through a commitment to children in their care, those workers have managed to keep the agency going despite a "climate of fear, mistrust and defensiveness," the report said. The report recommends that state officials address the agency's leadership gap as well as completely restructuring and automating the department It also suggested that several internal fiscal and management controls be installed, that social workers' caseloads be examined and that a 500-day plan to move the agency toward a model child welfare system be implemented. The Andersen report comes at a time when DSS is under fire for its handling of two highly publicized foster child cases, involving boys known as Mikey and Andy. Mikey was abruptly removed last year from a foster home in which he had lived most of his life, while Andy was put back into a family situation where he had been abused. The report also comes nearly two weeks after Gerald W. Robinson announced his resignation as DSS commissioner, effective Nov. 1, after 15 months in office. Robinson, in explaining his departure, said he felt he did not have Weld's support. A number of child welfare advocates contacted yesterday had not seen the report and deferred comment until they had. Margaret Blood, executive director of the Massachusetts Legislative Children's Caucus, said she had not seen the report. However, based on news media reports, Blood said, "I am encouraged by some of what I've seen, for example, the acknowledgement of the commitment and capacity of many of the front-line workers. I have been concerned that the commission had no front-line social workers on it and I am hopeful that! . . . they have acknowledged that there are many committed and capable workers on the front line. "There also seems to be an acknowledgement again that the system is in crisis and that people have been talking about the crisis for a long time and that perhaps, now . . . the governor will finally act," she said. Globe staff writer Gloria Negri contributed to this report Bequest in limbo, church to auction $8m in TV equipment t m m D AUCTION pontinued from Page 13 night the auction would involve about $8 million worth of equipment Asked if the auction meant the church was turning its back on the possibility of resuming full-scale TV operations, Adams said the reduction in equipment "is very significant. t' "We are downsizing, keeping one of everything for various support activities the organization is doing," including the completion of work in progress such as a series on the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, he said. "Basically, there will be one of each type of system, such as an editing terminal or control room." The church's announcement said it would continue to produce programs such as "The Daily Bible Lesson," broadcast over its local TV sta tion, plus Christian Science lectures and special feature programs. Other work will include preparation of material from the Monitor Channel "for release on video and to cable and television broadcasters," the announcement said. Rumors have circulated for months that the church would return to full-scale television broadcasting, even after losing $325 million on the Monitor Channel. Fueling the speculation was not only the retention until now of $13 million in some of the best TV equipment in the world, but the presence of the top executives of the Monitor Channel in their new consulting firm in offices next door to the church's local TV station, WQTV (Ch. 68) in Brighton. And investment in new facilities in Washington for Monitor Radio, which broadcasts over shortwave N.H. candidate accused of using ex-AG position to gain in law firm deal B MERRILL Continued from Page 13 t. i a leading Democrat and a former president of the New Hampshire Bar Association, called Spirou's charges "garbage." u In a January 10, 1989, press con-. ference, Merrill had announced he , was resigning as attorney general and planned to open a law firm with Broderick, who is a longtime friend. Broderick said yesterday that he met for 30 minutes with Jon Bellgowan, general manager of the co-op, and Dennis Fenton, the board president in mid-January 1989, at their request. Broderick said he told them then that it would be "unethical" for him to talk to them as poten-tial clients for Merrill & Broderick ": because he was still a partner in an- ' other Manchester law firm. " In separate interviews yesterday, " Bellgowan and Fenton said that the co-op was shopping around for law-. yers at the time but that no "commitment" was made with Broderick " during the January meeting. Democratic leaders said yesterday that the Jan. 28, 1989, minutes I of the co-op board state that Bellgowan had been authorized to j begin "negotiating" with Broderick. ) Merrill's last day at the attorney j general's office was Feb. 6, 1989; the governor formally accepted his res-j ignation on Feb. 15, 1989; and the co-! op board voted to retain Merrill & ' Broderick on Feb. 28, 1989, accord-; ing to the Democrats. Broderick said the Jan. 28 date was consistent with his recollection ' of his initial dealings with the co-op. Bellgowan, who was forced out of ; the co-op last June as part of the ! bankruptcy resolution, said yester-I day that part of the decision to hire ! Merrill & Broderick was "political" j because the troubled utility needed ! Republican and Democratic influ-' ence to make its case with federal ! regulators. But Bellgowan and Fen-!ton said they had no contact with ! Merrill while he was attorney gener- Before he became attorney general, Merrill was general counsel to former Gov. John Sununu, who was , appointed White House chief of staff in January 1989. ! The co-op was the largest cus-; tomer and creditor of Public Service ; Company of New Hampshire, which ; had declared bankruptcy in 1988. In that context, the attorney general's office, which represented Public Service Company of New Hampshire ratepayers in thq bankruptcy case, became involved with the co-op. Merrill's role as the co-op's lawyer became an issue in March 1991 as the attorney general's office began to anticipate that the co-op would declare bankruptcy, Bisbee said. The state's code of professional conduct says private lawyers should not take cases in which they had "personal and substantial dealings" as a government lawyer. It is meant to control the so-called "revolving door" of government lawyers benefiting in private practice from insider knowledge. Bisbee said yesterday that after "considerable review," including receipt of a three-page letter from Merrill, the office determined that Merrill's involvement with the co-op as attorney general was not "personal and substantial." In his letter, Merrill said he had general briefings by staff attorneys, but had "no specific recollection of ever discussing with particularity the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative." The Democrats, who have been escalating their attack on Merrill's legal practice all week, accused him earlier of failure to register as a lobbyist for the co-op. Yesterday, Merrill again denied that he had lobbied for the utility, but acknowledged that he had testified in December 1989 before a legislative committee regarding the takeover of Public Service Company of New Hampshire by Northeast Utilities. Yesterday, the Democrats also questioned the disposition of a May 1991 request by the Public Utilities Commission that the co-op's general manager be investigated for possible criminal violations of rules regarding debt accumulation. Three days after the request, the co-op declared bankruptcy, which the Democrats have suggested was a strategy to deflect the criminal in vestigation. They also pointed to billing records that indicated Merrill had talked to an assistant attorney general about the investigation, which the Democrats, said implied undue influence. In response to reporters' requests yesterday," the attorney general's office released a December 1991 two-page letter to the Public Utilities Commission's general counsel from Bisbee. It said that while the attorney general's office agreed there had been a violation of the statute, criminal prosecution was not warranted because Bellgowan thought he had the commission's approval to obtain loans. 'We are downsizing, keeping one of everything for various support activities the organization is doing. Basically, there will be one of each type of system.' MATT ADAMS Christian Science Publishing Society and public radio through the American Public Radio system led some to suspect the church would relocate TV operations to Washington. But resumption of TV programming would be impossible without a major infusion of money, as the church tries to eke out its first break-even budget since 1987. The bankroll for new broadcasting operations might have come from the $100 million bequest the church has sought after publishing a book about church founder Mary Baker Eddy,' "The Destiny of the Mother Church ," by Bliss Knapp. The church's directors rejected the book in 1948 because it made claims about Eddy that she rejected in her lifetime, and their successors held to that line even when Knapp's widow and sister-in-law offered the church a huge bequest if the directors would recant their criticism and publish the book. Last year, with the church run ning at what turned out to be an $82 million annual deficit not counting the eventual $65.9 million cost of shutting down the Monitor Channel, the directors decided to publish the Knapp book and claim the bequest then estimated to be worth $98 million. But other potential beneficiaries have challenged whether the church has lived up to the terms of the two women's will, and a Los Angeles superior court judge last month rejected the church's motion for summary judgement, which would have meant immediate payment of the bequests. Wednesday, the California appellate court rejected the church's appeal of the September ruling, setting the stage for what is expected to be' protracted litigation over the estates. 1 The lower court judge, Edward Ross, said last month that there were "terms in the trust that may never be satisfied," and set a January hearing date for another judge to take over the case. i Another church member familiar; with the case called the appeal "a last desperate gamble for immediate ; possession of the Knapp bequest ; "The equipment had been kept in place until they realized it was finan-; cially impossible to rev up the TV, operation again," said the member,,' who also spoke on condition of anonymity. 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