Boston — As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney bridled at independent review of his decisions by the Commonwealth’s civil service. In reaction, Romney repeatedly politicized previously non-partisan state operations, imposed gag orders and pushed out dissenters, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), presaging a possibly similar take-no-prisoners management style should he be elected this November.
Favoring a top-down, no-questions-asked, corporate style of governance, Romney had little patience with any resistance from state specialists. He frequently used his reorganization powers to snuff out pockets of independence within agencies, especially on environmental matters. Thus, for example, Gov. Romney—
- In one of his very first acts, issued a gag order forbidding employees to “have contact with a member of the State Legislature” or “speak with” any member of the media. Violations were subject to “disciplinary action”;
- Eliminated the ability of citizens and businesses, as well as environmental organizations, to obtain independent review of the legality of Department of Environmental Protection decisions. In January 2004, he abolished the cadre of administrative law judges tasked with hearing citizen appeals. Instead, all such appeals were reviewed by his political appointees; and
- Unsuccessfully tried to strip 800 attorneys of civil service status, so that they could be fired without cause. In so doing, he would have terminated all attorney slots for environmental enforcement. All remaining lawyers were to be moved inside the Governor's office
“As Governor, the Romney management style was paranoid, preclusive and hyper-political,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former enforcement attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “His governance approach more closely resembled a bunker than a boardroom.”
Perhaps a prime example of the Romney record was his treatment of Katherine Abbott, head of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). First, Romney raided the DCR budget to pay for a pre-Super Bowl rally for the New England Patriots football team. The short-changed account was for maintenance of parkways. When a truck hit four teen-agers walking along the side of a parkway where the sidewalks had not been cleared of snow, Romney blamed Abbott for “poor shoveling” and fired her. It was later revealed that Abbott and her top deputy (who was also fired) were resisting pressure on DCR to hire a Republican politician his office was pushing.
“Inside the Romney administration, people constantly told me that it was hard to remain inspired by the calling of public service and were relieved when he decided to forego a second term,” Bennett added. “None of the challenges facing the federal government today can be solved by mass-firings, intimidation tactics or outsourcing work abroad.”