Baker administration staffer fired following retaliation investigation

Another staffer has resigned

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

BOSTON (State House News Service) – One staffer in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will be fired and another has resigned after an internal investigation into allegations of political retaliation against another employee whose fiance is running for office, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced Thursday.

Baker plans to address reporters at 2 p.m. outside his office, spokesman Billy Pitman said.

The investigation results led the administration to believe that Department of Conservation and Recreation personnel officer Jared Valanzola “did attempt to coerce Cynthia Lewis to influence her fiancée not to run for political office,” Baker communications director Elizabeth Guyton said in a statement.

Officials are moving to terminate Jared Valanzola, officials said.

Lewis is engaged to J.D. Parker-O’Grady, a Southampton Democrat aiming to unseat Republican Sen. Don Humason of Westfield.

The investigation turned up “no conclusive evidence” that Energy and Environmental Affairs Chief Operating Officer Michael Valanzola, who is related to Jared Valanzola, sought retaliation against Lewis, Guyton said. EEA has accepted Michael Valanzola’s resignation and the administration “believes his resignation is necessary to restore confidence in the human resources function for the secretariat.”

Another official within the Department of Conservation and Recreation, former deputy commissioner Matt Sisk, resigned on Friday after video surfaced of him driving a state vehicle using lights and sirens, allegedly to circumvent traffic.

Lewis, a program coordinator for the Massachusetts Environmental Police, told investigators she believed her transfer to a Fall River office from Boston was a result of Parker-O’Grady’s decision to challenge Humason.

The investigators, from Baker’s legal office and the EEA legal office, found that staff attempted to transfer her “according to protocol” and there was “no conclusive evidence that the transfer was politically motivated,” Guyton said. She said the investigation found “other evidence of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.”

According to Guyton’s statement, the administration believes that Jared Valanzola misrepresented his role in Lewis’ hiring process and “stated to Cynthia Lewis that her employment opportunity within EEA would be adversely affected by her fiancée’s decision to run for political office.”

The investigators received “numerous conflicting statements from EEA staff regarding Cynthia Lewis’ claim against Michael Valanzola,” the statement said.

Lewis is on administrative leave, at her request, according to the administration. Gary Lambert, EEA’s assistant secretary for operational services, will become acting chief operating officer next week on a temporary basis.

Baker last month called the retaliation allegations “extremely troubling,” and said, “No one in our administration should ever, ever threaten anybody to engage in civic endeavors as a private citizen, period.”

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