BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is moving to fire one official in the state’s embattled environmental agency and has accepted the resignation of a second after a staffer complained of enduring retribution from superiors.
The administration launched the investigation after Cynthia Lewis claimed she was transferred to the agency’s Fall River office after her fiance, Democrat J.D. Parker-O’Grady, launched a campaign to unseat incumbent Republican state Sen. Donald Humason of Westfield.
Investigators said Wednesday they found no conclusive evidence that the transfer was politically motivated, but discovered other evidence of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.
The agency is seeking to fire Jared Valanzola, a personnel officer for the agency. Michael Valanzola, the agency’s chief operating officer, has resigned. The men are cousins.
The administration said as a result of the investigation they believe Jared Valanzola attempted to pressure Lewis to influence her fiance not to run for political office and suggested her employment opportunity at the agency would be affected by her fiance’s decision.
While investigators said they found no conclusive evidence that Michael Valanzola sought retaliation against Lewis, the administration felt it wasn’t possible for him to continue in his position, which includes direct oversight of the agency’s human resources.
Calls to Jared Valanzola and Michael Valanzola were not immediately returned Wednesday.
A third person, program manager Tim Sullivan, has been issued a warning after investigators concluded he had invaded Lewis’ personal space while speaking with her about the transfer.
Baker told reporters outside his Statehouse office Wednesday that he supports the findings, but said the investigation took too long. He said Lewis first raised the issue in June. He said she still has her job and he hopes she continues to serve.
Baker said the investigation should send a clear message.
“No one in our administration should ever think that it’s appropriate to pressure anybody not to run for something for political purposes,” he said.
The release of the findings comes a day after Baker stripped 20 to 30 state employees of their state-owned vehicles after a top state Department of Conservation and Recreation official resigned for using his vehicle’s lights and sirens to cut through heavy Boston traffic.
Baker on Saturday said he was disappointed at the poor judgment of Matthew Sisk, a deputy commissioner at the DCR. He said he plans to make additional announcements about DCR soon.
Baker said the two investigations show the administration takes such allegations seriously.
“Anybody who engages in any of the kinds of activity that have been associated with either this investigation or some of the stuff that’s been reported on with respect to the misuse of state property and all the rest — we will deal with that and we will deal with it aggressively,” he told reporters.
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