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Election 2012: Governor's Council Third District Candidate Interviews

Governor's Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney of Watertown is challenged by Thomas Sheff of Newton.

Democrat Marilyn Pettito Devaney of Watertown faces Thomas Sheff of Newton, who is running as an independent, in the race for the Third District councilor on the Governor's Council.

The district includes the communities of Acton, Arlington, Ayer, Bedford, Belmont, Billerica, Boston (Alston/Brighton, Beacon Hill & Southend), Boxborough,Brookline, Burlington, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Harvard, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Marlborough, Maynard, Newton, Northborough, Shirley, Southborough, Stow, Sudbury, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, Westborough, Weston and Woburn.

Patch interviewed both candidates, asking them the same questions. Here is what they said: 

 

1) What are your top three priorities?

Marilyn Pettito Devaney Thomas Sheff

I will narrow it down to the following four priorities: 

(1) A top priority is to have only honest, ethical, qualified people with the correct demeanor and temperament appointed to all positions the Governor's Council votes on - Judges, Clerk magistrates, Industrial Accident Board, Industrial Accident Advisory Board, Appellate Tax Board, Parole Board - the State Administrators, etc.  

(2) To Oppose Political Appointments - I want to take this opportunity to first explain the process of how judges and clerk magistrates are selected. The (JNC) Juridical Nominating Commission are appointed my the sitting Governor.  They consist of 21 lawyers who are charged with recommending to the Governor. They choose who will be interviewed, who they will recommend to the Governor - and then that nominee is sent to the Governor's Council for its due diligence, hearing etc. If the majority of the Council vote "no"- the nominee is not approved. The boards and commissions are sent to the Governor's Council for approval through the Governor and staff. 

(3) other priority is for transparency - I have established the first governor's council web site with our districts,duties -lists every board and commission. You can click on to see the function and terms, the recent Governor's appointments with biography, and date and time of their public Governor's Council hearing. I have requested permanent cameras in the Chamber but rejected siting costs, hiring someone to store the records of the hearings, etc. I will continue to find a method to provide the public access to view the Governor's Council hearings.

(4) My continuing priority will always to be accessible - I provide my home number and my cell phone number. I meet with people on continuing basis - as well as in my State House office. I work to the best of my ability to provide the service that the people of the commonwealth expect and deserve.

A) I want to bring transparency into the Governor's Council. I'm the only candidate that has the necessary skills to do so. I currently have a local cable show, I am going to leave at the end of the year. If I win, I will bring in video equipment, tape all the open hearings, edit the hearings down to 30 or 60 minutes and air them monthly on all the local cable stations in the district. I have the means and the knowledge to make this happen. I already have the permission to do this. You can watch meetings at the statehouse (pertaining to the Governor's Council) in your living room. An unedited version of the meetings will be archived in my web site. Other areas of transparency will be regularly updating my web site, writing letters to the editor of local WickedLocals, newsletters and setting up a blog for people to discuss judges or applicants....which I will use as an educational tool for myself. I can't be everywhere, so I would count on the constituents to be my eyes and ears.

B) Making sure that applicants for judges and parole boards understand that their decisions affect us all.  It is the law and the interpretation of it that keeps us civilized and brings order to chaos.

One of the reasons why I'm in this race is due to a situation that occurred several years ago. A convict by the name of Dominic Cinelli had three lifetime sentences hanging over his head, but the parole board let him free.  6 months later he was caught in a shootout at the Kohl's department store in Woburn and killed officer Maguire of the Woburn police department. The decision of the parole board to let him go cost an innocent man his life.

 C) My third priority would be to bring civility back into the council. Unfortunately, the Governor’s Council has been riddled with personality conflicts, punitive and sometimes inappropriate questioning of nominees, and falls short of being a consistent source of pride for voters. Some call it dysfunctional.  I strongly believe we can do better by working collaboratively, treating nominees with dignity, respect, and a genuine appreciation for their desire to be in public service.  

 

2) Many don’t know the role of the Governor’s Council, and the board has been under fire by some, including a Boston Globe editorial that called for the council to be phased out. Do you agree or disagree? Please defend your answer.

Devaney Sheff

It is unfortunate that the facts of the responsibilities of Governor's Council are so misrepresented. I have written letters to the editor which do not get in print - I invite the media to attend our hearings.(they do rarely) I have asked radio commentators to have a discussion of "for" and "against" the elimination of the  Governor's Council. 

I do not have the money to send a 45 cent stamp on 800,000 envelopes to correct the continuing misstatements of what the Council does. The Governor's Council is the checks and balance for the Governor's appointments. The Governor's Council holds hearings twelve months a year for judges, clerk magistrates and each member of the boards and commissions. The Council has no vacation. 

In addition the Council holds weekly meetings to vote on the State warrant- all the expenditures incurred that week, as well as voting on the nominees, and approval of justice of the peace and notaries, commutations and pardons. The Governor's Council may not be a perfect system but there is no other that I would change to. It requires a twelve month commitment. 

Senator Joyce who files a bill to abolish the Governor's Council every year has publicly stated the council should be abolished and the responsibilities be given to the "unbiased" lawyers of the JNC. - They are faceless, nameless who meet in private. (presently the JNC are only charged with recommending judges and clerk magistrates. All boards and commissions come through the Governor's office. Senator Joyce also suggested giving the responsibility to the Senate - It requires a twelve month commitment to be present in the State House for meetings and hearings which can last from 3 hours to 7 hours. There is no vacation as the Senate has. Could a conflict of interest situation arise at the Senate - between budget items and the Governors' appointments? Then there is an option of elected judges. 

About twelve years ago I researched elected judges. Approximately 42 states vote for their judges. Twelve years ago it was documented in Ohio and Michigan for example, candidates for judges were spending $6 to $12 million dollars on their campaigns. The Governor's Council is an independent body of eight councillors- each representing approximately 800,000 people. The council has no "Speaker, no "President, No "Chair" has no committees. Although I am second in seniority on the Council - we are all equal- with the same responsibility to represent all the citizens in the State Of Massachusetts - no matter what district from which we are elected. The council has no staff- each councillor is responsibility to do their due diligence.

I disagree, but I am open minded about it.  As of right now, I don't see a better option. The people pushing for giving the responsibility to the state legislature are doing so for personal reasons. They have an agenda.  They can't give the time and energy that the Governor's Council gives to the candidates. I don't want Judges to be determined by an election due to the fact that many times money wins elections or popularity wins elections and sometimes that doesn't mean the best candidate wins. Also, there's always a huge amount of people who vote while not being educated on the candidates and I believe that could lead to future problems.   

I believe if I win and I video tape the hearings, people will gain an understanding of what the job is all about. They will start building faith in the system and gain trust in the state government. As I campaign, it's becoming more and more apparent that 90-95% of the people don't have a clue as to what they do.  This is the fault of the Governor's Council for not reaching out to their constituents. I want to change all of that.

On a side note, I do plan to set up a personal committee to investigate this very issue. I would select 9-11 people, some oppose the council, some for it and some undecided. I'll set them up and once per month they will Skype and I'll retrieve any information they need, scan it into my web site so everyone can print it out and use it for their research.



3) What are the key differences between yourself and your opponent?

Devaney Sheff

Experience in doing the job, knowing how to investigate, giving the time that is absolutely required to not leave a stone unturned - to be prepared to take that vote which effects every citizen or a family member in their lifetime whether it is going before a judge in a divorce or other matter, to question your local home assessment seeking further relief from the Appellate Tax Board, Industrial Accident Board if you are an injured worker, the Parole Board which effects the safety of you and your family. I am not a rubber stamp - I have voted against members of the parole board as well - in particularly the Chair of the Parole Board who released Cinelli. I want members to have the philosophy-their main priority - which is paramount - is protection of the public. I testified for Melissa's bill which would have prevented Officer Maguire's tragic murder. I attended Officer Maguire's funeral service. I have a record of being the most investigative and accessible on the council. Included in my investigation - I meet with every nominee from Justice Ireland to Industrial Accident board member - in a public diner. People trust me and inform me of information regarding nominees which I investigate to document that it is factual.

I have a record of accomplishments-  bringing transparency - keeping my pledge to make major positive changes on the Governors' Council. Among those changes: I stopped the egregious practice on-going for decades - where nominees where giving monies to the governor's councillors who were voting on their appointment - and to the sitting governors and Lt. Governors' This is a prohibition in Governor's Executive Order - that no nominee upon applying can give political donations to Governor's Councillors, Governor and Lieutenant Governor. I initiated change of the make up of the Parole Board - after investigating and finding it was not in compliance with the state statute for 30 years - since Governor Dukakis. With support of majority of the council, - Have nominees and witnesses sworn in at their public  Governor's Council hearings. Established the first Governor's Council website for the public to click on - councillors and their districts, responsibilities, the board and commissions with each providing their functions and terms, the latest nominees presented, with the date and time of their public Governor's Council hearings. 

I will not take travel expenses - because the people I represent do not get paid to drive to work. My attendance record is the highest on the council. In nearly 14 years- I have been absent for only one weekly meeting and one hearing- when my husband died. As stated we have hearings 12 months a year. I am honored that I have been recognized and earned the respect and confidence by their endorsements of so many good people - including Congressman Michael Capuano, Congressman Stephen Lynch, Congressman James McGovern, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and former State Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci. 

Where do I start? 

The biggest difference between myself and my opponent is my background. I have a background that lends perfectly for the position. I have experience in Technology, which I will use to create transparency for the Council.  Also, I went to law school and was employed with the family law firm which gives me a working knowledge of the system. My opponent has none of these.

Another huge difference between us is that I believe that the Governor's Council is divisive and my opponent doesn't believe so. I believe it's an area that must be worked on by all Councillors. My opponent doesn't believe this, and since she doesn't recognize the problem, she won't work to resolve the issue.

Another difference is our demeanor.  While I don't know my opponent except through the campaign I have heard stories where if she doesn't agree with you she won't listen to you. On the other hand, I am more laid back and I am willing to listen to everyone with an open mind.


 

4) How will you make yourself available to members of the public?

Devaney Sheff I will continue as I have during my tenure - to go out to the public, throughout my district. I also have hours to meet with constituents. I welcome calls. I make public my home phone and cell phone (617)840-7689 as well as the State House. I have email - marilynpetittodevaney@gmail.com I prefer talking directly to people rather than email. I will be accessible 24 hours per day- 7 days per week. Even though I have a job I will be accessible, because my job (Vice President of a start-up Non-profit)is flexible and I determine the amount of work I decide to put into it.  The different ways I can be contacted is by phone, email, face to face and through the blogs. I will be proactive with people online. My contact information is online and I will be creating a web site for the Governors council and updating the public as to what is happening in the Council.  I will also be communicating by creating edited versions of open meetings that will be sent to each local cable station that wants to air the hearings. I'll be extremely pro-active using my background skills in order to keep the public informed.

 

5) What is something that people may not know about you but should?

Devaney Sheff I am grateful to all who voted for me in the primary and respectfully ask for your vote on November 6 so I can continue working for you and being your voice on the council. Thank you for this opportunity.

I try to have a common sense approach on everything. I am open minded, laid back and determined. 

I would be honored to have you're vote on November 6th. Please go to www.tomsheff.com for more information.

See more of Patch's election coverage on the Watertown Election Guide.

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