When the state's chief medical examiner lost track of a body, Gov. Deval Patrick fired him.
When the head of his Department of Children and Families lost track of a 5-year-old boy, she got a pay raise.
The medical examiner was Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, who was recruited from New York City by then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in 2005 and assigned the task of turning around an agency that was haunted by underfunding and internal administrative problems.
The embattled head of DCF is Olga Roche, a career employee who was acting commissioner before being promoted commissioner by Patrick last October. Since then, several scandals have been reported in her horror show of an agency, including the case of Jeremiah Oliver, the 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who was under DCF care. He went missing under her watch and is feared dead, possibly murdered.
What do they have in common They were in charge when staffers lost a body -- one dead and the other now presumed dead.
Unlike Flomenbaum, Roche has not been replaced, suspended or shown the door, even as two dozen legislators have called on Patrick to fire her. Patrick has even turned down her unofficial offer to resign.
Instead of firing her, Patrick has doubled-down on Roche and complained about the "mob mentality" of people who sought to hold Roche responsible for the chaos in the agency she runs.
"In any pubic management position, you're going to have to deal from time to time with mob mentality, serious issues where people rally around a quick or simple fix like the call for Commissioner Roche's resignation," Patrick said. "Nobody asked the second question: What exactly does that or would that solve?" Patrick asked during remarks on friendly WGBH radio last week.
Well, for one thing, a new commissioner might be able to restore competence and faith in the agency that is supposed to help and protect the most vulnerable among us -- children in need.
Less than three years after he took the job, Flomenbaum was quickly fired by newly elected Democrat Gov. Patrick in 2007 after Flomenbaum's staff lost the whereabouts of a body that was buried in the wrong grave.
Patrick's spokesman Kyle Sullivan said at the time: "The administration removed Dr. Flomenbaum for his failure to exercise effective management of the office, which included his unacceptable handling of the case involving a missing body. The administration stands by its decision."
Patrick could substitute Roche's name for Flomenbaum's and reissue the statement, if he were to fire Roche. But he won't. He won't because it would mean that he, as the state's CEO, was taking some responsibility for the tragic death of that boy, and the governor would never stand for that.
It was easy to fire Flomenbaum. Flomenbaum had been hired by his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney. Olga Roche is different. She is Patrick's, and she will take the fall for him. Patrick's entire run as governor has been, whenever possible, to avoid responsibility for all the negative things that have taken place during his tenure.
These include the thousands of drug convictions overturned because of a rogue drug chemist; the deaths of scores of people from contaminated steroids from a compounding pharmacy; the botched bailout of Evergreen Solar that cost the taxpayers millions; the failure of the state's health-care website; the growing questions over the issuing of medical-marijuana dispensing licenses; the homicide of a young inmate at Bridgewater State Hospital; the abandonment by social workers of Jeremiah and who knows how many other children under state care; and so on.
In almost every case, Patrick acts as though he is the last to know what is going on in his administration. And perhaps he is. The lack of knowledge shields him from responsibility. And perhaps he never even asks, and no one around him tells him anything bad. So he doesn't hear about it until it makes the news.
"I have expressed my own frustration with the ability to defend the agency if they won't be forthcoming with information," Patrick said. This is especially true if you don't ask.
"I avoid most press about me, good or bad," he said, "because the bad stuff hurts your feelings and the good stuff goes to your head."
It reminds me of the time I went to interview Patrick following a critical column I had written about him. As we approached his office, I asked his press aide what the governor thought about the column. He answered. "Oh, we didn't show it to him. We don't show him the bad stuff."
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday and Friday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.