John O'Brien, Former Probation Commissioner Indicted

By Adam Reilly

Sept. 19, 2011

Watch the segment that aired Sept. 19 on WGBH's Greater Boston. (Click for larger view)

BOSTON — In May 2010, some tough investigative reporting by The Boston Globe revealed that the Massachusetts Probation Department was a patronage haven — packed with unqualified employees who had received their jobs thanks to support from powerful politicians. Now that scandal is heading to the courts.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Attorney General Martha Coakley accused former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and Scott Campbell, an aide to former state treasurer Tim Cahill, of trading campaign contributions for a job for O'Brien's wife, Laurie.

"In June of 2005," Coakley said, "John 'Jack' O'Brien hosted a fundraiser in which he raised approximately $11,000 in funds that went to the campaign funds of then-Treasurer Cahill, and that Laurie O'Brien began a job in September as a customer service representative at the Lottery."

The indictments released today by Coakley also accuse ex-Cahill aide, Scott Campbell, of laundering $1500 in campaign contributions when Cahill ran for governor last year.

"On at least three separate occasions," Coakley said, "Campbell approached friends and relatives, gave them $500 in cash, and requested that they write checks in their own names to the Cahill for Governor campaign."

Cahill's attorney fired back in a statement to WGBH, saying: "There is no credible evidence to support the allegations that a job for Laurie O'Brien was the result of, or was influenced by, a fundraiser attended by members of the probation department."

Clearly Coakley disagrees, however. And this afternoon she said there may be more indictments to come.

"This is only the beginning of this investigation," Coakley said. "Not the end of it."

Whether Monday's developments will put Beacon Hill back on the defensive over Probation remains to be seen. When the Probation Dept. scandal first hit, Governor Deval Patrick tried to merge Probation and Parole and put them under gubernatorial control. The legislature emphatically rejected that proposal. But with Probation back in the news, Patrick has another chance to make his case for reform — if he wants to.

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