Massachusetts House investigators are looking into whether former Gov. Deval Patrick diverted state money to secret funds for travel, advertising and other off-the-books expenses.
The Boston Herald first broke the story of the money transfers earlier this week.
Democratic state Rep. David Linsky is the chairman of the House Post Audit Committee and announced the investigation Thursday.
“As is my practice in all investigations, we will always go where the evidence takes us,” Linsky said, according to the Herald.
The Boston Herald reports that the former Democratic governor’s administration steered close to $27 million in state funds to various clandestine accounts.
These “trusts” allowed the governor to avoid the budget cut-backs due to the recession and did not bind the money to the oversight of the state legislature or the public.
Records show Patrick used a chunk of the funds for his world trips where he promoted Massachusetts as a global destination.
Between 2011 and 2014, the governor and his staff spent $535,558 in hotel costs, $332,193 in airfare, $305,976 for limousines and ground transportation, and $175,000 in miscellaneous travel expenses. The total bill for the trips in that three-year span came to $1.35 million.
One of the shady trusts was headed by a Patrick confidant, Betsy Wall. She had previously served as the head of tourism for the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Herald found that her “trust” sent $17 million to the advertising firm Connelly Partners, which is also employed by the state’s tourism office.
Apparently this under-the-radar $17 million was meant to bolster the state’s tourism industry through further marketing efforts than what the legislature had authorized.
The reason why government entities transferred millions into the secret accounts: “The (Patrick) administration asked us to,” said the spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. The MCCA threw the most money to the slush funds totaling $23.5 million.
The Herald story says that Massport and the Mass Tech Collaborative, also gave money to the accounts. The MTC receives federal dollars, and received Obama stimulus funds.
The Boston Herald asserts that these three agencies siphoned close to $27 million to the secret trusts while Patrick was governor.
Patrick served as governor from 2007 until leaving office in January. He was once considered near the top of the list for a seat on the Supreme Court and various Obama administration cabinet posts, and joined Bain Capital.
Rep. Linsky said, “What the Herald uncovered caught all of us by surprise.”
Top Patrick aides are expected to be subpoenaed as part of Linsky’s probe.
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker denounced Gov. Patrick’s administration for evading the legislature and the public.
“Anything we do going forward is going to be transparent and in the budget, period,” Baker said at a press conference Thursday.