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Some in state's probation scandal defied pressure - The Sun Chronicle : Local News

Some in state's probation scandal defied pressure

Wrentham worker praised in report

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Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 12:00 am

A former Wrentham District Court probation officer has emerged as one of the heroes of an investigative report outlining the corrupt hiring practices of the state probation system.

Ellen Slaney is cited in the report as having refused to hire the son of a prominent politician because the son had a lengthy criminal record.

She told investigator Paul Ware that Probation Commissioner John O'Brien became "physically upset" at her for balking at hiring the son of former state Sen. William "Biff" MacLean, D-Fairhaven.

O'Brien, she said, told her "These appointments were important to his being able to accomplish the budget that he needed to do our business."

She was demoted and transferred to Western Massachusetts for her boldness.

Daniel Winslow of Wrentham, who was recently elected to the state Legislature, said he worked with Slaney when she was a probation officer and he was a judge at Wrentham District Court.

"I'm very proud she showed the kind of integrity we need from public servants," Winslow said of Slaney.

Winslow said the report also cites Edward Dalton, another former Wrentham District Court official.

Dalton, who the report states is now retired, also resisted political pressure to hire unqualified probation officers in his role as a supervisor.

"Ed and Ellen are the best of the best," Winslow said.

Slaney was a regional supervisor when she had her run-in with O'Brien.

He wanted her to hire MacLean's son for a job with Bristol County Probate and Family Court.

When O'Brien confronted her for not hiring MacLean, she said she replied:

"That I didn't think he was an appropriate candidate because he was a convicted felon and that I thought my position was one to make sure the best candidates got the job, and I didn't think he was the best candidate or an appropriate candidate," according to the report.

O'Brien eventually appointed MacLean to a temporary position that was never posted and then a permanent position. MacLean, according to new reports, was found asleep at his desk while at work.

The investigative report was compiled by attorney Paul Ware at the request of the state Supreme Judicial Court in response to Boston Globe reports about corruption in the hiring system at the probation department.

The report outlines how well-connected politicians would get friends, family members and political contributors appointed to jobs above more qualified candidates, with O'Brien at the center of it.

The report recommends that O'Brien be fired, several other officials reprimanded and that the matter be turned over to law enforcement for possible criminal charges.

Winslow, who takes office in January, said a special prosecutor should be appointed to handle the case.

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