Patrick/Murray: redefining ‘dysfunctional’

The latest edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary just came out.  What unfortunate timing!  No doubt at this very moment the dictionary’s editorial board is behind closed doors, debating whether to recall the new edition in light of the Patrick/Murray Administration’s re-definition of the word ‘dysfunctional.’

I thought they’d set the bar pretty high for themselves last week with the whole ‘Gov out of the loop on the Big Dig lights’ thing (it would be so much easier to just call it “lightsgate,” but I refuse.  Nor will I ask “what did the Governor know, and when did he know it?”, despite the obvious salience of that question).

But it turns out that whole mess was even uglier than previously known. 

Last week we were told that Transpo Secretary Jeff Mullan waited five weeks post-lightvalanche to inform his boss, the Governor, of the incident.  This was true, we knew, because we got it direct from the Secretary’s own mouth.

Turns out that wasn’t exactly true. Or, more precisely, that was exactly not true.  Here’s today’s Globe:


The state’s top transportation official now admits that his agency withheld information from the public about potentially hazardous light fixtures over drivers’ heads in the Big Dig tunnel system because his own staff did not tell him about the problem for a month.

Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan said he did not learn about a Feb. 8 incident in which a corroded 110-pound light crashed onto the roadway in the Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. Tunnel until March 9. He told Governor Deval Patrick about the problem March 15, the night before informing the general public.

 The Globe correctly points out that this is the third version of these events to issue from the Secretary. And there is no question of a ‘misstatement’ or a ‘misinterpretation’ of Mullan’s previous statements.  He was pretty clear in attributing the withholding of information to a deliberate, conscious decision on his part (Globe last week):


Mullan said he prides himself on transparency and wanted to avoid creating unnecessary panic, not conceal a problem. But he now recognizes that, with the Big Dig in particular, the public should know about problems immediately, given a troubled history that includes a fatality in 2006 when a section of the tunnel ceiling collapsed.

Perhaps it was his pride in “transparency” that prompted the Secretary to come clean today.  Or perhaps somebody dimed him out to the Globe.  No matter – it is now clear that there were multiple layers of dysfunction piled atop those fallen lights, stretching from the road crews all the way up to the Governor’s office.

How’s that?  How can an incident about which (we’re told) nobody above the level of a roadway maintenance crew knew be used to brand an entire Administration with the Scarlet D?  As is so often the case, the response was far worse than the incident – from start to finish.

I’ll skip past the obvious.  Secretary Mullan’s decision to peddle a falsehood to the press last week is inexcusable.  Now let’s look at the Governor.  Last week, when the Administration’s story was that Secretary knew about the incident all along but chose not to inform Patrick, the Governor was entirely supportive of his appointee.  Mullan had “taken the right steps,” Patrick told reporters.  The Governor had “full confidence” in his Secretary.

Flash forward to this week… READ THE REST at CriticalMass

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