Flap over ex-Mass. official's internshipBy BOB SALSBERG , Associated Press
Mar. 14, 2013 7:21 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — A review found no "serious wrongdoing" by the former state early education commissioner regarding her participation in a school superintendent training program but she apparently failed to follow proper administrative procedures on other unrelated occasions, the Massachusetts secretary of education said Thursday.
Sherri Killins stepped down from her post earlier this week amid questions about whether the internship, which required her to spend 300 hours in a central Massachusetts town, was distracting her from her ability to perform her nearly $200,000-a-year state job.
The review by the state executive office of education included an analysis of Killins' schedule and expense reports, Secretary of Education Matt Malone said in a four-page letter Thursday to J.D. Chesloff, chairman of the state Board of Early Education and Care.
Malone recommended that in the future managers seek approval from the secretary for any outside employment — paid or unpaid — including internships. He also asked for a policy barring employees from doing any outside work during normal Monday-Friday business hours.
Malone and Chesloff had said they were unaware of Killins' participation in the program prior to media reports last week.
The review did not delve into another aspect of the controversy surrounding Killins — the revelation that she lived in New Haven, Conn., about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Boston.
The internship, which Killins began in January, was part of a state school superintendent certification program that included field work with a current superintendent. Killins was paired with Mary Elizabeth-Beach, superintendent of the Ware public schools.
Killins' schedule included entries for Ware on two regular workdays, including an all-day appointment on Jan. 30, Malone said. But he also said it was unclear whether the Jan. 30 appointment was kept, and both Killins and Elizabeth-Beach insisted that, to date, the internship had been conducted only on weekends and outside regular work hours.
Killins had several future appointments scheduled in Ware, but said she planned to make up any time lost from her state job by working after normal hours.
The review, Malone said, "indicates that (Killins) did not commit serious wrongdoing or engage in any intentional malfeasance that would require termination of her employment, though it appears that some administrative procedures were not followed."
Specifically, travel reimbursements and authorization forms for Killins dating back to January 2012 lacked proper signatures from supervisors, though the travel did appear related to her state job.
Killins' abrupt departure came at a time when Gov. Deval Patrick's administration had been pushing the Legislature to approve nearly $2 billion in new taxes to support transportation and education initiatives, including a substantial increase in funding for early childhood education.
During an appearance Thursday on WGBH-FM, Patrick said he saw nothing wrong with state officials using their personal time to pursue other interests, noting that he wrote a book in his spare time and that it did not distract from his duties as governor.
Killins was "a fine and strong and able commissioner of early education and did her job and did it well," Patrick said.
While there was no rule requiring top state officials to live in Massachusetts, Patrick conceded that he would prefer that all did so.
The governor also defended his administration's decision to allow Killins to remain on as a consultant for two months at her full state salary, saying the agency needed help transitioning to her successor.
Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr said he was not satisfied with the administration's explanation.
"While the Governor continues to tout his costly transportation and education initiatives to the citizens of the Commonwealth, (Killins) was receiving a six-figure salary for a job that apparently didn't require her full attention while the taxpayers continued to pay her full salary," Tarr, R-Gloucester, said in a statement.
A message left at a telephone listing for a Sherri Killins in New Haven was not immediately returned. In a letter to staffers on Monday, Killins said she was proud of her record as commissioner and believed it was a "good time for a transition to new leadership." She did not mention the internship flap.