Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The inquisition begins: Coughlin under the microscope

Frank Phillips of the Globe reports today that the State Ethics Commission "has launched a formal investigation to determine whether the new president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Robert K. Coughlin, violated conflict-of-interest laws when he entered job talks with the industry association while continuing to work as Governor Deval Patrick's economic development undersecretary, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation."

His story says that the Mass Biotech Council received subpoenas last week asking for e-mail and phone records. But the worst punishment the Ethics Commission can dole out is a $2,000 fine, if Coughlin is found guilty of having violated the state's conflict-of-interest law in interviewing for his current job.

So far, this hire has been a complete disaster for Mass part because it totally hamstrings (at least for now) Coughlin's ability to work the media and elected officials on the Council's behalf. At best, they've been paying him for a month to learn more about how the Council and the biotech industry operate, and organize his desk blotter.

Earlier blog posts on the issue are here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has there been any discussion as to whether Coughlin actually violated the public trust - i.e. did he suggest or move into legislation anything that in retrospect seems excessive? Could he do it alone? Has anyone published any documents or summaries of the legislation or the suggestions to the governor that he made between the time of the meeting and the time he told the governor that he was looking at the job?

To me, that would show evidence of acting on the conflict of interest. In the private sector, this happens all of the time - we interview for jobs at competitors, suppliers and customers because they are the ones we see most often and know the most about. Our elected and appointed officials just need to be held to a higher standard.

October 4, 2007 4:12 PM  

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