Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Coughlin Incident: New Mass Biotech Chief Off to a Rocky Start

The new head of the Massachusetts Biotech Council, Robert Coughlin, is already in some pretty warm water, facing an ethics complaint filed by Republicans because he may not have notified the governor soon enough that he was talking to the Council about taking the gig.

Coughlin apparently met with the Mass Biotech Council's search committee on June 11th, according to the Globe, but didn't disclose to Gov. Patrick that he was in discussions until July 24th, when he recused himself from overseeing life sciences issues. The Council announced his appointment, somewhat abruptly, on August 13th, four days after the other candidate for the job, State Senator Jack Hart, dropped out of contention. Coughlin was on vacation in the wilds of Colorado and couldn't give the Globe an interview on the day of his announcement -- a strange stumble during what you'd expect would be a well-planned PR event.

Here are the stories:

In that last piece, columnist Joan Vennochi writes:

    ...All it would have taken was for Coughlin to disclose his discussions at the outset. Under state law, that disclosure is supposed to trigger a review that would either reassign his state duties to another employee, or determine that reassignment wasn't necessary.
    Now, the public has the right to wonder if Coughlin's job talks influenced his policy negotiations on the state's behalf.
    And the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council has the right to wonder how much the controversy influences their access to the Patrick administration.

Coughlin's first day on the job is the Tuesday after Labor Day.

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