Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

July 19, 2012

Editorial: Secret search for public watchdog

The state inspector general's office has significant corruption-fighting responsibilities, including reviewing state contracts and investigating possible fraud and waste involving taxpayer money. It's one of the ways the state tries to provide accountability and transparency in government.

Just don't expect much transparency from those picking a replacement for outgoing Inspector General Gregory Sullivan.

Sullivan is nearing the end of his second five-year term. Under state law, he can't serve a third. His replacement will be decided by a vote between Gov. Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Auditor Suzanne Bump.

In Andover, the office helped David beat Goliath. Back in 2008 and 2009, Andover residents Pamela Dunn and Aileen Peters were fighting to stop a proposed cell phone tower from being built by a subsidiary of T-Mobile USA, on state land near Route 125 and Prospect Road. The tower would have been 186 feet from Dunn's children's bedrooms, and neighbors felt they had not been given required information in advance. IG Sullivan sits on the state's Asset Management Board, which at the time had agreed to let Mass Highway waive its rules and lease state land for towers - provided the cell companies followed local zoning and did not have neighborhood opposition. Sullivan met with the Andover residents and the communications company and decided the tower should not have been allowed because of the clear neighborhood opposition. It was something almost no one believed would happen. But that is the power of the IG.

So, who are the finalists for this important statewide position meant to protect the average citizen, you ask? None of your business, apparently.

Patrick press secretary Kimberly Haberlin told the State House News Service finalists' names would be kept secret.

"The three offices have determined that candidate names and applications will not be released prior to the finalist being announced," Haberlin told the News Service. "Maintaining applicant confidentiality from the outset has allowed us to attract a wider array of top talent and is consistent with how we handle personnel decisions."

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