Majority of Governor’s Council opposes Patrick’s probate nominee

By Kyle Cheney State House News Service

September 1, 2011

William Rosen, the nominee of Governor Deval Patrick to fill the top administrative post in the Hampshire County Probate and Family Court, faced outright opposition yesterday from a majority of the Governor’s Council over his lack of experience in the Massachusetts court system, his career as a lobbyist, and his political connections. “You’re a nice person, but this is outrageous,’’ said Councilor Marilyn Devaney, a Watertown Democrat on the eight-member panel. Devaney ripped Rosen as inexperienced in the courts and suggested that Mark Ames, currently the temporary register of probate in Hampshire County, be permitted to continue through the 2012 election. Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray scuttled an effort by councilors to immediately vote on Rosen’s nomination after a 90-minute hearing in the council’s State House chambers. Had the vote taken place, five of the councilors indicated they would have voted to reject him. The council has rejected only one of the governor’s nominees since he took office in 2007, defeating a parole board choice 5-3. A handful of previous nominees poised for defeat have withdrawn their names from consideration prior to a vote. Sydney Asbury, Patrick’s deputy chief of staff, was on hand for part of Rosen’s hearing, an unusual high-level presence. “There’s no real support for this nomination,’’ said Councilor Thomas Merrigan, a Greenfield Democrat whose district includes the Hampshire Court, arguing that Rosen should be given time to withdraw his nomination and avoid an embarrassing vote after Councilor Jennie L. Caissie moved for immediate consideration. “It’s like trying to put a round peg in a square hole,’’ said Councilor Terrence Kennedy, a Lynnfield Democrat. “He just doesn’t fit. Although councilors typically vote on nominees a week after their confirmation hearing, their earliest opportunity will be in two weeks because Murray, who presides over council voting, will be at a Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association meeting in San Francisco. It is unclear why Patrick is unavailable to preside. Registers of probate handle the administrative functions for a court; their responsibilities include wills and estates, paternity cases, visitation rights, guardianship, and divorce. Patrick nominated Rosen for the job - typically an elected position - to fill a vacancy created when David Sullivan was sworn in as the area’s district attorney earlier this year. Rosen has indicated that he intends to run for the register post in next year’s election. Several councilors recoiled at the notion that they were asked to elevate Rosen to the position prior to the election, giving him the advantage of incumbency over other potential candidates. “I feel that the electorate has to be able to make their own decision,’’ said Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning, a Salem Democrat. “I feel that it’s somewhat my responsibility to make sure that we’re not giving the wrong person a leg up in the election. Most of us are Democrats here, and that is a concern, to look like we’re rigging an election for someone who would otherwise not be able to make it on their own.’’ Manning also raised questions about Rosen’s career as a federal lobbyist for Smith College and Bay State Health Systems, wondering whether he had registered appropriately. Rosen insisted he had followed all registration requirements and regulations. Caissie, an Oxford Republican, also raised concerns about Rosen’s qualifications. “You obviously are a very qualified professional but are not qualified for this position,’’ Caissie said. Her concerns were echoed by Councilors Kennedy and Christopher Iannella, a Boston Democrat. Councilor Kelly Timilty, a Roslindale Democrat, did not attend the confirmation hearing. Rosen, who is not a lawyer, acknowledged having “no hands-on experience in probate and family law,’’ but said his career as an administrator would benefit the court

“I have managed staffs and budgets,’’ Rosen told councilors. “I have the skills to be able to get help for people when they are hurting, and [to] find relative and efficient solutions.’’ Rosen, a Northampton resident and Boston College graduate, is owner of Cardinal Strategies, a consultant company that lobbies for and consults with nonprofits. He previously worked as director of government relations at Fallon Community Health Plan and was a former aide to John Olver - now a congressman - in the Massachusetts state Senate. Witnesses sought to defend Rosen’s qualifications, describing him as a skillful administrator who would quickly adapt to the register position. Susan Stubbs, chief executive of ServiceNet, a Hampshire County nonprofit, urged the council to look beyond whether Rosen has experience in courthouses. Rosen’s other supporters included Elaine Reall, Joseph DeFazio, and Edward Etheredge, all Hampshire County attorneys.
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