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Former probation boss denies charges

Associated Press | 9/27/2011, 11:08 p.m.

The state’s former probation commissioner, John O’Brien, and the chief of staff to former state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill denied charges Monday that they conspired to organize a campaign fundraiser for Cahill in exchange for securing a job for O’Brien’s wife.

O’Brien and Scott Campbell were released on personal recognizance after their arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court.

 Indictments announced last week by Attorney General Martha M. Coakley allege O’Brien arranged with Campbell to host a fundraiser for Cahill in 2005. O’Brien’s wife was later hired by the Massachusetts Lottery, which is overseen by the Treasurer’s office.

Cahill was not named in the indictments.

No new details about the case were released in court Monday. A written summary of the case prepared by the attorney general’s office was sealed from public view at the request of the defense. Prosecutors agreed to the request.

Campbell and his lawyer declined to comment after the brief hearing. O’Brien’s lawyer, Paul Flavin, said O’Brien strongly denies the charges.

“Jack O’Brien never discussed the possibility of employment for his wife or any fundraising activities with former Treasurer Cahill or anyone from Mr. Cahill’s office,” Flavin told reporters after the arraignment.

Coakley said last week that the indictments stem from an ongoing investigation of the probation department’s hiring practices and other public integrity matters.

The indictments allege that Campbell was approached about the possibility of hiring O’Brien’s wife, Laurie, for a job at the lottery. Coakley said Campbell responded by saying Cahill was interested in a fundraiser.

Coakley said that in June 2005, O’Brien hosted a fundraiser for Cahill that raised $11,000. Laurie O’Brien began working as a lottery customer service representative in September of that year.

The indictment alleges “a completed plan to trade fundraising dollars for a taxpayer-funded job,” Coakley said. After two terms as treasurer, Cahill ran for governor as an independent in 2010, finishing a distant third behind Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and Republican Charles Baker.

Campbell was also separately indicted on charges he concealed the true identities of donors to Cahill’s unsuccessful campaign for governor.

O’Brien was also indicted on an unrelated charge involving a promotion given in 2005 to an assistant probation officer following a request from the office of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

O’Brien faces charges of false report by a public employee, bribery, campaign finance violations, conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations and conspiracy to get a job for his wife by unlawful means.

The charges against Campbell include campaign finance violations, conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations, conspiracy to get O’Brien’s wife a job by unlawful means and three counts of disguised campaign contributions.

O’Brien was at the center of an investigation probe by the state Supreme Judicial Court into the department’s hiring and promotion policies. The court oversees the department.

A report on the investigation said there was apparently “an understanding” between O’Brien and certain lawmakers linking generous appropriations for the department to O’Brien’s willingness to give jobs to applicants recommended by the lawmakers.

O’Brien was suspended from his post last year and later resigned.

A new state law creates a standard hiring process for all court and probation officers. O’Brien could face up to 12½ years in prison, while Campbell faces a maximum of 9½ years if convicted on all of the charges.

Associated Press