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Mass. Probation Commissioner O’Brien suspended

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mass. Probation Commissioner O’Brien suspended

Massachusetts Probation Commissioner John O’Brien has been suspended over concerns about the hiring and promotion of probation officers.

In a joint statement issued Monday, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan said they were deeply concerned with media reports on management practices within the Probation Department.

They said O’Brien has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately.

O’Brien’s hiring practices have been the subject of front-page stories in The Boston Globe.

The justices said they were concerned not only with the administration of the department, but with how the media reports may affect the public’s perception of the integrity of the judicial branch.

Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick sharply criticized O’Brien, saying that he turned the department into a “rogue agency.”

The governor said he supports an investigation of hiring practices and also also called on the Legislature to pass his bill calling for folding the Probation Department in with the Parole Department.

Patrick says the merger would create a modern agency allowing people to transition from prison life back into society.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Timothy Cahill says patronage is a part of politics, but politics played no role in his decision to hire O’Brien’s wife and daughter.

Cahill says the Probation Department should be moved back from the control of the legislative branch to the Judiciary to depoliticize it.

Book: Obama recoiled at Coakley’s Fenway comment

A new book describes President Barack Obama grabbing an aide’s shirt and unleashing obscenities after learning Martha Coakley famously dissed hand-shaking outside Fenway Park during her U.S. Senate special election campaign.

Jonathan Alter writes in “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” that presidential aide David Axelrod related how Coakley dismissed critics of her campaigning by saying, “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?”

Alter says Obama grabbed Axelrod, let go a blue streak and said, “No! No! You’re making that up! That can’t be right! Tell me she didn’t say that!”

Coakley was referring to an online video Republican rival Scott Brown posted of him shaking hands outside the National Hockey League Winter Classic game on January 1.

Boston students test over urban average in reading

Boston fourth- and eighth- graders have scored slightly above average on national reading exams compared with their counterparts in other large cities.

The National Assessment Governing Board released Thursday 2009 reading scores of fourth- and eighth-graders from 16 urban school districts.

According to the results of the biennium National Assessment of Educational Progress exams, Boston fourth-graders scored an average of 215 on the 2009 test, compared with average of 210 for public school students in large cities. The city’s eighth-graders averaged 257, above the average of 252.

Both scores are well below the Massachusetts average of 234 and 274, respectively.

Boston Public Schools spokesman Matthew Wilder said while district officials were pleased with the results, they feel more work needs to be done to get scores up.

Patrick, Baker agree to Mass. gubernatorial debate

State Treasurer Timothy Cahill will have to change his schedule if he wants to be in the first debate between the leading Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates.

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick agreed Friday to join Republican Charles Baker for an hour-long debate on June 16 on WRKO-AM. Baker had previously been scheduled for an hour-long debate with Cahill on June 18, but Patrick said he could not attend that meeting because of a previously scheduled speech to the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.

WRKO now says there will be only one debate, on June 16, and it hopes Cahill can rearrange his schedule. His staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, now a talk-show host, and his co-host, Todd Feinberg, will moderate the debate.

Associated Press