25 Investigates: Will anyone open probe on lawmakers' misuse of commuting perks?

By: Eric Rasmussen , Erin Smith

Updated:

BOSTON - After a year-long project, 25 Investigates reached out to a half dozen federal and state investigative agencies to share our findings that showed lawmakers charging taxpayers for their commute to the State House when they were never there.

So far, several agencies – from the House Ethics Committee to the state Attorney General and the State Ethics Commission – have yet to respond on whether there are any plans to open an investigation on 25 Investigates’ findings. Tuesday afternoon, the State Auditor’s Office told investigative reporter Eric Rasmussen it does not have the “statutory authority to audit activities of the legislature.”

25 Investigates spent every day at the Massachusetts State House the week of Thanksgiving last year, taking attendance of every lawmaker who was there and making note of the many who were not.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Lawmakers billed taxpayers for bogus commutes

Several lawmakers later billed taxpayers for commutes they didn’t make that week and when Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen tried to ask those politicians to explain themselves, they ignored, dodged and even ran from a 25 Investigates camera.

State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) signed off on his commuting logs that he came to the State House two days the week of Thanksgiving, but that’s not what 25 Investigates found.

McMurtry was still paid for two days that week under Beacon Hill’s so-called per diem program, which ended earlier this year after lawmakers gave themselves a multimillion dollar raise.

The program paid legislators $10 to $100 a day depending on how far they had to commute.

Instead of speaking with 25 Investigates after a public event, McMurtry snuck out the back door, fleeing in a car driven by the Westwood Town Administrator and leaving his own car in the parking lot.

State Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) wouldn’t speak with 25 Investigates either.

He claimed he came to the State House all five days the week of Thanksgiving, but 25 Investigates found that wasn’t true.

State Rep. John Mahoney wasn’t at the State House at all Thanksgiving week last year, but the Worcester Democrat collected public cash for commuting two days that week. 
Mahoney has yet to respond to any emails or calls for comment.

“It would foolish for any representative to risk their career, their livelihood on such a small amount of money,” said state Rep. David Linsky, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Linsky told 25 Investigates he has never been untruthful on his own commuting logs. But he also pushed back when 25 Investigates asked if the public deserves more transparency from him and his colleagues. One of his staffers later pointed out Linsky’s committee can’t investigate any legislators under the law.

Linsky said, “Every representative who puts in a per diem sheet signs it under the pains and penalties of perjury and that's reviewed by the State Treasurer.”

But state Treasurer Deb Goldberg confirmed to 25 Investigates that her office isn’t checking whether lawmakers are being accurate and honest.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Lawmakers charge taxpayers for commutes after perk ended

MORE: 25 Investigates: Lawmakers billed taxpayers for bogus commutes


Calling all internet detectives:

25 Investigates tried to track down as many lawmakers as possible, but our team could only be in so many places at once and now we need your help.
We’ve created a searchable database online of every lawmaker who collected tax dollars for commutes since 2014. If you know of a lawmaker who was out of the state, on vacation or working at another job while claiming commuting expenses, let us know.

You can find an incomplete list of lawmakers' commuting records at the bottom of this story, but click here to search and filter the full database dating back to 2014.


 

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