• Confirmation hearings begin for controversial state judge appointee


    Confirmation hearings began on Wednesday for Gov. Deval Patrick's controversial pick as a state judge.

    Members of the Governor's Council gave both their support and a few tough questions to outgoing Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan.

    Heffernan's time on the governor's cabinet recently came to an end and it was not without controversy.

    "There are issues out there about the lieutenant governor's accident, about the crime lab, and hopefully she'll respond to those concerns today," said Jennie Caissie of the Governor's Council.

    Heffernan's leadership was called into question along with Human Services Secretary Judy Ann Bigby in the ongoing state drug lab scandal. As secretary of public safety, Heffernan oversaw the Mass. State Police and their investigation into Lt. Gov. Tim Murray's high-speed crash involving a state vehicle. The investigation did not result in any significant charges.

    More recently, Heffernan faced scrutiny when it was revealed that she hired former Highway Safety Director Sheila Burgess despite a lengthy driving record with multiple violations. She was asked about that hiring two hours into the hearing.

    "I knew nothing of her record, her driving record," Heffernan explained. "Nobody in my office did. I knew nothing of her background. When it was brought to my office as secretary just recently we took appropriate action."

    Heffernan asked people, including the council, to look at her entire career, which she feels has led her to the judge appointment.

    The Governor's Council could vote on Heffernan's confirmation as early as next week.

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