• Polito's Take: Highway robbery


    It's time for an investigation into the highway robbery known as the per diem system for state lawmakers. I asked Attorney General Martha Coakley's office Wednesday if per diems were on their radar? They declined to comment. I'm hoping that there's already an investigation going on behind the scenes.

    We have a system that invites corruption. Forget about the fact that we should not pay our elected officials to drive to work. I am not indicting every lawmaker, but when you are asking me, a taxpayer, to pick up the tab for your commute, I want to know that I'm not being cheated. Right now, it's the honor system. No checks and balances or verification.

    Let's look at the case of Representative John Fresolo. You probably recognize the Worcester Democrat's name. We first reported last week that he's the subject of an ethics investigation for what the House speaker's office called very serious allegations.

    In 2011, Mr. Fresolo was paid $7,848 by taxpayers for his commute. That puts him in the top 10 highest paid per diems to reps and senators. He claims that he traveled to his Beacon Hill office 218 times in 2011. There's only 252 days that the State House is open for business each year. We have no way of verifying if he was actually there. Let's ask him to prove it. Why not check to see if he logged on to his office computer on any of those days. Oops, maybe they're already checking that in the ethics investigation. Perhaps they could share that information with Attorney General Coakley. That would be a tow for one, like hot dogs at Fenway in April.

    Remember the other top 10 per diem? Rep. John Binienda, also a Worcester Democrat, collected $8,676 in 2011. This busy little beaver claims he went to the State House 241 days out of a possible 252. That leaves only 11 business days that he did not make the trip. Come on! Prove it, punch a clock, swipe an ID card, do something to verify you were there.

    I could not find evidence that the per diem system has ever been audited. The Commonwealth's Auditor does not have jurisdiction over the mileage reimbursement system. As a matter of fact, the auditor can do very little when it comes to the legislature. Think about it. Our auditor cannot audit a system that is basically a license to steal. Every year, legislation is filed to give the auditor this power, but each time it fails. Gee, I wonder why.

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