National Republicans opened the political Pandora’s Box last week, airing a SuperPAC ad, accusing Coakley of not protecting children in DCF care.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Steve Kerrigan and Peter MacKinnon, DCF chapter president of SEIU Local which has endorsed Coakley, Monday accused Baker of ignoring the needs of the agency which they said was near collapse when he was Administration and Finance secretary in 1995-96.
“Caseloads spiraled out of control under Charlie Baker, forcing social workers to mount a legal challenge to try and force him to take action,” said Kerrigan. “A commission studying the agency found DSS had failed to stop child abuse and neglect in six out of 10 cases.”
“So what did Charlie Baker do, when leading an agency on the verge of collapse,” asked MacKinnon. “What did he do now that he had he financial resources to support the fix?”
MacKinnon and Kerrigan point to $1.9 million Baker returned to the state’s general fund in 1996 when he was Administration and Finance Secretary that had been authorize to hire 129 social workers “to score political points,” said Kerrigan.
“We never did anything to make political points, to score political points when it came to child welfare,” said Baker. “I’m very proud of the work I did in the Weld administration some 20 years ago on child welfare issues.”
His campaign pointed to his record of increased spending every year he was Health and Human Services Secretary from FY1991 to FY1994.
Asked about the $1.9 million he tried to return to the state’s general fund instead of using it to hire more social workers in 1996, Baker was initially vague.
“Well, we were in the process at the time of hiring,” he answered. “We hired a tremendous number of new social workers.”
Asked if he was saying the $1.9 million wasn’t needed, he rejected that statement.
“No, no, no,” said Baker. “What I’m saying is we were hiring social workers during that period of time as quickly as we could find qualify people to take positions and at the end of the year, we ended up with a little bit of overage.”
In 1996 when the Weld administration used that argument, recent college graduates with social work degrees unable to find jobs, released a lengthy list of their names.
“That sounds like an excuse to me,” said Coakley responding to Baker’s defense. “He was the one person in this race who had the opportunity, both as secretary of health and human services and at A&F to give them the resources that they need. He didn’t do it.”
Democrats released their own, new SuperPAC ad titled “Results” bragging about Coakley’s record of helping women and children, hoping to neutralize the damage from the GOP ad still airing.