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COLUMN

Apology Not Swift In Coming

Michael J. Ring

I don’t know if Governor Paul Cellucci is a religious man, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s at Mass this morning praying feverishly that last week’s polls showing Al Gore even or only slightly ahead of George W. Bush are wrong.

Because if Bush wins, our good governor is outta here. Gone. Vamoose. He’ll take a job, any job, in the W. administration. Secretary of Transportation. Ambassador to Italy. It doesn’t matter so long as he gets out of the Corner Office and the wake of recent repeated scandals.

But as Bay State residents, Cellucci’s dream is our worst nightmare. Three words should strike fear into every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth:

Governor Jane Swift.

For when it comes to feeding at the public trough, reaching for that extra perquisite, Jane Swift has been there, by land or by air.

Last week, the State Ethics Commission cited Jane Swift for asking two of her staffers to babysit her daughter.

But amazingly the Ethics Commission let Swift walk on several of her other escapades. It said she committed no wrongdoing in asking aides to help her move. It also let her off the hook for her Thanksgiving week ride in a State Police helicopter to beat Mass Pike traffic -- the state’s most famous (or infamous) ride since that of Paul Revere.

And Swift has made other missteps as well: consider the teaching job at Suffolk University she held until recently where she made $25,000, or several times more than most part-time instructors; her occupancy of an apartment in Boston owned by a developer with political ties in a building where many units are state-subsidized; and a shadowy attempt by state officials to get Swift a bulletproof limousine for a now-canceled trip to Argentina.

The lieutenant governor, surely aware of a Boston Globe poll earlier this year where only 1 in 5 voters approved of her job performance, seems to realize how lightly the Ethics Commission has treated her and has spent the past week issuing mea culpas:

“I owe an apology to the people of Massachusetts. I made some mistakes and I am sorry for them.”

“I made errors in judgment. It is my responsibility.”

“There’s no doubt I’ve made mistakes and the public has lost confidence in my ability to provide leadership on matters they care about.”

But compare these statements to what she was saying after the chopper and baby-sitting stories broke in January, when she was offered the opportunity to make an immediate and sincere apology:

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to be a good mother and a good lieutenant governor.”

And last August, when Massport chief Peter Blute was found with his hand in the public cookie jar in a manner similar to Swift, and for which he lost his job:

“Both the governor and I take very seriously the public trust placed in us and we will not tolerate any breaking of that trust by anyone associated with our administration.”

“Utilizing state resources for personal use is not acceptable.”

Swift wants us to believe she’s repentant and reformed, but her initial vehement defiance, as well as the lapse of over half a year for a full and unequivocal apology, shows her real character. Jane Swift is an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- not for her unethical actions, which are minor in degree, but for her unwillingness to take responsibility for them and the hypocrisy with which she treated Blute. She had her chance to apologize and seek forgiveness -- she blew it.

And having Jane Swift as governor would send the message to other state officials that such hijinks are accepted, and unrepentant behavior is tolerated.

So sorry, Governor Cellucci, but I’ll be praying that the W. candidacy goes down in flames. For as much as I have disliked your tenure in office, I’d rather see you in there than your partner in crime.