Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Friday, as he does each month for his "Ask the Governor" segment. On this month’s docket was a range of topics.
Many callers were particularly interested in asking the governor about the fallout from the Jeremiah Oliver case and the workload of DCF social workers:
There are two serious issues here, but they are not connected in this case. That’s all I’m saying. The issue of Jeremiah Oliver and his brother and sister and that family and their involvement with DCF is a very serious issue. It’s being taken very seriously. It is very upsetting to me personally, but the question of caseload by DCF social workers is a separate one from this – also an important one.
The governor reiterated his defense of embattled DCF commissioner Olga Roche, saying what went wrong with the Oliver case was more isolated.
"The social work provided to the family up until the end of last year was exemplary. It was in a different office, a different social worker, a different team – really terrific. The problem, again, -- based on what I know so far – seems to have been about the social worker who was fired from the office to which it was transferred and her supervisor. I’m going to hold my fire at that point, because I’ve asked the commissioner to look into the question about whether responsibility goes beyond those two. I have some reason to believe that it does."
Patrick also talked about another case that’s a little closer to home: the case of his first cousin, Reynolds Wintersmith Jr., who was among eight people whose drug sentences were commuted Thursday by President Barack Obama.
“Is that bizarre or what, “ Patrick said.
Patrick said the president’s decision was not quite all relative. He said he has never met Wintersmith and recalled hearing about him for the first time in an email Tuesday from his sister, which highlighted the attention Wintersmith’s case had gotten from the ACLU.
I read this email, and then yesterday – you know, I don’t do anything about it -- …and then yesterday [Chief of Staff Brendan Ryan] walks in and says, “Do you have a cousin named Reynolds Wintersmith ?” And I say, “That is so weird. I just got this email, you know the other day.” And he says, “Well you know, the president just commuted eight sentences and one of them was [your cousin].
Asked whether or not he will reach out to Wintersmith:
I have no relationship with him. I’m not going to avoid him. I’ll probably check in with the cousin I do know. I think she may have a relationship with him. I’m not sure of that either.