Gov. Deval Patrick swore in the newest member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board this week, but that formality did not stop the new board member, John Jenkins, from weighing in last week and helping postpone the group’s next meeting — and controversial talk of a toll increase– until after Election Day.
Fellow board member Mary Connaughton charged the postponement not only violated board bylaws, but jeopardized the Turnpike’s credit rating. In addition, she said, it violated the transparency and orderly operation Patrick pledged when he gained control of the board.
Its former chairman, Matthew Amorello, was frequently accused of operating in secret and with disregard for the bylaws.
“The transparency is totally gone,” Connaughton said. “The only thing that’s transparent these days is the lack of transparency.”
Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen told The Associated Press he exercised his personal prerogative to postpone a meeting scheduled for Tuesday after determining there was a consensus to support the decision.
Yet at the time of Cohen’s decision Friday, Jenkins had not been sworn in, leaving the board with four members. Two of them, Connaughton and Judy Pagliuca, were opposed to a postponement — creating a split rather than a consensus.
Asked how consensus was achieved, Cohen said he considered the opinion of Jenkins, a donor to the Democratic governor and president of Boston-based West Insurance Agency Inc. He previously served as senior vice president for global operations for Polaroid Corp.
“This was shared with him,” Cohen said of Jenkins. “Yes, though he had not been sworn in yet, he had been appointed by the governor, so it was my belief that his opinion counted.”
“For me, the major factor was linking toll policy to the plan that the governor has asked me to develop on restructuring the Turnpike,” the secretary said.
In his statement announcing the swearing-in of Jenkins, Patrick said the new member will “offer a strong voice and years of experience in budget management at a critical time in the board’s history.”
Jenkins, a Natick resident, was sworn in for a five-year term, replacing Thomas Stephens. He stepped down in August.
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