David Roulston: Let Me Tell You a Story
Let me tell you a story. In 1983 or 1984, while I was in house counsel for the Department of Mental Health stationed at the Fernald state School, a complaint came in that a staff person had beaten a resident with a wiffle ball bat. Our human rights officer, Paul Bermingham was assigned to do an investigation which I supervised. We had the culprit. He was fired.
The accused staff person pursued his union grievances through the labyrinth of that system. Ultimately the Office of Employee Relations (OER) without any consultation with anyone at Fernald dropped the case. The employee was reinstated with back pay. The first Paul and I heard about this was when he arrived back at work with a new car. We were pissed.
I vented my bitterness to Joseph Wert the Superintendant who sighed and said these things happen all the time. I did get him to use his influence to get a meeting with the higher ups at OER and management at Fernald. It was quite a meeting. I kept pressing the point that they were our representatives and that their failure to even consult with us on these matters was very damaging to staff morale and our ability to manage our employees.
Not being satisfied with OER’s appearance to address the problem, I went underground. I got in contact with Jack Flynn a reporter for the Springfield Union News who was developing a series on mistreatment in mental retardation facilities. I became the internal source for many of his stories, while Tony Winsor of Mass Law Reform Institute became the published source for this material.
As a result of this series the Governor and the legislature reacted. The Department of Mental Health promulgated a package of regulations that mandated investigations within all DMH services and outlined a coherent procedure for the conduct of investigations. The Department of Mental Health also created its own internal affairs office with skilled and experienced investigators. This also served as a catalyst for the creation of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC)
A few months later while I was walking through the corridors of DMH’s central office, Larry Wheeler, the head of the Department’s Human Rights Office called me over and said that he wanted to introduce me to someone. I met a former FBI agent who had just been hired to head up internal affairs. As he introduced me to her he said” This is the single most important person in the creation of your job.”
David Roulston is campaigning in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Franklin District Seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Posting this story does not constitute an endorsement.