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A fond farewell?

0224_pg03_GoldsteinChanges are afoot at the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, but those in charge insist they have nothing to do with any of the well-documented problems plaguing the agency.

A Dec. 30 story in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reported on an unusually ugly MCAD suit brought by Administrative Judges Kalina K. Vendetti, Cheryl A. Jacques and Cristina Poulter. The three women accuse DIA leadership of gender discrimination, illegal pay disparities, unfair parking privileges, perjury and lack of due process.

“If people had any idea how the DIA was treating the judges they appear before, they’d be stunned. They’d be totally stunned,” Vendetti told Lawyers Weekly at the time.

As the discrimination suit plays out, two of the officials at the center of the allegations have moved on.

Joanne F. Goldstein, secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, announced on Jan. 17 that she was departing the public sector to become an associate vice president at Northeastern University. Her last day on the job was Jan. 30, when she was replaced by Rachel Kaprielian of the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Goldstein’s announcement was followed by news that DIA Director Philip L. Hillman was leaving on Feb. 18. Hillman has taken his talents to the Massachusetts Housing Authority, where he now serves as chief administrative officer.

Robert Oftring Jr., legislative director of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, insists the ongoing MCAD matter played no role in Hillman’s departure.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he says. “That’s why he [left].”

While the involved participants are remaining silent, a person in the know calls the DIA a “mess.”

The source, who asks not to be identified for fear of reprisal, says the powers-that-be at the agency continue to come down on anyone who speaks out against them.

“This isn’t an easy place to be working,” the source says. “Everyone is walking around on pins and

needles.”

A number of witnesses have told Lawyers Weekly that Jacques, Vendetti and at least one other judge who raised concerns about agency leadership received negative performance reviews for the first time in their DIA tenures. Jacques’ six-year term is up for review in March; it is unclear whether she will be reappointed.

“I am deeply disappointed by what is clearly retaliation for having joined with fellow women judges in raising a legitimate legal concern about pay inequity,” Jacques said in a written statement. “After five years of exemplary performance reviews, it defies common sense that it is a coincidence that I, along with other judges who have spoken up about this concern, have inexplicably received downgrades in our performance reviews for 2013.”

Vendetti could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

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