GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 26, 2012

Governor eyes money for crime lab followup

From Wire and Staff Reports
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — BOSTON — With multiple investigations and court proceedings ongoing to deal with the fallout from alleged evidence tampering at a state drug lab, the Patrick administration next week plans to file a budget request with the Legislature “seeking interim funding sufficient to cover costs related to the crime lab for at least the next few months.”

Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said late Wednesday that several state agencies and municipalities have requested “significant amounts of funding,” but the administration could not immediately put a dollar amount on the request.

The Essex County District Attorney’s office alone is going over more than 8,000 cases whose evidence reportedly included samples handled by the now-closed lab. And Gloucester Police, among other departments, are awaiting word on whether — or, more realistically, how many — cases involving their department and Gloucester District Court may need more review or follow-up in the face of new challenges by defense attorneys.

Gonzalez had previously asked agencies such as the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the county district attorneys to respond by Wednesday with estimates of the additional funding that would be required to deal with the repercussions of indicted chemist Annie Dookhan’s mishandling of drug evidence at the Department of Public Health’s Hinton Laboratory in Jamaica Plain. In a statement, Gonzalez said not all impacted agencies or municipalities responded, and some failed to provide “sufficient supporting information” for the administration to assess their requests.

Still, Gonzalez said the governor would be filing a supplemental budget request next week that should cover expenses for a few months with future additional funding requests possible.

“(Administration and Finance) will continue to work with agencies and municipalities to further understand and evaluate their funding requests to ensure that any future funding needs are addressed in an effective and responsible manner,” Gonzalez said.

The administration will ask that the money be appropriated to a reserve under Gonzalez’s control so that the administration could make transfers to various state agencies and ensure the funding goes toward costs associated with the lab. “The governor is committed to addressing the costs associated with the crime lab in order to ensure justice and public safety in an effective and responsible manner,” Gonzalez said.

Though the exact costs are still unknown, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino alone has requested $15 million from the state to pay for additional police and oversight of released inmates as a result of Dookhan’s actions.