Howie: Once you go hack, you never go back

It’s true — most of the people who get patronage jobs never return to any employment of any sort that requires, you’ll pardon the expression, work.

Once you go hack, you never go back.

It’s true — most of the people who get patronage jobs never return to any employment of any sort that requires, you’ll pardon the expression, work.

And the higher the salary a payroll patriot grabs for his no-heavy-lifting sinecure in the hackerama, the less likely it is he or she will ever return to a productive role in society.

The attraction of being a hack boils down to three words: It beats working.

Meet the hack du jour, Sabina Herlihy. She’s the latest beneficiary of a nationwide search by the failed administration of Gov. Charlie Parker, as Dementia Joe Biden calls him.

According to the state comptroller, Sabina has just been hired by the Executive Office of Health & Human Services as “dep dir board of hearing” for $103,942 a year.

For three days, I’ve been emailing the EOHHS and Gov. Charlie Baker’s office, asking them to explain the murky circumstances of this particular nationwide search.

Usually, even with the most indefensible hack hires, a pro forma defense or at least a “no comment” is offered by the capo di tutti hacki. This time, though, nothing. Zero response, zero defense. Not even, “Sabina Who?”

Maybe Parker et al. remember Herlihy’s last public appearance, when she was trying to win reconfirmation to her old hack job — administrative judge for the Industrial Accident Board.

She was pocketing $135,854 a year in that job.

The only problem was, to keep that job for another six years, she had to be reconfirmed by the Governor’s Council.

The council is an elected body where, to be blunt, seldom is heard a discouraging word. When he was governor, James Michael Curley used to call the council “a hock shop.”

Meaning, you can do business with the Governor’s Council. Wink wink nudge nudge.

But as a judge Sabina Herlihy was apparently so terrible that when she came up for her reappointment hearing, last year, two labor lawyers who practiced before the Industrial Accident Board appeared before the Governor’s Council to denounce her.

That’s unusual behavior, and very risky, because if you’re a lawyer and you testify against someone who is then reconfirmed, your clients are going to be at a real disadvantage.

At one point, one of the witnesses against Herlihy recalled an appearance by an injured worker, who was accompanied by his pregnant wife. Herlihy reportedly pointed at the woman and then said to her husband, “If you can do that, you can work too.”

Herlihy was about to become one of those rarest of hacks — rejected by the hock shop. She withdrew from consideration “with deep regret.” She said, in essence, you can’t fire me, I quit.

That was in January of last year. But this being Charlie Parker’s hackerama, her snout remained buried in the trough for months longer. Even though she’d basically been fired, she grabbed another $111,295.90 for the year, then finally took a “buyout” of $8,250.17.

I thought a “buyout” meant bye-bye, I’m outta here.

Apparently not anymore, though. As a lawyer, it seems that Sabina then briefly tried to practice law out of her hometown of Walpole. But not for long — when I called her listed office number Thursday, I learned it was “not in service.”

Here are some of the questions I posed to Charlie Parker’s payroll patriots, which they chose not to respond to:

Was there a nationwide search before her new $103,942-a-year position was filled? Can you send me the required posting for the position?

Who previously held this position, or is it newly created? Is Sabina “working from home?”

What exactly does a “buyout” mean when a person almost immediately returns to the state payroll?

Two members of the Governor’s Council criticized the decision to rehire the failed judge.

“Based on her interview for reappointment,” said Councilor Bob Jubinville, “it was clear that she was not forthright and I believe that is detrimental for someone who wants to be a judge. I find it hard to believe that they’ve put her back on the public payroll.”

Governor’s Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney called the hiring an “absolute disgrace.”

“She should be disqualified from public service just based on her rude, obnoxious statement to the man with the pregnant wife,” Devaney said. “I kept asking her questions about all the charges that the lawyers made against her, and she kept saying, ‘I can’t remember, I don’t recall.’ I finally told her, you seem to have a real problem with your memory.”

By the way, Sabina’s first and only six-year appointment to the Industrial Accident Board came in 2013.

She had given $250 in 2010 to soon-to-be-disgraced Lt. Gov. Tim “Crash” Murray. A nationwide search followed.

That six-year appointment expired in May 2019. Yet she continued to collect her $135,854-a-year hack salary until late 2020.

But now Sabina Herlihy is back on the dole, after a brief sojourn to that darkest of destinations for any hack, the Dreaded Private Sector. Having to actually earn a living — if it’s not a near-death experience for your average payroll Charlie, it comes damn close.

Once you go hack, you never go back.

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