Let's Not Wait for Next Tragedy

Let's Not Wait for Next Tragedy

By Peter Gelzinis, Boston Herald Columnist
1/24/2014

David Linsky should have grilled DCF Commissioner Olga Roche six months ago.

It’s a shame the Natick rep didn’t ask this embattled bureaucrat back then the question he fired at her yesterday:

“Can you give me and the other 6 million people of the commonwealth the assurance that you know that every one of those 36,000 children in your care today are present, alive and healthy?”

If Linsky, the chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, had put that question to the head of the Department of Children and Families back in, say, July or August, there probably wouldn’t have been any need for him to hit Roche with the other half of his question:

“Can you give me that assurance that there are no other Jeremiah Olivers out there?”

Yesterday, a chastened Roche told Linsky her department knew of no other children who had vanished in their care. Jeremiah Oliver was the only one.

I will say this about Olga Roche’s performance yesterday. Someone gave her pointers in how to smother the pols in mind-numbing waves of empty rhetoric.

She never answered a direct question in a sentence of less than 500 or 600 words. The proof was there on a big screen upon which a stenographer valiantly posted Olga’s run-on sentences almost as fast as she spit them out. Clearly, the strategy here was for Olga to bury the pols under tons of words about protocols and procedures, spiced with just a hint of appropriate outrage pointed at those three DCF workers she fired for losing track of Jeremiah Oliver.

The only pol who cut through this fog was Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield.

She made the point of saying that pressing for a mea culpa or working up a reflex head of outrage after this latest high-profile DCF fiasco was little more than an empty gesture.

“I think we can, and should, do something legislatively to come up with a structure whereby there is a regular review of the (DCF),” Farley-Bouvier told me during a break in yesterday’s hearing. “There should be reviews of the department on a regular basis, not just when another high-profile case explodes into the public’s view.

“Because, as I told the commissioner, there will be another high-profile case,” she said. “That’s the way it’s been for the last 30 years and many other commissioners.”

She is absolutely right. What took place in the Gardner Auditorium should — and must — take place at least twice a year. Then, perhaps, Olga Roche, or whoever the commissioner may be, would be forced to answer questions in simple sentences.

And maybe they would not have the time to lose another Jeremiah Oliver.

Posted on 24 Jan 2014, 8:59 - Category: News

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