Transparency is a four-letter word in Massachusetts politics.
Putting a pin in the State Legislature’s efforts to stop Auditor Diana DiZoglio from opening the books, the most egregious example of late comes from the top.
Gov. Maura Healey will no longer disclose her out-of-state travel in advance, it was reported late last week. This came after Healey took a trip to North Carolina in early October without it being made public at the time. Her office said the new policy is due to unspecified “security concerns.”
This is quite a change from the Maura Healey of February 2022, who, as a gubernatorial candidate, backed a bill that would make the governor’s office follow the state public records law.
“AG Healey has long supported updating the public records law to cover the Governor’s Office in the interest of transparency and accountability,” Healey spokesperson Jillian Fennimore said.
The problem, Healey learned after becoming governor, was that transparency means people can see what you’re doing, and that leaves you open for scrutiny.
Regarding travel, by July Healey had been out of state overnight for four full weeks since taking office in January. She headed to Atlantic City for a conference in July, followed by a trip to Michigan, as Western Mass. coped with damage from floods.
A trade trip she took to Ireland the previous month cost more than $83,000. It was largely covered with state funds dedicated to tourism and a technology-focused public agency, the administration disclosed.
Healey’s zipped off to Washington, D.C., multiple times, Florida and nearby Rhode Island.
All this was noticed, and called out. There’s nothing wrong with a governor visiting other states or going on vacation, certainly, but there’s plenty of things that require attention right here at home.
Her solution? Stop disclosing her travel plans. She’s not alone, though Healey might not like the company she’s in. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in May exempting records related to his travel from the state’s public disclosure law, CNN reported. The move was met with outrage from many Democrats. We doubt Dems will aim similar brickbats at Healey.
Security is of course a concern for all public figures, and we don’t slight the governor for wanting protection. However, former Gov. Charlie Baker had protestors outside his residence numerous times, with an intruder going so far as to enter his home in 2020, and still made his travel plans public.
So for now the Governor who supports “transparency and accountability” will keep her travel plans mum, and the State Legislature remains unaudited.
All this is happening as a commission is coming up with a new seal and motto for the state. The Seal and Motto Commission released a public survey created in partnership with UMass Boston where residents could “have a voice in creating a seal and motto that represents the history and aspirations of Massachusetts.” The commission will reportedly make final recommendations to the legislature by Nov. 15.
We recommend a closed eye and the motto “nothing to see here, folks.”