By Steven R. Maher
Auburn Selectmen Chairman Doreen M. Goodrich’s February 2012 private reprimand of fellow Selectmen Steven R. Simonian was, depending on your point of view, either a commendable class act by someone attempting to be ladylike, or a sneak attack by a calculating political operative. Simonian is the Republican challenger to 2nd Worcester District State Senator Michael O. Moore; Goodrich is Moore’s Director of Constituent Services.
Goodrich is also Chairman of the Auburn Democratic Town. According to the Worcester Telegram report of February 14, 2012, in a letter provided privately to Simonian, Goodrich said Simonian approached her after a January 9, 2012 executive session “..in an intimidating manner”, pointing his finger at her, and speaking “..in an agitated and aggressive manner…” Labor Counsel Dee Moschos, Town Accountant Edward K. Kazanovicz, and Town Manager Julie A. Jacobson reportedly witnessed the incident.
“I will not tolerate your aggressive and antagonistic behavior toward me or any other board member,” continued Goodrich, as reported by the Worcester Telegram. “This letter serves as a warning to you that I will not allow belligerent and aggressive behavior or inappropriate conduct between select board members.”
In a telephone interview, Goodrich said Simonian had literally gotten in her face, and was right up close to her.” Goodrich claimed that Moschos urged her to write a letter to all Selectmen saying that such behavior was unacceptable. It was sound advice, but Goodrich rejected it. Instead, she privately reprimanded Simonian in a private letter she left in his envelope slot at the Town Hall.
“I was trying not to embarrass him, I didn’t want it to become a public thing,” explained Goodrich. “
Goodrich was elected Chairman of the Board of Selectmen on May 23, 2011 with the help of two other Moore supporters: the longest serving member of the board, Robert S. Grossman, and the newest member, Denise H. Brotherton.
According to OCPF records, Grossman or a member of his household made donations to Moore’s campaign committee on the following dates: October 19, 2012 ($100.00); October 20, 2008 ($100.00); February 28, 2009 ($100.00); April 28, 2009 ($100.00); April 28, 2009 ($100.00); January 31, 2010 ($100.00); January 31, 2010 ($130.00); August 22, 2011 ($100.00); and November 7, 2011 ($100.00).
Brotherton, whose husband was one of the six firefighters who died in the December 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, was elected a Selectman in May 2011. She gave Moore a $100.00 donation on October 15, 2011. Brotherton received donations for her 2011 Selectman campaign of $500.00 from the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, $100.00 from Local 1009 (Worcester fire fighters union), and an “in kind” donation of $118.00 from former Auburn Fire Department Chief Roger Belhumuer for printing campaign flyers.
Dee Moschos, the lawyer who recommended to Goodrich that she write the entire board that behavior like Simonian’s was unacceptable, donated to Moore as well: October 16, 2008 ($100.00); April 30, 2009 ($100.00); November 7, 2009 ($100.00); March 23, 2010 ($125.00); March 22, 2011 ($100.00); and August 22, 2011 ($100.00).
We wanted to see what, if anything, Moschos was paid for his advice to Goodrich. A public records request was sent to Auburn Town Manager Julie A. Jacobson for a copy of Moscho’s bills for January and February 2012. What we received looked sanitized. The bills showed Moschos billed Auburn taxpayers $9,996.64 in January and $9,720.95 in February, but the invoices were coded with account numbers such as “General Counsel” rather than a detailed breakdown of the hourly billings.
Usually the town of Auburn stamps on invoices the date received, to prove at a later date the bills weren’t paid late; neither Moschos bill was dated stamped.
It took no small amount of courage for Simonian to buck a board chaired by Moore’s Director of Constituent Services, a majority of whose members were Moore supporters, backed up by a high powered, blue chip law firm attorney who had donated generously to Moore for four years. Simonian asked that Goodrich’s letter be put on the agenda at the February 13, 2012 meeting. “I find the timing of her letter suspect, since she wrote it right after her boss found out I had formed an exploratory committee to see what kind of support I had to run for a 2nd Worcester senate seat,” Simonian was quoted by the WorcesterTelegram as saying. “I find the timing and content suspect.”
“I didn’t know that,” Goodrich said of Simonian’s candidacy. As Simonian continued talking, responding to a member of the audience, Goodrich slammed the gavel down and went on to the next item on the agenda.
Moore admitted he heard rumors that Simonian was running but both he and Goodrich assert they did not discuss the Simonian reprimand before Goodrich sent it. “We never talked about it,” an adamant Moore said.
We could find no evidence to support Simonian’s claim that his senate candidacy was known prior to the February 13, 2012 Selectmen’s meeting. A search of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance (OCPF) website for paperwork submitted by anyone with the last named of “Simonian” turned up nothing. “Exploratory committees” are usually formed for Presidential candidates, not Massachusetts state senators. Nether the Worcester Telegram nor the Auburn News, a weekly newspaper, reported prior to February 13, 2012 that Simonian was a Senate candidate. Nor did two websites which report frequently on Auburn events, www.thedailyauburn.com and the www.golocalworcester.com
The next clash between the two candidates took place in April 2012, when Simonian showed up at a fundraiser for the Leicester Food Pantry and Leicester Library sponsored by Moore and his 1998 opponent, Leicester Selectman Douglas Belanger. Simonian claimed that he went to make a donation and after fifteen minutes was asked to leave “in a condescending manner” by a Moore office worker, according to a report in the www.thedailyauburn.com.
“He was not kicked out by any of my representatives,” responded Moore, who called Simonian’s claim “ridiculous”. Moore said in a phone interview that he conducted no investigation to determine if someone in his campaign had ordered Simonian out.
We wanted to ask Simonian if going to an event sponsored by his opponent wasn’t a little provocative. He did try to return a phone call requesting comment for this story, but the author was away working at another job.
Two patterns seem to be emerging in this campaign. First, Moore is washing his hands of responsibility for actions against Simonian by his supporters. He didn’t investigate the Leicester incident and claims he didn’t discuss the “reprimand letter” with Goodrich. Second, Simonian seems to be putting himself into positions where he provokes Moore’s supporters, and then runs to the media to present himself as the injured party.
Simonian boils his campaign platform down to four key issues:
• Putting his district first. Simonian alleges that Moore in 2011“had the opportunity to advocate for our communities to receive a portion of unused budget money; however, he failed to do so.” Moore disputes this, saying he voted against an amendment for the funds in the budget process but that the final budget contained the funds Simonian was referring to.
• “The legislative and judicial branches of state government must adopt regulatory and taxation policies that promote a competitive business environment,” says Simonian. “It is imperative that that our legislature spare no effort in reversing the current business climate in Massachusetts, and restore it to one of the top states in the country in which to do business.”
• Simonian supports the Department of Homeland Security’s “Secure Communities” in which state and local communities share immigrant finger print data. “[It] is not about immigration,” maintains Simonian. “All too often tragedies have occurred at the hands of immigration law violators. In some cases, people had previously violated state law and no action was taken based upon their illegal entry into our country and state.” Moore said he always supported the “Secure Communities Act” and his office emailed us a version of the law Moore himself co-sponsored.
• One party control of state government. “For more than half a century, one party has controlled the Massachusetts legislature,” contends Simonian. “I believe that government service as an elected official should be an honor and not a means to supplement or create a pension.”
This last item touches on what may be the deciding factor in this election: the question of “double dipping”, of accepting two incomes from the state government.
Whatever the issues, this campaign is getting incredibly nasty. In April 2012, one blogger said on the Worcester Telegram website for Auburn http://cf.telegram.com/town_portal_includes/display_full_flash_messages.cfm?TOWN=Auburn, that a candidate for Selectman had hired a private investigator to do background checks on their opponents. There have been allegations of infidelity by some candidates, and on April 23, 2012 allegations of misconduct by nuclear members of the Simonian and Goodrich families were posted but quickly taken down by the Telegram.
Goodrich denied she ever hired a private investigator to look into her opponents’ background. “Never,” she said. “I’ve never even posted anything on the TelegramTowns website.
In the ethics statement that he filed upon taking office, Moore forthrightly disclosed that he was receiving a $2,320 state tax-free pension from the state in addition to his $75,485 after tax income as a State Senator. The process is known as “double dipping”, which means Moore has two sources of income from state government. In a Worcester Telegram article by Shaun Sutner, Moore defended his pension, saying that if he had waited until he was 55 he could have collected $75,000 a year, so in the long it actually saves taxpayers money, and that the pension was capped at the current amount. “My pension is capped and I will not receive a second pension after I leave the state senate,” who stressed his taking the pension at the time was the best deal for taxpayers.
In donations to three campaigns Goodrich listed under occupation/employer “CLERK UMASS MEMORIAL: in a March 11, 2012 $25.00 donation to Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray; in a September 26, 2006 $300.00 donation to the Democratic State Committee’s federal fund; and in a March, 2006 $75.00 donation to the Democratic State Committee’s state fund.
On Saturday April 21, 2012 the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center switchboard was called. A request was made to be connected with an employee named Doreen Goodrich, with Goodrich’s name being spelled out. We were put through to the OBGYN unit. On April 30, 2012 we contacted OBGYN during working hours. The person in the OBGYN billing department said Goodrich had left a year earlier. Moore said, as far as he knew, the only job Goodrich had was with him.
Goodrich says she used to work at UMMC as a clerk but left the job in 2011 when she went to work for Moore. .
. On April 23, 2012 requests were faxed to the state Human Resources Division and UMass Memorial for copies of Goodrich’s W-2s for the last three years, for both jobs. Since the officials at these institutions have ten days to respond under the state public records statute, no response was received before this newspaper went to press.
Goodrich and her husband Howard began having financial problems in the mid-1980s:
• On March 18, 1985 the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) recorded a $4,835.19 lien on Goodrich’s home at 29 Pinehurst Avenue, against Howard Goodrich for unpaid meals taxes.
• On February 26, 1986 DOR placed a second lien on the home for $12,433.36.
• On February 17, 1995 Britton Funeral homes recorded a $3,000.00 attachment on Goodrich’s home.
• On December 3, 1997 a deed was filed in the Registry of Deeds stating: “We, Howard W. Goodrich and Doreen M. Goodrich of 29 Pinehurst Avenue, in consideration of less than One Hundred and No/100 ($100.00) grant to Howard W. Goodrich, individually” the property at 29 Pinehurst Avenue. In other words, Goodrich sold her share of the house to her husband for less than $100.00.
• On April 14, 1998 Doreen Goodrich filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Worcester federal court. Her husband, now the sole owner of the family home, did not. Under oath, Goodrich swore she had no assets to satisfy her unsecured creditors.
• On July 29, 1998 Judge James F. Queenan Jr. issued an order discharging $12,324.80 in unpaid “credit card services.”
“That was the worst year of my life,” said Goodrich. “My husband, who was self employed, had a heart attack and I was at home with two small children. We had no money coming in. We went through hell that year.”
Goodrich also denied that she transferred her interest in the home to hide it from her creditors. “We were trying to refinance the home, but my credit rating made it impossible,” explained Goodrich. By getting her name off the property, Goodrich made it possible for her husband to refinance the property and pay back some their debts.
Simonian, a first term Selectman, faces an uphill battle to unseat Moore, a centrist Democrat and entrenched political figure. There will be a big turnout in the fall with the Presidential race, so anything is possible. There is only one certainty about this race: it’s going to be nasty.
Disclosure: On April 15, 1998, the day after Doreen Goodrich filed for bankruptcy, Worcester Magazine printed a story about the author, Attorney Steven R. Maher. The Worcester Magazine reporter told Maher that Doreen Goodrich had approached the newspaper and asked them to write the story. Maher filed an unsuccessful $12 million, 37-count libel suit against Worcester Magazine. In what was interpreted in some quarters as an apology to Maher, Worcester Magazine in its 30th anniversary issue critiqued the Worcester Magazine’s reporter handling of the 1998 Maher story. In that same issue, Worcester Magazine also designated a 1980 Worcester Magazine cover story authored by Maher entitled “Union Station Con Job” as the best-written and researched investigative story in its thirty-year history.