Two DCR officials out amid shakeup
Coercion of staff member is cited Baker hints more change is coming
By Jim O’Sullivan
Globe Staff

Moving to alleviate a growing political headache, Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced a shakeup at the state’s energy and environment agency, which has been plagued by scandals in recent months, as two top officials joined a lengthening list of departures.

An investigation into political intimidation allegations by an employee at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs resulted in Baker aides saying one agency official would be fired and its chief operating officer had resigned.

The probe found that Jared Valanzola, a Department of Conservation and Recreation personnel officer, “did attempt to coerce’’ a co-worker to persuade her fiancé not to challenge a Republican state senator in the November election.

Energy and environment officials were “moving to terminate’’ Valanzola, officials said Wednesday, calling the behavior “unacceptable.’’ A second official, energy and environmental affairs office chief operating officer Michael Valanzola, a cousin of Jared’s, resigned.

At an afternoon press conference at the State House, Baker said he had been “astonished’’ by “some issues’’ at DCR.

“Anybody who engages in any of the kinds of activity that have been associated with either this investigation or some of the stuff that’s been reported on with respect to the misuse of state property and all the rest, we will deal with that, and we will deal with it aggressively,’’ he said.

The governor also hinted at more changes at the parks department.

“We’ll be making some announcements about DCR probably shortly,’’ he said.

The investigation at the center of Wednesday’s announcement started afterCynthia Lewis, a program coordinator for the state’s environmental police, said she had faced pushback after her fiancé, Democratic state Senate candidate J.D. Parker-O’Grady, challenged Republican state Senator Don Humason. Lewis told investigators that she believed the agency transferred her from Boston to Fall River due to the friction.

Baker aides said they found “no conclusive evidence that the transfer was politically motivated, but found other evidence of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.’’

Lewis remains on administrative leave at her request, officials said.

Baker said Wednesday that Humason had no knowledge of any intimidation effort.

Baker aides said Jared Valanzola “misrepresented his role in Cynthia Lewis’s hiring process to investigators’’ and gave investigators testimony that was at odds with other “credible’’ witnesses. They declined to elaborate on the findings.

The administration also accepted the resignation of the agency’s COO, Michael Valanzola, despite “no conclusive evidence’’ that he sought retaliation against Lewis. Officials said his resignation was “necessary to restore confidence in the human resources function for the secretariat.’’

Michael Valanzola ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2014, one of at least seven losing Republican candidates who found jobs with the Baker administration in its early months.

A third official, EEA program manager Tim Sullivan, received a warning from management after an allegation by Lewis that he “invaded her personal space’’ while discussing the transfer with her.

Officials said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton “has begun to employ new personnel at the secretariat level to oversee human resources functions.’’ Baker has repeatedly stated his support for Beaton despite the spate of scandals under his aegis.

Wednesday’s personnel fallout was just the latest damaging news related to the energy and environmental affairs secretariat, which has threatened to tarnish Baker’s carefully cultivated image of reform and no-nonsense management.

On Tuesday, administration officials said Baker had pulled back about 20 state-issued cars for employees after a monthslong review by his budget office.

Last week the administration fired deputy DCR commissioner, Matthew Sisk, for inappropriately using the siren and flashing lights on his state-issued vehicle to get through a jammed Boston intersection. Another top DCR official, Michael Crowley, director of the agency’s fleet operations, also resigned.

Last month Baker ordered Sisk and Commissioner Leo Roy to take a week of unpaid leave for using public resources to host a July 3 party at the Beacon Hill condominium owned by Republican National Committee member Ron Kaufman, a top Baker supporter. Attendees were chauffeured on taxpayer-rented golf carts to a VIP area of the Hatch Shell’s Fourth of July celebration.

Democrats, many of whom have been reluctant to criticize Baker, shown by polls to be one of the most popular governors in the country, have picked up on the agency’s woes. On Wednesday, state Democratic Party executive director Jason Cincotti jabbed at Baker, saying in an e-mail, “Instead of showing real leadership, the governor grounded the folks from DCR for a whole week for throwing a party, then he took away their keys because they aren’t responsible drivers.’’

Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at