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Suzanne Bump Seeking Re-election as Auditor
By Andy McKeever On: 03:22AM / Saturday October 25, 2014
Auditor Suzanne Bump of Great Barrington is running for re-election.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In her efforts to modernize the auditor's office, Suzanne Bump has found some $400 million in misspent taxpayer money.
 
Bump is now running for re-election so she can continue her efforts both through auditing various state departments and improving the auditor's office.
 
"We made a deliberate focus on the quality of our work and not the quantity. With the audits we've done, we identified an unprecedented amount of broken systems, misspending and potential fraud and abuse. In fact $400 million worth," Bump said on Friday.
 
Most notable of Bump's audit was that of the Department of Transitional Assistance in which Bump identified thousands of welfare recipients who were cheating the system.
 
"We identified over 1,000 people who were getting benefits by using the Social Security number of someone who was dead. Another 1,000 dependents parents were getting benefits for with false social security numbers," Bump said. 
 
The report wasn't received very well by some, even in her own Democratic Party, who criticized her for the findings. Gov. Deval Patrick questioned her numbers and others felt the dollar figures were too little and that she should be looking for bigger cases.
 
Nothing the less she "rolled with the punches" and the system ultimately was improved.
 
"The point was that this is a program that is very much on the minds of the public and program integrity is key across government. I regard this as a vitally important program and we have to have people believe in it if they are to continue to fund it," she said.
 
Another audit of the MBTA showed that the board of directors had pushed through collection technology on buses and trains before it had been tested.
 
"It couldn't accurately count the amount of money that was collected on buses and light rail vehicles. They spent $94 million on the system," Bump said. "Since its inception there was $100 million that they couldn't account for. They would collect the money, add it up and then bring it to the bank. The bank would count it. And there was $100 million discrepancy between what the T said and what the bank said," she said.
 
"The bottom line is that if you can't accurately count the money that is being taken in, you can't tell if the money is being stolen. We weren't alleging that it had been stolen. We were alleging that it was imprudent of them to not fix the system."
 
The directors have since fixed the machines.
 
Bump also audited the Department of Children and Families and found a lack of departmental funding had left its foster program without enough social workers, training, case management technology and oversight.
 
"The agency was unable to do its job because it was starved for resources," she said.
 
Bump says her role is to give an objective look at the operations. Her focus is not simply how to improve the on-the-service operation issues such as how to provide services quicker, but to dig deep into an issue.
 
"I'm not content to do an audit and just address a symptom," she said, such as the DCF audit which then told legislators what they can do to improve the system.
 
"If decision makers have better information, they will make better decisions."
 
But it is not just dishing out criticism to department heads. Bump says she can take it, too. In 2011, a group of auditors from other states looked at the Massachusetts office. What they found was that the auditor's office didn't have the skills, training, technology and audit procedures it needed to do the job properly.
 
"If you fail in those measures, people don't have any reason to believe your audits," Bump said. "We are focusing on quality in the office."
 
Since then Bump implemented a turnover of employees, getting rid of those who couldn't properly do the job and adding educational requirements to new hires. She created an in-house training program to train both new workers and keep current employees up to date with changes in the field. And she placed an emphasis on data analysis and the technology needed for it. 
 
Now, that same audit group says Massachusetts is one of the best.
 
"The data analytics is a big deal. Instead of just doing reports based on the information that one agency has, we are integrating data from other sources that can help give us a deeper look," Bump said. 
 
Data analytics is intended to dig even deeper into a system. Bump used Berkshire Works as an example. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development knows how many people took a certain training course. But, they don't know if those people got jobs afterward.
 
The analytics couples the Department of Revenue data with the Labor and Workforce Development data for an array of information about the outcome those programs are having - such as the types of jobs workers are getting from taking the course.
 
Bump says if she wins election, she hopes to grow the use of analysis and continue digging into various state programs.
 
But the office is also tasked with assessing the health care system to determine if the laws are reducing employer costs, changing out-of-pocket costs for residents, having an impact on public health, and health outcomes.
 
"That's a big task that is ongoing," she said.
 
Meanwhile, she is lobbying the Legislature to give her the authority to look at corporate tax returns. Bump wants to do an analysis of the tax policies and the incentives offered to business. But, she can't without seeing the returns and she needs to Legislature pass a law allowing her to do so.
 
"I am trying to get the policy to do so. It requires a change in the law and the business community is opposed to it," she said. "We should be able to measure the success of our tax policies in the same way we can measure the success in our education policies, our transportation policies or our child protection policies."
 
"There needs to be an objective analysis of if they are working."
 
Bump just finished her first term in office and is looking for another four years. She is up against Republican Patricia Saint Aubin and Green-Rainbow party MK Merelice.
 
"I knew that it would take a number of years to transform the office and I want those changes to take root," Bump said.
 
Bump started her political career as a legislative aid and became elected to the state House of Representatives in 1985 and served until 1993. She then went into the private sector, working for a number of law firms and starting her own practice. In 2007, she went back into the public sector as the Gov. Deval Patrick's appointee as the secretary of labor and workforce development and resigned two years later to run for auditor, becaming the first women elected to the office. 


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Green-Rainbow Statewide Candidates Launch 'Listening' Tour
Staff Reports On: 10:37PM / Tuesday April 22, 2014
Local Green-Party activist L. Scott Laugenour, center, accompanied candidates Danny Factor, left, and Ian Jackson to submit their nomination sheets at Pittsfield City Hall.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A trio of Green-Rainbow Party state candidates toured the Berkshires on Tuesday, meeting with citizens and filing their papers at Pittsfield City Hall.

The group kicked off the day in front of the closed North Adams Regional Hospital to press a focal point of the party's platform: Universal health care.

"Health care is a human right," said Danny Factor of Acton, who is running for secretary of the commonwealth. If the government can bail out a corporation, it can find funds to secure a deal to reopen a critical medical facility, he said.

"There's a lot the government can do in that and it can look into other options, such as taking it by eminent domain."

Auditor candidate M.K. Merelice of Brookline, an "occasional Franklin County resident," said North Berkshire's position was similar to that of the "forgotten county" of Franklin with its pockets of poverty.

"It does seem to me that this has as much to do with classism as anything else," she said. "If this hospital was located in the Southern Berkshires rather than the Northern Berkshires this would not be allowed to happen."

She said if elected, she would determine what type of medical services the community needed.

The candidates, including Ian Jackson, running for treasurer, called for more transparency and information regarding the closure, and a possibly publicly operated system with greater accountability to the people.

"People did pay for medical care, [that money] didn't just evaporate," said Jackson, who called for a different payment structure to make it easier for lawmakers to understand what happened.

After North Adams, the three candidates traveled to Kelly's Package Store in Dalton to discuss the long-pending bottle bill. That bill would expand the 5-cent deposit on soda and beer bottles and cans to other packaging — such as water or sports drinks.

Kelly's Package Store owner John Kelly recently testified in favor of the bill, saying recyclables is becoming a "secondary economy." The store collects and recycles bottles as an additional source of income.

"We felt like the expansion of the bottle bill would raise the recycling rate in the average household from 33 percent to 88 percent," Kelly told the candidates.

He added that those deposits help community groups raising money through bottle drives while there are individuals who collect bottles from the side of the road for extra income.

The candidates say that bill is long overdue.

"Just having a small deposit make sure it is going to the right place instead of going into a landfill," said Jackson.

But, it is more than that too, said Merelice, adding that the bottle bill is just one small step in turning the state's economy into a more environmentally-friendly one.

"It is a tiny step of what a future economy looks like," she said. "This may seem like a little thing, but when you look at the environment as a whole ... ."

Factor said there is a "culture" that needs changing when it comes to being environmentally friendly and encouraging more recyclables through the bill would help make that change. The bill will help push environmental consciousness into people's minds, which can lead to even more environmentally friendly practices.

Merelice added, "part of auditing is recognizing that the commonwealth's resources are no confined to finances. Part of the resources are people and the environment."

Following Kelly's the group went to Berkshire Organics to discuss the labeling of genetically modified organisms. Berkshire Organics focused on organic, high-quality foods, which the Green Rainbow Party supports. The party wants to push the labeling bill and no cracking under the pressure of major corporate suppliers who oppose it.

The three candidates rode the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus from Lenox to Pittsfield's Intermodal Transportation Center, where they heard from BRTA Assistant Administrator Robert Malnati on the region's public transportation.

The candidates set up outside North Adams Regional Hospital to kick off their tour.

A strong demand for increased evening and weekday service remain among the ongoing challenges for which the agency has had insufficient funding, Malnati said.  

"Sixty-five percent of the population that we serve don't have a vehicle," Malnati told them, saying limitations in transportation availability was an obstacle to an economic development in an area increasingly dominated by jobs in the service industry.

Candidates expressed concerns about regional equality in transportation, as with health-care issues seen in their earlier NARH visit, and stressed that Berkshire residents must remain organized in order to effectively advocate for their needs.

"There's a saying that the quickest way that people give up their power is thinking they don't have any," said Merelice.

Green-Rainbow hopefuls said Berkshire County, which has seen high showings for their party in recent elections, is an important part of the upcoming election.

"We love this area," said Merelice. "It's important to identify your base."

Candidates said while the Green Rainbow party does have an overarching platform of core beliefs, they are touring the commonwealth to hear about each region's specific needs.

"Right now there's no candidate from the Berkshires running in our races, so it's important to come out and see what the Berkshires want and need," said Jackson.

The tour of the Berkshires led them to Pittsfield City Hall, where they submitted their nomination sheets to be on the ballot.

"We're calling this a listening launch," Merelise said of the daylong trip.

iBerkshires writers Tammy Daniels, Andy McKeever and Joe Durwin compiled this report.



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Bump Gains Endorsements
By: Bump Campaign On: 04:54PM / Monday November 01, 2010

BOSTON — Suzanne Bump, Democratic candidate for state auditor, has received endorsements from two Latino community organizations, two women's advocacy groups and three LGTB organizations.

MassEquality, the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, and Bay State Stonewall Democrats have all endorsed her candidacy.

"This election is critical and we need candidates in office like Suzanne Bump who understand the importance of watching out for all citizens of the commonwealth, including LGBT citizens," said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini. "Suzanne Bump is someone who, from early in her career, has been very supportive of LGBT people and MassEquality enthusiastically endorses her for state auditor."

Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts have endorsed Bump's candidacy.

"We believe that Suzanne Bump's background and experience make her uniquely qualified to be Massachusetts' next state auditor. She has a strong track record of support for working families and we can count on her to protect the interests of the taxpayer," said MWPC Executive Director Priti Rao. "As former secretary of labor for the commonwealth, she demonstrated that commitment by developing and streamlining programs that resulted in minimized costs and maximized opportunities for workforce and small business development. In this very challenging economy, Suzanne's experience will be an invaluable asset in her role as the state's fiscal watchdog. We proudly support Suzanne Bump for state auditor."

¿Oíste?, a statwide political organization consisting of six regional councils that advances the political, social and economic standing of Latinos and Latinas, and La Semana News, a leading Spanish-language community newspaper in the Boston metro area, have also both endorsed Bump.

Bump has also received the endorsement of the Massachusetts Coalition for New Americans.

"Suzanne Bump has a long history of supporting civil rights and the programs that help all Massachusetts citizens, including immigrants and their families," said Eva Millona, the coalition's executive director.



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Bump Would Audit Publicly Funded Criminal Defense System
By: Bump Campaign On: 11:02AM / Wednesday October 20, 2010

QUINCY, Mass. — Suzanne Bump, Democratic nominee for state auditor, said she would conduct a thorough audit of the performance of the Committee for Public Counsel Service and the Bar Advocate programs.
 
“The state’s district attorneys have raised an important issue. There may be a problem with the way the public’s money is being spent on criminal defense,” said Bump in a statement issued Oct. 14. “Defendants have rights, but taxpayers do too, and they shouldn’t be abused.”
 
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association issued a statement last week pointing out that defense counsel budgets have received substantial increases year after year while the district attorneys have not received comparable resources. One of their proposed solutions is to increase the DAs' budgets. Supporters of defense counsel have countered that their compensation is appropriate.

“So far, this debate has generated a lot of angry words and several ideas about how the state can spend more money in this area,” said Bump. “It has not generated any ideas or proposals about how we can deliver these services more effectively and save the taxpayers’ money.  There is a natural role here for the state auditor,” she said.

“I’ve talked about performance audits since I started this campaign. The issue raised by the District Attorneys perfectly illustrates my point,” Bump continued.  “As state auditor I will look at the way we spend taxpayer dollars to provide constitutionally required counsel to criminal defendants, determine whether the system is being abused, and identify changes to be made to save taxpayers money and deliver better services.”

“Through a thorough performance audit we can discover why the budget for defense counsel rises astronomically every year while the crime rate has remained essentially flat. If caseloads are the same, then why do defense costs keep increasing?” Bump asked.

Bump outlined some possible solutions, including reducing reliance on private attorneys in favor of having more public defenders, building better controls into the programs to ensure that attorneys are billing their cases consistent with reasonable defense practices, and exploring ways of resolving cases without excessive and costly litigation while protecting public safety.

“We need to get to the proper resolution of cases in the most cost-effective manner,” said Bump. “When we do that, we will save money for taxpayers and free up the resources to invest in programs that reduce crime and enhance public safety.”



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MassEquality Endorses Bump for Auditor
By: Bump Campaign On: 11:14AM / Tuesday October 12, 2010

QUINCY, Mass. — Suzanne Bump, the Democratic candidate for Massachusetts State Auditor, has been endorsed by MassEquality, a grassroots organization working to achieve full equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Bump is the first candidate for state auditor to have received an endorsement from MassEquality.

“This election is critical and we need candidates in office like Suzanne Bump who understand the importance of watching out for all citizens of the Commonwealth, including LGBT citizens,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality. “Bump’s opponent signed a petition that sought to take away the rights of LGBT people to marry in Massachusetts. But Suzanne Bump is someone who, from early in her career, has been very supportive of LGBT people and MassEquality enthusiastically endorses her for state auditor.”

Bump, who won the Democratic nomination in a three-way primary on Sept. 14 with 50 percent of the vote, is the former Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development and is a former House Chairman of Commerce and Labor.

“Since 1985 I have been vigorously advocating on behalf of the LGBT community. I’m very grateful for MassEquality’s endorsement and their mission of equal civil rights has always been a major element of my own personal values,” said Bump. “My opponent, Mary Connaughton has chosen not to speak about her personal values, but as I see it, they have been clearly demonstrated through her actions. By signing anti-gay marriage petitions, Connaughton paints a fairly clear picture of her values.“

MassEquality’s endorsement is the latest in a series of statements of support for Bump from LGBT rights organizations, including the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and the Bay Windows newspaper.



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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Election
Tuesday, Nov. 4

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation was Oct.15.


Candidates on the ballot in races for state office; all others on the ballot are unopposed. Links will take you to their campaign websites.

U.S. Senator
Edward J. Markey, Democrat
Brian J. Herr, Republican

Governor/Lieutenant Governor
Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito, Republican
Martha Coakley & Stephen Kerrigan, Democrat
Evan Falchuk & Angus Jennings, United Independent Party
Scott Lively & Shelly Saunders, Independent
Jeff McCormick & Tracy Post, Independent 

Attorney General
Maura Healey, Democratic
John B. Miller, Republican

Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Democratic
David D'Arcangelo, Republican
Daniel L. Factor, Green-Rainbow

Treasurer
Deborah B. Goldberg, Democratic
Michael James Heffernan, Republican
Ian T. Jackson, Green-Rainbow

Auditor
Suzanne M. Bump, Democratic
Patricia S. Saint Aubin, Republican
MK Merelice, Green-Rainbow

Municipal Elections

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

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