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I-Team: Clerk Magistrate Not Working While Court Is In Session

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Maura Hennigan takes a stroll around Jamaica Pond with her dog then hits the campaign trail. The problem? It’s the middle of the work day. Hennigan’s the clerk magistrate of the Suffolk County Criminal Court, she’s paid $121,000 a year and the I-Team found Hennigan not at work while court is in session. In fact one of the biggest trials of the year, the Mattapan quadruple murder trial, was before the Suffolk County Court and the clerk wasn’t anywhere near the courthouse.

It’s a pattern we see week after week. The I-Team tracked the clerk on several work days and our cameras caught her handing out bumper stickers and collecting signatures for her 2012 political run. In the afternoon Hennigan heads over to a local access TV studio to tape her weekly show. Court is still in session but the clerk never even bothers to show up.

We called the court each time we found Hennigan not at work to check to see if she took the day off but we were told she was in a meeting every time we called.

Hennigan’s already under investigation by the state for campaign finance issues. One employee told the I-Team, “I’m in the courthouse, I don’t see her that often.” He said Hennigan pulled court employees out of criminal sessions and had them stuffing envelopes with invitations to a fundraiser.

According to our sources it all happened in a courthouse conference room up on the 15th floor back in November. “They said there was a special project going on upstairs and they were needed for a special project. They were seen stuffing envelopes on the 15th floor, there were a couple of boxes of envelopes with a two-wheeled dolly,” the employee said.

Pam Wilmot heads up the watchdog group Common Cause. She said if the allegations are true, it’s illegal, “Absolutely outrageous and a complete violation of the law that prohibits the use of public resources for political purposes. We need to have a bright line between campaigns and government and clearly she’s crossed the line.”

We questioned Hennigan about her work habits, especially about not showing up to work on Tuesdays. Hennigan told us on one particular day she had a doctor’s appointment and that her mother is ill. She said half of her job is community outreach and that’s a commitment she made to her constituents.

The clerk magistrate is supposed be devoted to the job at hand during regular court hours but may participate in public service activities during that time.

She said the allegation that she doesn’t work on Tuesdays is not true. Hennigan said on one of the days we followed her she took the day off but once again when we called the court we were told she was tied up in meetings all day.

Pam Wilmot says this is a perfect example of why this kind of position should not be an elected position. “What you need is a good administrator and someone who is going to devote themselves full time to the job with the skills that are needed,” says Wilmot.

A court spokesperson tells us since Hennigan is elected it’s up to her to fulfill the requirements of the position. Hennigan also isn’t subject to trial court policies that regulate time off. Sixteen employees have resigned or retired from the clerk’s office since Maura Hennigan was elected in 2007.

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