Lawsuit vs. State Auditor Maybe Shortens Election Odds for Patricia Saint Who?

Friday, August 8, 2014

What a mess.  State Auditor Suzanne Bump got sued this week by her former chief assistant, Laura Marlin, someone who knows everything about Bump.

The first question that came to mind was: Does Patricia Saint Aubin have the stuff to exploit the messiness?
Patricia Saint Who?

Patricia Saint Aubin, the Republican candidate for State Auditor, that’s who.  Check her out at

I suspect there’s been more traffic at that site since Marlin filed her suit on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.

Before Wednesday, I would not have given Saint Aubin one chance in a hundred of bumping off Bump in November.  Now, I might give her one in ten.  And if more shoes drop in the Marlin vs. Bump affair, Marlin’s odds could improve to one in four, or even one in three.  You never know.
Marlin’s lawsuit against Bump states, “Her (Marlin’s) forced resignation resulted from her repeated objections to the fact that Ms. Bump was improperly conducting re-election campaign activities during her working hours and out of her office at the State House, using state employees to assist her in those activities, and attempting to curry favor with a possible political ally as part of an independent audit.”

Marlin is asking for a jury trial on all her claims.  If she wins, Marlin’s hoping to receive money for her lost wages and benefits “and other remuneration.”  She also wants punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and “such other relief as this Court deems equitable.”

Bump wasted no time putting out a statement denying Marlin’s claims.  “I am proud of the ethical standards that I have established and continue to uphold for my office,” Bump said.  “They have contributed to our receipt this spring of the highest possible rating from our peers in government auditing.  As her former employer, I must respect Ms. Marlin’s privacy rights, so I will not elaborate on the reasons for asking for her resignation other than to say that it was for cause.”

Saint Aubin, too, was quick with a statement.  “These unconscionable allegations of illegal campaign activities and a rigged audit of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), to protect supporters, are more disturbing evidence of the corruption created by one-party rule on Beacon Hill.”
“Evidence” is clearly too strong a word for what gets trotted out in a lawsuit such as Marlin’s.  People can and do say just about anything when suing someone’s pants off. 

Nothing prevents anyone from suing anybody or from saying anything nasty about anybody in that suit, especially at the outset. 
The lawyer who puts the suit together for a plaintiff only has to believe that what the plaintiff alleges is true and to have no facts in her possession that would indicate it is untrue.   

Civil lawsuits, in other words, are a time to swing for the fences.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy for Bump to brush the suit off or to move away from it as if nothing has happened.  The Power of the Word is at work.   We tend to remember bad things said about someone much more than the good.  The more colorful the accusation, the harder it is to purge from our memory banks.

And Marlin, through her lawsuit, has already accomplished what Lyndon Johnson strove for in many a political fray.  Johnson famously said, “I can at least make the (blankety blank) deny it.”  Marlin forced a denial out of Bump.  (Bump would have been crazy not to deny it.)

Marlin wants us to believe that her former boss went a little soft on an audit of the Department of Children and Families because many of the department’s employees are members of the Service Employees International Union and Bump wanted the union to endorse her for re-election this year.
“On May 14, 2014, Ms. Marlin met with Ms. Bump regarding the list of audits she had prepared,” the lawsuit says.  “During that meeting, Ms. Bump stated that Ms. Marlin should have, during the course of a recent audit, contacted the political director for the labor organization with which she had met the previous day because the organization had members who worked at the audited agency.”

The lawsuit continues:
“Ms. Marlin responded by stating that engaging in such contact would have amounted to political contact during the course of an audit, which would compromise the independence of the audit in violation of the Comptroller General’s auditing standards.  At that time, she presented Ms. Bump with the memorandum she had prepared regarding compliance with the Comptroller General’s auditing standards.

“Ms. Bump became extremely angry and combative in response to Ms. Marlin’s statements and memorandum.  She hurled invectives at Ms. Marlin, at times raising her voice and using foul language.
“The following Monday, May 19, 2014, Ms. Marlin arrived at work and received an email from Ms. Bump instructing her to cancel her morning meetings and appear at her office at 9:30 a.m.

“When Ms. Marlin arrived at Ms. Bump’s office, Ms. Bump stated that she was terminating Ms. Marlin because, ‘based on [their] interactions the previous week,’ she felt she ‘could no longer trust [Ms. Marlin] to act in the best interest of the organization.’ ”
In her prepared statement Wednesday, Bump averred, “…I have never allowed any organization or individual to influence the conduct or independence of an audit.  All of these allegations against me and my office are without merit.  I will be conducting a vigorous defense of my reputation and my office’s ethical standards.”

Marlin was given the choice of resigning as First Deputy Auditor and Deputy Auditor for Audit Operations, or being fired.  She chose to resign, submitting her resignation letter to Bump on May 23. 
This is one of those cases, inevitably bitter, where affection and admiration have turned into their opposites.

Marlin, 44, began working for Bump, 58, in May, 2007, when Bump was appointed Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development by Governor Deval Patrick.  Three years later, Marlin left her state job to serve as Bump’s campaign manager as Bump began her run for Auditor.  When Bump won, in November, 2010, Marlin served as her transition manager.  In one of her first moves as Auditor, Bump made Marlin her top deputy.
Marlin holds two degrees from Northeastern University and is a member of the Massachusetts bar.  Her curriculum vitae includes a stint as an Assistant Attorney General.

And what of the woman who would replace Bump, Patricia Saint Aubin?
I know only what I’ve read and seen on her campaign web site.  She looks like a normal, pleasant person.  She does not seem to be a lightweight or a nut. 

Saint Aubin graduated from Providence College with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1980, which would make her about 55 years old.   Some years ago, she worked as “an auditor with the Asset-Based Lending group of the Shawmut Bank in Boston.”
Bump will be able to hit Saint Aubin hard for having no recent, substantial experience as an auditor.  Saint Aubin will be able to point out that Bump, an attorney, had no experience as an auditor before she was elected.

In a state where only 11% of the registered voters are Republicans, Saint Aubin was on a kamikaze mission against Bump prior to the filing of Marlin’s lawsuit.  Now, you’d have to say she at least has a chance of surviving the battle with Bump.  It will be interesting to see what she makes of that.


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