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Mass. Gov. Patrick: DiMasi pressed me on contract

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mass. Gov. Patrick: DiMasi pressed me on contract

Gov. Deval Patrick testified last week that former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi pressed him to approve a software contract that prosecutors allege was part of a DiMasi kickback scheme.

Patrick testified Friday that during a breakfast meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2007 DiMasi told him: “That contract is important to me.”

Patrick said DiMasi was referring to a performance management software contract for the company Cognos, but never mentioned Cognos by name. DiMasi and two co-defendants are facing federal corruption charges.

Patrick also testified that after The Boston Globe reported in 2008 that the state Inspector General’s office was investigating the Cognos contract, an angry DiMasi confronted him and accused the governor’s staff of leaking the story to the newspaper.

“He was angry and upset about the article and he believed our staff had leaked information to the Globe about the inspector general’s review,” Patrick said in court.

Prosecutors allege that DiMasi and co-defendants Richard McDonough and Richard Vitale schemed to use DiMasi’s clout as speaker to steer two state contracts to Cognos in exchange for kickbacks.

Earlier Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf denied a defense motion to strike testimony by a former top Patrick official.

Defense attorneys called Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan’s testimony “extremely prejudicial.”

Kirwan testified last Thursday that she wouldn’t have signed a contract with Cognos if she’d known DiMasi received money the company paid to his law associate or that DiMasi’s friend and co-defendant, Richard Vitale, had been paid $500,000.

On Friday, prosecutors referred to an e-mail Kirwan had sent to another administration official in August 2007 after she signed off on the contract. The $13 million contract was the second of two state contracts Cognos won in 2006 and 2007.

“Everyone is happy. Hope the big guy down the hall is too,” Kirwan wrote.

Kirwan testified that the “big guy” referred to DiMasi.

Study: Wide price differences at Mass. hospitals

A new study is documenting dramatic differences in the price that Massachusetts hospitals charge for similar procedures.

The report released last week by the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy found at least a threefold price difference for every service.

Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, was paid a median price of $9,225 per case of pneumonia, compared to Brockton Hospital which was paid a median price of $5,524.

A second study found that private group health insurance premiums in Massachusetts jumped by as much as 10 percent from 2007 to 2009, far faster than the increase in the rate of inflation of about 2 percent in the Northeast.

Deductibles and co-payments also increased during the same time.

The Patrick administration said the studies show the need to rein in health costs.

Probation for ESPN writer after Mass. wife attack

A senior writer for Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN has agreed to serve six months of probation on charges he assaulted his wife outside a pizza parlor in western Massachusetts.

Howard Bryant was arrested after witnesses told authorities they saw a man choking a woman and pinning her against a parked car in front of a pizza parlor in Buckland, Mass., in January.

Bryant lives in nearby Ashfield. Police say he resisted arrest and struck a state trooper in the chest with his elbow.

A Greenfield District Court judge warned Bryant on Friday that violation of any law could lead to charges of domestic assault and battery, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer.

Bryant previously claimed he and his wife simply had a verbal argument. His wife, Veronique Bryant, also denied he assaulted her.

MBTA fires 32 drivers for missing work

The head of the MBTA says the transit agency has fired 32 bus drivers in the past six months because of chronic absenteeism that has led to delays and cancellations on some routes.

T General Manager Richard Davey tells The Boston Globe the drivers cost the agency thousands of dollars in overtime. He says to replace drivers who call in sick or otherwise fail to appear, the T has typically relied on overtime replacements, often at a cost of more than $200,000 a week.

Davey has asked staff to cut back on the practice, while trying to maintain service during peak hours or on key routes.

That has led to some canceled runs and more crowded buses.

Associated Press