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Sen. DiZoglio and Rep. Sullivan call for audit of use of nondisclosure agreements in Massachusetts state government

BOSTON MA. – JULY 29: Rep. Alyson Sullivan and Sen. Diana DiZoglio discuss their nondisclosure agreement bill during a press conference at the State House on July 29, 2019 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

CommonWealth Magazine

TWO STATE LAWMAKERS waging what could be an uphill battle to expose the extent of hush agreements used by state government and put restrictions on the practice throughout Massachusetts received some support Monday from two members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Congresswomen Lori Trahan of Westford and Ayanna Pressley of Boston, both Democrats new to the US House, applauded bipartisan efforts afoot in the state Legislature and said they are working on related policies at the federal level.

In Massachusetts, Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, who convinced the Senate to completely ban the use of non-disclosure agreements within the chamber, has joined forces with Rep. Alyson Sullivan, an Abington Republican, to scrutinize and rein in the legal instruments that have gained notoriety in recent years.

“Our government works best when what it does is transparent to those the government serves,” said Sullivan. “This is a non-partisan issue.”

DiZoglio and Sullivan on Monday called upon Auditor Suzanne Bump to conduct a survey of state government and tally the number of non-disclosure agreements used by every agency, and the amount spent. The lawmakers are not seeking to expose the identities of the parties to such agreements, they said.

Read More Here.

Read Rep. Sullivan’s Press Conference Statement Below:

Good afternoon,
We are here today to request a state audit across all branches and agencies.  At the outset, we are requesting a report for the past 5 fiscal years. 
We are asking that the reports be prepared by year, branch and agency.  The report should identify the total amount of settlements, detailed by agency of all settlements of claims against the commonwealth.  The report should also include the total number of settlements by branch (judicial, executive and legislative) agency and/or department.   

Government works best when, what it does is transparent to those the government serves. This is a non-patrician issue — this is about good public policy — transparency in government is good government!
Things done in a cloak of darkness and secrecy is wrong.
Even if the reasons and amounts of the settlement agreements were appropriate, the public still has a right to know.
If a settlement is used with taxpayers dollars, let those who agree to the settlement stand up and defend it.
The public has the right to know when taxpayer funds are used to settle claims. This is true whether or not a settlement agreement includes terms of confidentiality.
We are not demanding that the names of people be disclosed by our request for an audit and annual reports going forward.  We are simply requesting that a report be prepared identifying by year, by branch, by agency the amount of taxpayer funds that have been used to defend, pay and settle claims in the public sector.
In addition to the report mentioned, we are separately requesting a report by year, by branch and by agency on the number of settlement agreements that are subject to a non-disclosure agreement, the individual and total amounts of these settlements and if the non-disclosure was at the insistence of the government agency or the claimant.
If anyone is concerned about improperly disclosing the name or names of the person subject to protection- redactions to that information can be easily accomplished.  We all know that government agencies have used redactions for decades, if not centuries, to protect sensitive information.
Shinning the light on what the government does, how and why it does it, is good government and the people we serve. 
As mentioned a transparent government is a better government.  Let it start here!