THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Conflict question raised on consultant in Geoghan probe
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/4/2003
George Camp, the corrections consultant picked by the Romney administration as an "independent voice" on the panel investigating the death of John J. Geoghan, is already working with state officials, under a federal contract, at the prison where the former priest was slain.
State officials said last week that Camp had no current relationship with state correction officials. Yesterday, however, a spokeswoman for state Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn said Camp's company has worked since late 2002 doing a study of the culture and organization of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, where Geoghan was beaten and strangled on Aug. 23.
Marian McGovern, the spokeswoman for Flynn, said the federal contract does not present a conflict of interest for Camp, who was picked by Governor Mitt Romney for a three-member panel that is investigating the prison system's management for possible lapses that may have been a factor in Geoghan's death. Authorities say another inmate killed Geoghan while both were in a protective custody unit of the maximum-security facility.
Although McGovern said she did not know the extent of Camp's contact with state prison managers in performing the study at Souza-Baranowski, she said those interactions were irrelevant in judging his ability to investigate the Department of Correction. Camp's "reputation and credibility" as a "renowned expert" led to his appointment, she said.
"They want to get to the bottom of this, and they are not closing their eyes to anything," she said, adding, "There is no hint of a conflict of interest here."
McGovern said she had no details about the federal contract, including how much Camp's company was being paid for the work at Souza-Baranowski. A state contract to pay Camp for his work on the panel investigating Geoghan's death was "still being negotiated," McGovern said.
A message asking for more details on the contract, left with a secretary in Camp's office yesterday, was not returned.
James R. Pingeon of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which provides legal assistance to poor inmates and worked with Geoghan, said yesterday that Camp's federal consulting contract at the Souza-Baranowski raises questions about the independence of the panel investigating the former priest's death.
"It makes you a little skeptical of his ability to be detached and objective when he has a pre-existing relationship with management," he said.
Pingeon added that "it's not a good idea to have someone as a consultant involved in two matters at the same time, where there may be some tension between the two missions that could impact either one."
Massachusetts Correction Legal Services, the state prison guards' union, and civil rights lawyers have criticized the Romney administration for including no outsiders on the panel of three investigators announced by Flynn on Aug. 25. Besides Camp, the members are Mark Delaney, a State Police major, and Mark Reilly, the Department of Correction's chief of investigations. State Police and the Department of Correction are separate agencies, but both are overseen by the Executive Office of Public Safety.
In response to the criticism, Romney administration officials last week called Camp "an independent corrections expert" and said his appointment "demonstrates our commitment to bringing in outside ideas and voices."
David Shaw, a spokesman for Flynn through the end of last week, told the Globe Friday that Camp had no current consulting contracts directly with Massachusetts, though he said Camp had previously worked under a federal grant in the state's prison system.
McGovern said yesterday that she had few details of Camp's current work at the Souza-Baranowski Center and did not know the value of the contract with the National Institute of Corrections, part of the US Department of Justice. She said the Correction Department applied to the National Institute to be selected as a field site for the study, which began in late 2002.
McGovern also said she did not know whether a report would result. "It's ongoing," she said. "It is not complete."
McGovern said Camp's company, Criminal Justice Institute Inc. of Middletown, Conn., was selected by the National Institute to perform the study, but she did not know if the company is carrying out field studies in other prisons outside Massachusetts.
She said she did not know how often Camp was at Souza-Baranowski, or if he has been there at all.
Camp's previous work in Massachusetts was a study in 1988 of the state prison in Norfolk, under a National Institute of Corrections grant, and as an expert witness in defending the Department of Correction against an inmate lawsuit in 1986, McGovern said.
The director and deputy director of the National Institute of Corrections were unavailable yesterday, according to a secretary. A call was not returned by the director's executive assistant.
Disclosure of Camp's prior relationship with state correction officials came just hours after Romney defended Camp's record.
Romney was asked by reporters about an article in yesterday's Globe that detailed a US judge's criticism of Camp's research for the New York Department of Correctional Services. The judge excluded Camp's report in a lawsuit involving an inmate's charges that he was denied literature on a religious group, calling the report "biased" and "misleading."
Romney said the review of "what happened on the Geoghan slaying is something that is being carried out by my secretary of public safety, Ed Flynn. He put together a team that he has confidence in, and I have full confidence in him, and believe that the results that come from the secretary will be ones that we can act upon."
"This is Secretary Flynn's call," Romney said. "He's the person in whom I have confidence. He's put together a group that so far as I can tell he has good respect for, and I have such respect for him and confidence in him that I wouldn't try and second-guess him."
Rick Klein of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Sean P. Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.
For complete coverage of the priest abuse scandal, go to http://www.boston.com/globe/abuse