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3 Democrats seek to limit uses for fund

Romney taps 'special events'

Three Democratic state lawmakers said yesterday they would file a measure to prevent Governor Mitt Romney from spending state park funds on private events and news conferences.

Senators Pamela P. Resor and Jarrett T. Barrios and Representative Frank I. Smizik said they would target the Department of Conservation and Recreation's special events fund.

The governor's office has recently used the $350,000 fund to finance events such as the Fourth of July celebration at the Hatch Shell and the Red Sox victory celebration at the State House.

Barrios, Resor, and Smizik said the governor should only be allowed to tap the fund for public events at public parks, or for plowing state parkways in a snow emergency. They blasted the governor for tapping the fund late last month to clear the way for a Patriots rally at Gillette Stadium that attracted 2,000 fans.

Five days after the rally, four West Roxbury High School students were struck and injured by a pickup truck on VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, a highway managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. School officials blamed the accident on poorly plowed sidewalks, which they said had forced the students into the street.

Barrios, Democrat of Cambridge, said Romney ''acted irresponsibly in using the money for a Patriots party instead of plowing the streets. We will seek to eliminate the use of this slush fund for private parties and political events."

Shawn Feddeman, a Romney spokeswoman, responded that Barrios had not supported Romney's request last year to the Legislature for $1.8 million for the Department of Conservation's snow-plowing budget. Lawmakers approved about half that amount, Feddeman said.

''If Senator Barrios was truly concerned about the need for funding, he would have supported Governor Romney's higher budget request," she said.

Feddeman declined to comment directly on the legislators' measure, saying Romney would reserve judgment until the proposal reached his desk.

''Recently, we've gotten hammered by the Republicans over good government," said Smizik, Democrat of Brookline. ''Really, it's totally insincere to argue that and then have this slush fund and use it for anything [the governor] wants, when we're concerned [for] public safety and parks."

Yesterday, State Police said the driver in the VFW Parkway accident, Brian Sheehan, would be cited for impeded operation, which is a civil, not criminal, violation.

Romney blamed the accident on poor management at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which he said had failed to clear snow from the sidewalks. He demanded -- and received -- the resignation of the agency's commissioner, Katherine F. Abbott, on the day of the crash.

''Let's not lose sight of the fact that four young people here were injured because a state agency failed to do its job as a result of bad management," Feddeman said.

Barrios said the measure would be introduced in April, when legislators debate the state budget. Resor said she hoped the amendment would force the governor to spend his own private political funds on news conferences and rallies. She did not know how much he spends on such events.

Events held on publicly owned land -- such as movie nights on the Esplanade, on land owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation -- would be considered acceptable uses for state parks funds under the measure, Resor said.

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