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Patrick’s Parole Board nominees OK’d

But 2 of 4 approved by tie-breaker vote

By Michael Levenson and Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / March 31, 2011

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All four of Governor Deval Patrick’s appointees to the embattled state Parole Board were approved by the Governor’s Council yesterday, but not before the governor had to engineer tie-breaking votes for two of his nominees.

In a rare move, Patrick took the gavel from Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, who chairs the Governor’s Council, after the eight-member panel deadlocked, 4 to 4, on John M. Bocon, the first of the two tied nominees. That allowed Murray to cast two tie-breaking votes, making it 5-4 to confirm Bocon, a former chief officer in the federal probation office in Boston, and Lucy M. Soto-Abbe, a 17-year victim advocate in the Hampden district attorney’s office.

The other votes were not as close.

Charlene M. Bonner, a forensic psychologist whose work includes competency evaluations in Plymouth County courts, was confirmed in an 8-to-1 vote. And Ina R. Howard-Hogan, a former state and county prosecutor who has served as the Parole Board’s general counsel since January 2009, was approved by a 6-3 vote.

“We got the votes; they’re confirmed — that’s all that matters,’’ Patrick said afterward.

Council member Jennie L. Cassie, a newly elected Republican member from Oxford, voted against Bocon because he gave different answers to the same questions during confirmation hearings.

“He really waffled and demonstrated a lack of leadership on a board where that’s desperately needed,’’ said Cassie.

She voted for Soto-Abbe, citing the importance of having a victims’ advocate on the board.

The nominees will reshape the Parole Board with far more prosecutors and former court officials than defense lawyers, as Patrick seeks to rebuild confidence in the parole process.

It has been in turmoil since December when Domenic Cinelli, a parolee with a history of violence, shot and killed a Woburn police officer. Patrick removed the five board members who voted in 2008 to release Cinelli.

The Governor’s Council, a panel that has often acted as a rubber stamp, has made clear in recent months that it would put up more resistance to Patrick’s nominations for the Parole Board and for judgeships, another area of council responsibility.

The newly confirmed nominees will join Josh Wall, a longtime prosecutor in Suffolk County, and two board members not removed in the upheaval: Cesar Archilla, a former prosecutor with defense lawyer experience, and Roger L. Michel, a former prosecutor who has spent years drafting opinions for the state Appeals Court.

“It’s a good group, a strong group,’’ Patrick said and the new members are “very conscious of . . . the additional scrutiny that the public understandably will give the parole system.’’

Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com; Bierman at nbierman@globe.com.