Governor Deval L. Patrick Thursday strongly denied he was forcing any of his departing four cabinet secretaries to leave, including two who have been caught up in recent controversies.
At a State House news conference where both the current and incoming secretaries appeared, Patrick said that in an effort to prevent his administration from falling into a lame duck malaise, he had asked all his secretaries to give him a two-year commitment or to leave.
He heaped praise on each of the departing secretaries and brushed off suggestions that any of them were departing because of a spate of bad publicity that has hit his administration.
He particularly pushed back when asked whether Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby was being forced out because of her responses to two major controversies under her watch.
In one scandal, a chemist at a drug lab run by the Department of Public Health allegedly mishandled drug evidence, throwing thousands of cases into jeopardy. In another scandal, a compounding pharmacy in Framingham whose regulation was overseen by the department has been blamed for a deadly meningitis outbreak.
“There’s going to be, in large organizations, things that go wrong ... and the leaders who matter and the ones who succeed, just like each of these, are the ones who step up and fix things that go wrong,’’ Patrick said.
Patrick again took responsibility for the patronage hiring of Sheila Burgess as the state’s highway safety director, despite Burgess’s lack of experience and her driving record full of crashes and speeding tickets.
Burgess resigned last month after the Globe broke the story of her driving background. The Globe has reported that Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan, then an undersecretary, interviewed Burgess as part of the hiring process.
Heffernan said last week that the hiring process was “seriously flawed” and “unacceptable.”
Heffernan’s name has surfaced recently as a potential judicial nominee. Patrick declined to discuss her possible nomination other than to say he was sure she would be a “great judge.’’ ‘That’s all I will say about that right now,’’ the governor said.
The Globe reported Thursday that in addition to Heffernan and Bigby, Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez and Education Secretary Paul Reville were leaving the administration.
Heffernan will be replaced by Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.
Bigby will be replaced by John Polanowicz, president of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, the largest hospital in the Steward Health Care system.
Gonzalez will be replaced by Glen Shor, a top deputy before leaving the secretariat in June 2010 to run the state’s Health Connector program.
Reville will be replaced by Matthew Malone, the outgoing superintendent of the Brockton Public Schools.
Malone became available after he and the Brockton School Committee agreed last month to end their five-year contract a year early.
The deal was struck after the seven-member committee gave Malone a composite review score of 2.77 out of 5 for his third year at the helm of the state’s fourth-largest public school system.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, Elder Affairs Secretary Ann L. Hartstein, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne Goldstein, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee, and Transportation Secretary Richard Davey are remaining in their posts.