BOSTON (State House News Service) - Under fire for moonlighting as a superintendent's intern in Ware, former Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins was cleared Thursday of "serious wrongdoing" by an internal investigation into the hours she spent at her internship, but faulted for submitting improperly approved travel expenses over the past year.
Education Secretary Matt Malone submitted his findings to the chairman of the Board of Early Education and Care J.D. Chesloff on Thursday, indicating that since January 2012 Killins submitted on two occasions travel voucher reimbursement forms that did not include a supervisor's signature.
The report also found that Killins's travel authorization forms submitted over the past 15 months did not include the signatures of the chief fiscal affairs office or the secretary of education, both required under department rules.
Killins resigned abruptly on Monday. The Republican of Springfield reported in February about the internship with the superintendent of the Ware Public Schools and the Boston Herald last week began raising questions about the time she was spending away from her state job at a time when Gov. Deval Patrick is seeking tax increases to invest in early education.
Though Killins resigned her 200,000-a-year post, she will continued to be paid her full salary as a consultant for the next two months to assist with the transition.
"EOE's review of Commissioner Killins's activities with the Ware Public Schools, as well as issues relating to her travel reimbursements and expenses, indicates she did not commit serious wrongdoing or engage in any intentional malfeasance that would require termination of her employment, though it appears that some administrative procedures were not followed," Malone wrote to Chesloff, making several recommendations for new policies to address the concerns in the future.
In the report to Chesloff, Malone recommended a new policy requiring any commissioner or manager to seek approval from his or her appointing authority before taking on any paid or unpaid outside work. The new secretary also called on the board to implement a policy prohibiting employees from engaging in non-department activities during regular work hours unless they take personal or vacation time to do so.
Killins had been interning with Ware Superintendent Mary-Elizabeth Beach as part of a certification program that requires 300 hours working in the field with a current superintendent. According to the report, Killins logged approximately 30 hours since January.
Despite Killins' calendar showing an all-day appointment in Ware on Jan. 30 and two hours set aside in the morning on Feb. 15, Malone said that both Killins and Beach stated that the commissioner did not spend any time at her internship during regular business hours, instead putting in hours at night and on the weekends.
Futher, the report said that Killins had "expressed an intention" to make up for days blocked out on her schedule for Ware in the coming weeks and months with after-work activities as EEC commissioner.
Gov. Deval Patrick, in an interview on WGBH radio on Thursday, continued to defend Killins and the "really great job" she did at the Department of Early Education and Care.
"You get vacation days. She wasn't doing that every day. You get vacation. I have no interest in protecting that kind of behavior. It doesn't reflect well on the administration and doesn't get the job done. But people do things in their off time. I wrote a book in my off time," Patrick told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.
Asked about Killins residing in New Haven, Conn. and commuting to Boston every day, Patrick said he would prefer that commissioners like Killins reside in Massachusetts, but said he wasn't sure it should be mandated. He also deflected a question about whether he would have fired Killins had she not resigned.
"I didn't have to cross that bridge because she got to where she got as quickly as she did," Patrick said.
Prior to releasing the finalized report, Malone on Wednesday said he found no "outward abuse of time" by Killins.
"There was nothing illegal that the commissioner had done. This commissioner is a good person, and she cares about kids. She did her job and this state is a better place because of that work. She made the decision to move on. We're moving on," Malone said.
Asked if keeping her on as a consultant for two months amounted to paying her for a "no-show job," Malone said, "I don't think that's fair, and you can quote me on saying that."
"We're doing good work and we'll continue to do good work. The sky is not falling. The sun is out and Massachusetts is a great place to live. Invest in it," Malone told reporters.
Copyright State House News Service