Opinion: More on Hodgson's financial abuses

Jun 14, 2022

To the editor:

Betty Ussach's letter describing Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson's financial abuses doesn't even scratch the surface of the sheriff's contempt for taxpayers.

Hodgson didn't bother waiting until being elected to start wasting taxpayer money. Governor William Weld appointed Hodgson to fill a vacancy in 1997. In 1998, before being elected, Hodgson's opponent, Rep. Joseph McIntyre, rightfully accused him of running a "patronage bazaar" in the sheriff’s office, and a newspaper endorsement slammed Hodgson for practices ranging from "hiring of publicity agents to his fattening of the payroll with patronage employees, who repay him with campaign contributions that he encourages."

Several of Hodgson's employees — Brock Cordeiro and Naomi Carney come to mind — are cases of fellow Tea Party hacks being fattened on the public's dime with jobs at Hodgson's jail.

By 2008 Hodgson had already spent $1 million on a losing labor case he stubbornly took all the way to the Supreme Court. He spent another $3.7 million on other dubious cases, making him the most profligate legal spender of all county sheriffs. $1.3 million of this went to Attorney — and "Special Deputy" — Bruce Assad (whose sons now work for Hodgson) and another $1.3 million to attorney Ronald Lowenstein, a donor whose family was flagged in 2004 for exceeding the legally permitted campaign maximum.

After the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct forced Judge Michael Livingstone off the bench for ethics violations in 2008. Hodgson chose Livingstone to run the jail's /medical/program. The Standard Times noted "the politically connected Livingstone was previously the legal counsel to the New Bedford City Council and a city solicitor." Hodgson admitted that former state Sen. William Q. "Biff" MacLean Jr., New Bedford City Councilor John T. Saunders, and former mayor Judge John Markey had approached him looking for a job for Livingstone, who sought to beef up his state pension.

A 2018 state audit discovered numerous problems with the sheriff's relationship to ICE. For 18 months the sheriff failed to reimburse the state $350,000 in ICE payments deposited into one of a dozen accounts not monitored by the Comptroller. The auditor also questioned whether the Bristol County Sheriff's Office was being properly remunerated by ICE. A third finding faulted the Office for not using empirical data to set its per-diem charge to ICE. And, finally, 36% of the sheriff's expense vouchers failed to provide itemized receipts describing the purpose of the expense.

In 2018, a local group filed a public information request for Hodgson's travel records. Over 500 pages of invoices showed that Hodgson had stuck taxpayers with the tab for tens of thousands of dollars of trips to Washington, the Rio Grande, Foxwoods, FOX News appearances, and anti-immigrant events featuring white supremacists.

We don't need any more of this. Bristol County voters will have an excellent alternative in November.

David Ehrens,