BOSTON – As a new election year unfolds, candidates interested in becoming the next head of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance have just more than two weeks to submit their resumes and applications to the bipartisan commission formed to find a new director.
The group — made up of Secretary of State William Galvin, Boston College Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau, Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons and Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford — met Tuesday to start the process of replacing former OCPF Director Michael Sullivan.
At the end of 2019, after nearly a quarter-century in the post, Sullivan, a Newburyport resident, retired from the independent agency that oversees the disclosure of campaign finance activity by candidates and political action committees and metes out penalties for campaign finance violations.
In addition to approving a job announcement and setting an application deadline of 5 p.m. on Feb. 19, the commission agreed to reconvene on Feb. 20 to review applications and determine the process for interviewing and ultimately selecting the first new OCPF director since 1994.
Based on the timeline the commission laid out, it is unlikely if not impossible for the commission to have a new director in place within 60 days of the vacancy created by Sullivan’s departure, as is required by law.
For Galvin, who chairs the commission that must unanimously choose the next OCPF director, the ideal candidate is someone who shares similar traits as Sullivan.
“Essentially, I think it’s fair to say that the position has largely been defined by Mr. Sullivan’s tenure, his skillset and the issues that he exhibited during his time probably defines the types of qualifications an appropriate candidate would have,” he said.
Aside from the residency requirement and standard education and experience requirements, the job description for the OCPF director is fairly wide open. The secretary said, though, that he has already told a few prospective applicants that they should know the job of OCPF director is not a political job and may not necessarily suit someone who has spent years working for political campaigns.
“It’s a job for people with some experience with record keeping and some idea of what the statute is about,” Galvin said. “Mr. Sullivan, during his tenure, established sort of a bureaucratic standard, if you will. He could be annoying at times — I certainly found him annoying on occasion — but on the other hand, I think most people would agree that he was pretty even-handed and pretty fair. That’s kind of what you want, you want a kind of a bland bureaucrat who enforces the law as it is, that’s my perspective.”
After sifting through the applications that come in by Feb. 19, the commission plans to hold interviews and continue its process in mid-March, after all of the commission members put various obligations behind them.
“We have our presidential primary exactly four weeks from today, both parties have their campaigns going on not just for their presidential candidates but their party officers for state committee are on that day, and for me, I have, on the week preceding that, the last week of February, the early voting period,” Galvin said. “So that’s kind of a busy time but I’d like to get this clarified as soon as we get applications.”
But following that timeline means it is virtually impossible for the commission to meet the requirement that it “shall select a successor director ... no later than sixty days after the occurrence of a vacancy in said office.”
In part, that’s due to the fact that Gov. Charlie Baker did not appoint Rougeau to fill the final seat on the commission until late January — Sullivan’s last day on the job was Dec. 27 — and because the interview and selection process is expected to take longer than about a month, Galvin’s office said.
Though the commission likely won’t meet its 60-day deadline, Galvin said he does not anticipate the need for him to appoint an acting or interim director at OCPF.
The law gives him, as chairman of the selection commission, the authority to appoint a temporary director if the vacancy persists “for ten days beginning with the date of the primary election at which a candidate for any statewide office is nominated and ending one hundred and twenty days after the election.”
“My hope is to not have to fill a vacancy,” he said, expressing optimism that he, Rougeau, Bickford and Lyons will be able to come to a unanimous decision.
Senior staff at OCPF are running the agency in the absence of a director.
The agency’s past directors are Mary McTigue (1988-94), Dennis Duffin (1982-88), Charles Doherty (1976-82) and Norm Gleason (1974-76).