'Boston Herald' Drops Columnist Who Got Government Money

By: (AP) The Boston Herald has fired a columnist who signed a contract worth up to $10,000 to help Gov. Mitt Romney?s administration promote its environmental policies.

Herald Publisher Patrick Purcell initially said the paper would continue Charles Chieppo?s weekly column, a day after he began working for the governor?s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. The contract calls for him to help officials write Op-Ed pieces and internal documents.

A few hours later, however, Purcell released a second statement that read, ?Upon further review, the Boston Herald has decided to sever our relationship with Charles Chieppo.?

Chieppo said he respected the Herald?s decision and would miss writing.

Chieppo began writing for the Herald in January and was paid per article. His job with the paper started shortly after he left his position as the former state policy director of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

He said he disclosed the environmental state contract to the Herald and got clearance from the state ethics commission. His state contract pays $60 per hour, with a maximum of $10,000.

Chieppo also has a state contract with the Massachusetts Convention Center to help organize a conference on using funds more efficiently. He said that contract was cleared by the state ethics commission but he never thought to tell the Herald about it.

He said this seemed to be a major factor in the paper?s decision. ?Maybe I made a mistake. I certainly attempted to do the right thing every step of the way,? he said.

Critics have said the state contract is similar to recent cases involving members of the media who are also paid by government agencies to do outside work, notably syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams? arrangement with the White House to promote President Bush?s education bill.

Robert Zelnick, chairman of Boston University?s journalism department, said it would be impossible for a reader to take Chieppo?s opinions about the Romney administration at face value because income from his other job could be at stake.

?A man would not be on the payroll of the administration unless the administration found him sympathetic,? Zelnick said.

Gwen Gage, a spokeswoman for the Herald, had said the paper's editorial page editor, Rachelle Cohen, had approved Chieppo's environmental consulting work because he had disclosed it and agreed not to write about any topics related to that.

But Chieppo did not disclose the convention center contract. Cohen learned about it when a Globe reporter called seeking comment.


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