When 'Questionable Optics' Aren't That Questionable

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Patronage and nepotism in the hiring practices of politicians is an easy target and usually a worthwhile one.

When qualified but unconnected public-sector job applicants are passed over so a pol can pack his or her payroll with mediocre relatives or cronies, it isn’t fair.

But unfairness cuts multiple ways.

Your relationship with a political figure shouldn’t be gratuitously used against you, and that’s what the Globe’s story about Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s longtime girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins, working as a consultant for a firm that handles Walsh campaign fundraising and other business, seems to do.

The paper doesn’t claim the arrangement is illegal or unethical in any way, only that it “could create questionable political optics” for Walsh.

Worse than when he insisted on wearing cargo shorts during the summer?

And what, exactly, would those questionable optics be?

There’s no question Higgins is well-qualified for the work she’s doing, after years of political experience on Beacon Hill. The firm’s fees are not out of line with what others earn.

As the story notes, the state Ethics Commission says her work is not a conflict of interest because she’s not on a public payroll.

And it’s legal for a close relative to be paid with campaign funds—Attorney General Maura Healey’s sister also works for her campaign.

So—no harm, no foul, no “questionable optics.”

Actual ethical problems aren’t that hard to find.

We don’t need to waste time on imaginary ones.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. Listen to his previous podcasts on iHeartRadio. 

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Keller @ Large

Keller @ Large

Jon Keller is a WBZ TV & Radio political analyst. Read more

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