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Seguin touts experience over politics in Probate race

Date: 10/30/2014

SPRINGFIELD – Suzanne Seguin, the acting Register of Probate, has the story in her hand these newspapers ran recently about the candidacy of state Sen. Gale Candaras for the probate position.

The story is annotated with notes in reactions to problems Candaras wishes to address and Seguin said, “When I think of issues, think of problems, I don’t see any problems except for the ones focused on by my opponent.”

During the course of the interview, Seguin answered all of Candaras’ concerns and expressed her belief that she is going to win the election.

Seguin charged that Candaras is looking to increase her state pension by attempting to win a position that pays about twice as what she is making as a state senator. Seguin said that all Candaras would have to do is spend three years in the office – it is a six-year term – to qualify for a pension based on the new salary.

“I’ll try to be kind, but someone is trying to pad their pension,” she said.

Seguin, a resident of Westfield, has been working in the office of the Register of Probate for 16 years and in the trial court for a total of 33 years. She was named the acting register when Thomas Moriarty resigned during his term in 2012.

She is running as an independent and noted The Republican erroneously identified her as a Republican.

She explained the register’s office has been understaffed for years and the only way new employees have been added through the office is through attrition.

Seguin said that Candaras “charges that I don’t want to do better” and then listed the improvements she has made to of the register’s office that included new paint, carpets, computers, improved work stations and an electronic cuing system that is cell phone based.

Unlike what Candaras said about an apparent lack of interest in participating in pilot programs offered to the court system, Seguin noted that state court officials determine in which area a pilot program should go.

“I’m the first one to put my hand up,” she said. Right now, she noted there are three pilot programs in which the office is participating.

One of Candaras’ key points has been the condition of the court facilities in Springfield and her support for a new courthouse. “It isn’t within the scope of responsibility for the Register of Probate to advocate for a new courthouse,” Seguin said.

She then said in 2003 Gov. Mitt Romney wanted to close the Boston Municipal Court and distribute that funding to other courts around the state, including Springfield. According to a report issued that year the administration and management costs for that one court were more than all of the state’s 69 district courts combined. A commission appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall found the Boston Municipal Court received 100 percent more money than the Springfield District Court but handled only 15 percent of the cases as the Springfield court did.

Candaras was cited in news reports as leading the effort to override Romney’s veto of the budget for the Boston Court.

“This [facility problems at the Hampden County Hall of Justice] could have been avoided in 2003. She [Candaras] created the problem,” Seguin charged.

“You hear that Western Massachusetts is ignored by Boston. Isn’t she Boston?” she added.

The Facilities Department of the court system makes the recommendations about improvements to court buildings, she said. Seguin said she doesn’t believe the conditions at the courthouse are not as bad has been reported and noted that after the June 2011 tornado an independent inspection of the building judged it as “sound.”

She added, “We could always use more room.”

Although Seguin is not an attorney, she said being an attorney isn’t necessary for the job. In a campaign ad, Seguin lists the names of 57 attorneys who are supporting her candidacy.

Seguin described her campaign as “grassroots” and didn’t think it was fair that Candaras could use the campaign funds she had raised as a state senator for this race.

Speaking of her motivations to run for the office, Seguin said, “I don’t feel entitled [to the job]. I feel that I’ve earned it through the my dedication and service to the trial court for 33 years.”

Seguin said confidently, “I’m going to prove her [Candaras] wrong.”