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Donoghue's sick leave swings.

Byline: Clive McFarlane

COLUMN: CLIVE MCFARLANE

Michael J. Donoghue, chairman and CEO of the Worcester Regional Retirement Board, was spotted playing golf at Green Hill Wednesday, the same day this paper ran a story saying he, on the advice of his physician, had gone on paid sick leave the previous day.

Now, before people get bent out of shape over this, please keep in mind that we are talking about Mike Donoghue here.

Described in our paper as a confidant of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a former Worcester city councilor and a fixture in Democratic circles for years, Mike is more than a politician. He is a phenomenon.

He is, after all, the Worcester County treasurer. Yes, county government has long been abolished, but Mike is still the treasurer, at least according to the "Worcester County Treasurer" sign that now lies on a chair in his living room.

Anyway, under the pretense of the public's right to know, I visited Mike at his home yesterday to ask him about using his paid sick leave to play golf.

We talked in his living room, where I was drawn to two cartoons by former Telegram cartoonist Bob Sullivan.

In one cartoon, a secretary guarding the door to the county treasurer's office responded to inquires about the whereabouts of Mike with the following:

"It all depends: If you mean Mike, the loyal Democrat, adviser, confidant and close friend of the Kennedys, he is out around Cedar Rapids beating the bushes. If you mean Mike, the duly elected what-you-ma-call-it, he is home with a bad case of post nasal drip and he is not expected back until early next week."

Mike saw me looking at the cartoons.

"Now you know me," he said laughing.

He then set out to give me the scoop on why he was using his paid sick leave to play golf.

Bear in mind, however, that Mike likes to tell stories. He knows nothing about ice fishing, for example, but he once had a group of guys at the gym where he works out clamoring to get a machine Mike told them used sound waves to knock out fish under the ice, and that all they would have to do was dig a hole and scoop up the dazed fish.

So I tried to stay alert as Mike gave me the lowdown, sitting in an easy chair, behind which hung an artistic rendition of the Worcester County Courthouse, or what he refers to as the seat of county government.

It doesn't sit well with him that the pension system recently moved its offices to Auburn from the Worcester County Courthouse.

His left hand rested on a table, under which were piled several books on the Kennedys: "Senatorial Privilege," "Edward Kennedy and the Camelot Legacy," "Chappaquiddick," "Good Ted/Bad Ted," and "Seeds of Destruction."

Further to his left was the chair on which the aforementioned country treasurer sign lies.

Mike explained that the stress and pressure of managing the $400 million county retirement pension fund with more than 11,000 members, and that encompasses some 49 towns, school districts and housing authorities in the county, has taken a toll on his health.

His blood pressure had been climbing over the past several years, and, alarmed by a recent spike, his doctor told him to take time off from work to take care of himself.

"I am not hiding anything," he said. "The job has been very stressful and I was told by my doctor that I had to start taking care of myself, that I had to find things to do to release pressure and the tension.

"Playing golf, and missing a two-foot putt going up hill, and then missing it coming back might not be the best remedy for one's blood pressure, but it is something that I enjoy."

Whatever you might think of Mike, there is little doubt that very few people have been as involved in their community as he has.

He gave me a brief overview yesterday.

Named one of the outstanding young leaders by the Worcester Jaycees in 1976 and one of the outstanding young men of America by the National Jaycees in 1997, Mike has served on dozens of boards and commissions over the years.

He was around 30 years old when he became a city councilor and got right into the middle of controversial issues by joining committees on economic and community developments.

He was the chairman of the committee that brought us the civic center, for example. His hand prints are on Worcester Center Boulevard and the hotel at Lincoln Square. It was known that he attended more committee meetings than all of his colleagues at the time.

Unknown to him, entry into the Worcester County Courthouse after hours is monitored by an electronic system. Since 2004, the data from that system indicated that Mike has made 145 visits to the courthouse after-hours, weekends and nights to do the people's business.

Yes, the major stress in his life comes from managing the regional pension fund. It is the last remnant of the county system, his last official hold on the past. But now his big-time Democratic friends, Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, want to take that away from him.

They say he has not been aggressive enough in investing the regional pension funds, and that they can save municipal government millions of dollars by shifting management of the funds to the state.

It is enough to raise a person's blood pressure.

Thank God he has a doctor wise enough to pencil in golf as a remedy.

Contact Clive McFarlane via e-mail at cmcfarlane@telegram.com
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 8, 2007
Words:949
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