SUTTON, Mass. – Attorney General Martha Coakley, speaking before members of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce at Pleasant Valley Country Club on Tuesday, kept her opening comments brief. She remembers the words of one of her professors: “A lecture is a long answer to a question nobody asked.’’
Coakley, elected the state’s first female attorney general in 2006 and currently serving her second term, said it’s important for her to know what’s going on across the state; to have someone listening to the concerns of every community - “My ears; your voice,’’ she said.
In addition to Boston, she has offices in Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford.
She touched on a few points, first and foremost the economy. “It’s still tough, obviously,’’ she said, but saw a “glimmer of hope’’ recently when she picked up her dry cleaning.
“He told me the number of shirts he was cleaning was up. That’s one of the things you start to see,’’ she said. She cautioned, though, that it should not be taken for granted that the economy will improve. “We have to watch where we’re heading… and make sure it’s not another bubble.’’
Energy costs are high in New England, costs that businesses look at when considering an expansion or move to the area. “We understand we need to do better… to look at rates and being an advocate for consumers,’’ she said.
“It’s one of the most important things we do,’’ she said, ensuring “cost-effective’’ energy while looking at clean, sustainable green energy. “It’s not sexy, but it’s important.’’
Her office has also been a leader in ending faulty mortgages. “We were doing a lot of work around foreclosure rescue schemes,’’ she said. Wondering why there were so many foreclosures in 2007, “we looked at the mortgage products themselves’’ and discovered faulty loans given to consumers who could not afford them.
Mandates are now being considered through which banks will be required to modify mortgage loans when it makes more commercial sense than foreclosure. There will still be foreclosures – “it’s a sad story that still plagues us,’’ she said.
“But none of us want to be back where we were.’’
The attorney general’s office also looks at public corruption. Coakley recently charged former treasurer Tim Cahill with using his position, through state lottery advertisements, to help his campaign for governor two years ago.
“There will always be someone pushing the envelope and breaking the law. I take that law very seriously,” she said, “but also believe people are innocent until proven guilty’’ though the 24 hour media makes that difficult.
She said she depends on voters and the media to hold local officials accountable, and she encourages businesses to do the same. “If you find someone in your company breaking the law, report it,’’ she said. “Don’t just fire them and let them go somewhere else.’’
Cyber crime prevention is the newest addition to the Attorney General’s responsibilities, joining divisions that fight crime in the government and public sector, consumer protection, civil rights, criminal, business and labor.
“We do do a lot of work,’’ she said. “I actually love it and am proud of the work we do.’’