Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's story about having "binders full of women" brought to him while assembling his Massachusetts state cabinet years ago is not true, according to a Boston Phoenix report Wednesday morning.

While Romney did get a binder listing qualified female candidates after being elected governor in 2003, reporter David S. Bernstein said, it was assembled not by his staff, but by a coalition of groups led by the bipartisan Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, which started collecting the information in 2002 as part of the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP).

"They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions," Bernstein said. "They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected."

According to the caucus and MassGAP, Bernstein said, women accounted for 14 of Romney's first 33 senior-level appointments. But on Tuesday, Romney took at least some credit for making that happen.

"One of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort," he said during his debate with President Barack Obama.

The Huffington Post noted that, according to a study done by MassGAP five years ago, women went from making up 42 percent of Romney's administration in 2003 to 27.6 percent in November 2006, shortly before he left office.

Bernstein also questioned the placement of Romney's women appointees Tuesday.

"Those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn't care about -- and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything," Bernstein said. "None of the senior positions Romney cared about -- budget, business development, etc. -- went to women."

Update: One of Romney's statements Tuesday regarding employment of women in his administration is accurate, the head of the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society told The Raw Story Wednesday.

The center's executive director, Dina Refki, said that, according to a 2008 study, 54.5 percent of his top advisors in 2004 -- department heads or people who worked with him on a day-to-day basis -- were women, which exceeded both the averages for both the New England region (45 percent) and the country (41 percent).

That year, Refki said, women comprised 50 percent of the department heads in Romney's administration, which was also higher than the regional (35 percent) and national (29.7 percent) averages.

"I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff, that the [State] University of New York at Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America," Romney said Tuesday.

Update 11 a.m. EST: An Obama campaign spokesperson cited a 2007 study (PDF) by MassGAP and the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts-Boston Wednesday, criticizing Romney's administration for contributing to "the lack of overall growth in women's representation in top positions" between September 2002 and July 2004.

According to the study, women replaced other women in 24 percent of Romney's appointments during that time period, while men replaced men 37 percent of the time. And during the same period, women appointees replaced men 18 percent of the time, while men replaced women in 21 percent of similar cases.

Update 1:47 p.m. EST: In an email to The Raw Story, a MassGAP spokesperson said both Romney and Democratic opponent Shannon O'Brien agreed before the 2002 gubernatorial election to "make best efforts" to appoint a "proportionate" amount of women to state positions, as well as to meet with the group during the appointments process.

"Following the election, MassGAP formed committees for each cabinet post in the administration and began the process of recruiting, interviewing, and vetting women applicants," the statement said. "Those committees selected top applicants for each position and presented this information to the administration for follow-up interviews and consideration for appointment."

[h/t The Daily Beast]

[Image via Agence France-Presse]