Former Saugus Town Manager Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Andrew Bisignani, 70, pleaded guilty today to 12 counts of procurement fraud, destroying public records, municipal bid-rigging and other crimes related to his position as Town Manager of Saugus and Nahant from January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2014. Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley sentenced him to two years of probation including six months of home confinement to begin after the federal home confinement sentence he is currently serving is completed in January, 2018. While on home confinement, Mr. Bisignani will only be allowed to leave his home for work, community service, medical and court appointments and religious services. Judge Feeley also imposed a $60,000 fine.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Karen Hopwood recommended a state prison sentence of one and half to two years followed by three years of probation. In her sentencing argument, ADA Hopwood said, “It is impossible to calculate the financial impact of Mr. Bisignani’s crimes on the towns of Saugus and Nahant, nor can it be verified that work was done properly or done at all.”
Had the case gone to trial, Essex Assistant District Attorneys Hopwood and Philip Mallard would have introduced evidence that would have proven that during his tenure as Town Manager of Saugus and Nahant, Mr. Bisignani orchestrated a misleading scheme that violated many procurement laws pertaining to the expenditure of municipal funds. Procurement laws dictate the process by which public funds may be spent, and the requirements for the selection of vendors who will provide supplies and services to public entities.
In addition, Bisignani attempted to conceal his wrongdoing by altering and destroying documents that an Essex County Grand Jury had subpoenaed from the Town of Nahant. During the period of the grand jury investigation and service of the subpoena, Bisignani met with one of the Selectmen for the Town of Nahant and discussed whether Bisignani would continue to be employed as Town Administrator. During this meeting, Bisignani concealed a tape recorder in the room and secretly recorded the meeting.
The scheme orchestrated by Bisignani during his tenure as Town Manager in Saugus and Nahant entailed the hiring of choice vendors without, effectively, any public procurement process. Through the scheme, Bisignani directed the Town of Saugus to pay invoices for projects that were never advertised, not subject to any public bidding, and were identified as so-called ‘emergency’ procurements that were not approved by the Department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM). The invoices approved by Bisignani (1) disclosed only a portion of a project’s cost, (2) designated foreseeable projects as ‘emergency’ work, and (3) did not include payment of prevailing wages. Bisignani also caused payments of for these ‘split invoices’ to be spread out, further concealing the true cost of the projects, and obscuring the necessity that those projects be subject to public bidding and advertising. Additionally, Bisignani’s purposeful failure to comply with procurement laws caused the Town of Saugus to hire a vendor during a period that the vendor had been barred from providing services to municipalities by the Department of Industrial Accidents. Moreover, Bisignani also approved multiple payments by the Town of Saugus to vendors for the same services.
“This scheme charged in this case did not just create an unfair playing field, but an almost entirely secret playing field where hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds were spent without any procurement process or transparency. The effective administration of government depends upon a basic trust that persons with authority over public funds comply with the law. Mr. Bisignani not only betrayed that trust the taxpayers of Saugus and Nahant, who entrusted him to manage their communities’ resources effectively and according the law, but he also thwarted investigators, secretly recorded one of the elected officials to whom he answered, and destroyed Town records in order to conceal his crimes.” District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “The plea today comes as a result of a lengthy and pain-staking investigation on the part of Essex ADAs Hopwood and Mallard. This was an extremely complicated case with a tremendous amount of documentary evidence that required meticulous examination.”
Mr. Bisignani was indicted on December 30, 2014 after a two-year investigation by the Essex District Attorney’s Office. Essex ADAs Hopwood and Mallard were cross-designated as Special Assistant Attorneys General for purposes of this investigation. The investigation was led by Trooper Brian O’Neill of the Massachusetts State Police assigned the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. Investigative support was provided by the office of State Auditor Suzanne Bump.
The investigation was prompted by the discovery of improper spending by forensic auditors who examined the Town of Saugus finances after Bisignani left the position of Town Manager on January 12, 2012.
Mr. Bisignani was represented by Attorney Tracy Miner.