Date: March 13, 2014
The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) and Karen Durant (“Durant”) enter into this Disposition Agreement pursuant to Section 5 of the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented-to final order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(j).
On March 15, 2013, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by Durant. On November 21, 2013, the Commission concluded its inquiry and found reasonable cause to believe that Durant violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2).
The Commission and Durant now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
Findings of Fact
- In the Town of Leicester (the “Town”), ambulance and emergency medical services are provided by the Town’s Emergency Medical Services Department (the “EMS Department”). Durant, a Leicester resident, has been employed full-time by the EMS Department as an emergency medical technician (“EMT”) since 2000. EMS Department EMTs are required to be certified.
- Under state law, EMTs must renew their certification every two years. To obtain recertification, EMTs holding the “Basic” certification must attend an approved refresher training course that includes a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction. EMT refresher courses can be held by accredited training institutions or through an individual program approved by the State Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Emergency Medical Services (“OEMS”).
- On August 6, 2008, the OEMS received an application from the EMS Department for approval to provide an individual refresher training program for its EMTs. The application listed Durant, an EMS Department EMT, as the program coordinator and lead instructor. The application stated that the proposed training was to be held from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. over three days: September 13, 2008, September 14, 2008, and September 28, 2008. Upon review of the application, the OEMS approved the EMT refresher course sponsored by the EMS Department.
- On October 9, 2008, the OEMS received a report that the EMT refresher course had not included the minimum 24 hours of required instruction, and that the 12 EMTs who took the course, including Durant, had fraudulently signed the attendance rosters documenting completion of the full 24 hours of instruction.
- The OEMS commenced an investigation that included interviews with Durant as well as with 10 of the 12 EMTs who signed the attendance rosters. The OEMS determined that the September 13, 2008 class only lasted from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., and September 14, 2008 class only went from 8:00 a.m. until sometime between 10:00 a.m. and noon. The third day of classes, September 28, 2008, did not take place at all. At the end of the second day of classes, Durant told the attendees that there would not be a need for a third day of classes.
- Durant told the OEMS investigators that she made the decision to conduct the refresher course in this shortened time and believed that all the required material had been covered.
- Copies of the attendance rosters for the EMT refresher course for each of the three days show that attendees (including Durant) signed each attendance roster as having attended the training for eight hours on each of the three days. Each attendance roster has an instruction to the EMTs that states: “If the number of hours the program was actually held is less than the number of hours the program was approved for the number of hours for the program will be reduced.” Each attendance roster also has a signature line where Durant attested that the attendance roster was a true record of attendance. Durant testified that she knew that she and the other EMTs were fraudulently signing the attendance rosters.
- In October 2008, Durant sent out two emails to course attendees regarding the OEMS investigation, in which she asked the attendees to falsely corroborate that the EMT refresher course involved 24 hours of classroom instruction.
- On February 11, 2009, the OEMS notified Durant that it was revoking her EMT certification for a period of three months for her role in the EMT training matter. Durant did not request a hearing, and her EMT certificate was revoked from May 2, 2009 until July 31, 2009; during this same 90-day period, the Town suspended Durant and she went without pay for a portion of this time.
- The OEMS also found that the 12 EMTs had knowingly signed attendance rosters falsely representing that they had completed the required hours of instruction. On February 26, 2009, the OEMS issued letters of reprimand to all 12 EMTs and required them to re-take refresher training. Also on February 26, 2009, the OEMS issued a “Notice of Serious Deficiency” to the EMS Department for its failure “to ensure that all EMT-Basic refresher programs have been conducted in accordance with Department [OEMS] approved standards.” The OEMS notified the EMS Department that it had to submit to the OEMS a plan for addressing the deficiencies. On March 30, 2009, the Town submitted such a plan, which the OEMS approved on April 13, 2009.
Conclusions of Law
- Section 23(b)(2) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use her official position to secure for herself or others unwarranted privileges which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
- Durant used her EMS Department EMT instructor position to falsely certify that the attendees of the EMT refresher course, including herself, had met the state’s mandatory EMT recertification training requirements.
- EMT recertification is a privilege.
- Where Durant attempted to recertify herself and the other attendees without meeting the state requirements, the privilege was unwarranted.
- The recertification was of substantial value because it allowed the EMTs to continue to be employed as EMTs.
- The privilege of recertification without having completed the required hours of instruction was not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
- Therefore, by, in the manner described above, using her official position as an EMS Department EMT to falsely certify that the attendees of the September 2008 EMT refresher course had met the state’s mandatory EMT recertification training requirements, Durant knowingly used her official position to obtain for herself and others unwarranted privileges of substantial value not properly available to other similarly situated individuals, thereby violating § 23(b)(2).
- Durant’s violation is significantly exacerbated by her attempts to have the attendees falsely corroborate that the EMT refresher course involved 24 hours of classroom instruction.
In view of the foregoing violation of G.L. c. 268A by Durant, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further enforcement proceedings, on the basis of the following terms and conditions agreed to by Durant:
- that Durant pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment to be delivered to the Commission, the sum of $2,000 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2);
- that Durant waive all rights to contest, in this or any other administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party, the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement.
By signing below, Karen Durant acknowledges that she has personally read this Disposition Agreement, that it is a public document, and that she agrees to all of the terms and conditions therein.
STATE ETHICS COMMISSION
Karen L. Nober Date