Lancaster Board of Health Chairman Shawn S. Winsor and Member Robert Baylis Fined
For Authorizing Payment to Themselves for Mowing the Town's Landfill
According to the Disposition Agreement, in spring 2004 the Lancaster BOH was unsuccessful in finding a vendor to mow the town's landfill. Failure to mow it could result in fines by the Department of Environmental Protection. Baylis and Winsor decided to mow the landfill themselves. On June 3, Winsor and another BOH member signed a blank voucher authorizing payment for mowing the landfill. Neither the vendor's name nor the amount of the payment was included in the voucher. On June 25, Winsor submitted an invoice from Bowen Landscaping, a company he owned, in the amount of $4,890. A vendor would usually submit an invoice for work that had already been performed; the landfill was not yet mowed on June 25. The BOH assistant entered 'Bowen Landscaping' and the amount on the blank voucher.
The town issued a check on July 15. Winsor had the BOH hold the check until August 14, when Baylis, using his own tractor, and Winsor, using a tractor rented by Baylis, mowed the landfill. Winsor then cashed the check from the town for $4,890, paid the $388 cost of the rental tractor, gave approximately $1,800 to Baylis and kept approximately $2,700.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from officially participating in matters in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest. By awarding a contract from which they were to be paid, Winsor and Baylis violated § 19. Winsor also violated § 19 by approving a blank voucher authorizing payment to his company. Section 20 prohibits a municipal employee from having a financial interest in a contract made by the municipality. By receiving pay for mowing the landfill, Winsor and Baylis had a financial interest in a contract with the town and violated § 20. Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. By using his position to improperly secure a $4,890 contract, Winsor violated § 23(b)(2).
"Citizens expect their town officials to act without bias and in the best interest of the town," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "When those officials give themselves contracts, even if they perform the work, citizens cannot be certain that the best interest of the town was considered or met."