Commission Fines Former Middlesex Retirement Board Member Lawrence P. Driscoll
Driscoll pays $10,000 fine, $2,683 civil forfeiture
According to the Disposition Agreement, the MRB sought to renovate its headquarters in Billerica in 2002. The MRB created a three-person building subcommittee, which included Driscoll, and delegated to the subcommittee the handling of the headquarters renovation contract. Driscoll used his official position to award the contract to his friend John C. MacDonald. MacDonald was a builder who, at an October 5, 2002, MRB building subcommittee meeting, verbally submitted a bid of $557,000 to do the renovation. At that meeting, MacDonald also verbally submitted a bid of $595,000 on behalf of another builder. Driscoll knew that MacDonald had solicited and received the bid from the second builder prior to calculating his own bid. The subcommittee awarded the renovation contract to MacDonald at this same meeting. After the contract was awarded, the subcommittee instructed MacDonald to prepare and submit two written bids - his own bid and a second bid on behalf of the other builder. When the building project was completed, Driscoll and the other members of the subcommittee voted unanimously to hire MacDonald as the full-time manager of the facility. At no time did Driscoll file any disclosures regarding his friendship with MacDonald. In addition, during the period between 2002 and 2004, Driscoll requested expense reimbursements from the Middlesex Retirement System ("MRS") for conferences he did not attend, non-MRS-related airfare and other personal expenses, totaling $5,120. Driscoll has repaid the MRS $2,437.
Section 23(b)(2) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a state employee from using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and not properly available to similarly situated individuals. Section 23(b)(3) prohibits a state employee from acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, knowing all of the facts, to conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy that person's favor in the performance of his official duties. This subsection further provides that the appearance of impropriety can be avoided if the state employee publicly discloses all of the relevant circumstances which would otherwise create the appearance of a conflict of interest. By voting to award MacDonald the contract through a process that gave the false impression of being a competitive bid process, Driscoll used his official position to secure for McDonald an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals, and, therefore, violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2). By submitting for reimbursement expenses that were not incurred in connection with legitimate MRB business, Driscoll used his official position to secure for himself unwarranted privileges of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. By doing so, Driscoll violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2). By failing to disclose his friendship with MacDonald in connection with the award of the building contract and the decision to hire MacDonald as the facility manager, Driscoll knowingly acted in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, knowing all of the relevant facts, to conclude that MacDonald could improperly influence or unduly enjoy Driscoll's favor in the performance of Driscoll's official duties as an MRB member. Thus, Driscoll violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3).
"Public employees violate the public trust when they use their positions to benefit themselves or their friends. Public employees who have private friendships that overlap with their public duties need to perform their public duties fairly and objectively and disclose those personal relationships to avoid creating an actual or apparent conflict of interest," said Executive Director Karen L. Nober. "It also goes without saying that public monies may not be used to reimburse personal expenses."