For Immediate Release - January 06, 2010

Norfolk County Sheriff's Department Correction Officer Brian Laumann Fined $6,000 for Conflict of Interest Law Violations

Purchased a jail inmate's house

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission ("Commission") approved a Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") on December 18, 2009, in which Norfolk County Sheriff's Office ("NCSO") Correction Officer Brian Laumann ("Laumann") admitted to violating Sections 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3) of G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law. Laumann agreed to pay a $6,000 civil penalty.

According to the Agreement, in late 2003 or early 2004, Laumann offered to purchase the home of a jail inmate. The sale called for Laumann to pay off approximately $200,000 in outstanding mortgages, and to give the inmate's spouse between $10,000 to $20,000 in cash. The closing on the sale occurred in February, 2004, with Laumann paying off the mortgages but providing only $5,000 to the inmate's spouse. Laumann claimed he spent approximately $20,000 on repairs to the home, and, just a few months later, in May of 2004, he sold the home for $289,000.

Section 23(b)(2) prohibits a county employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. NCSO regulations prohibited correction officers from contacting or associating with inmates or inmate family members, except as required by the correction officer's required duties. By purchasing the home from an inmate in violation of these regulations, and by purchasing the home from an inmate who was under his supervision, Laumann violated Section 23(b)(2). Laumann also violated Section 23(b)(2) by using his position as an NCSO correction officer to force the inmate and/or his wife to accept an amount that was less than the agreed-upon purchase price.

Section 23(b)(3) prohibits a county employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person. By being "poised to act in his official capacity" as an NCSO correction officer regarding the inmate during and after negotiating the purchase of the inmate's house, and by failing to submit a written disclosure to his NCSO superiors that the purchase of the inmate's house was entirely voluntary and initiated by the inmate, Laumann violated section 23(b)(3).

"Mr. Laumann used his position as a county correction officer, a position with tremendous power and authority over the jail's inmates, to enter into an inherently coercive private commercial relationship with an inmate. By purchasing the inmate's home, he violated his own agency's regulations and the conflict of interest law," stated Commission Executive Director Karen L. Nober.

The maximum civil penalty for a violation of the conflict of interest law that occurred prior to September 29, 2009, was $2,000. On September 29, 2009, changes to the conflict of interest law went into effect. Under the new provisions of the law, the maximum civil penalty was increased to $10,000. In addition, the Commission can order violators to pay restitution and the amount of the economic advantage obtained.

Disposition Agreement