Former Lawrence Public Schools Employee Charles Birchall Cited for Conflict of Interest Law Violation
Birchall accepted a bribe for issuing a fraudulent purchase order and used school department resources for a private printing job
The Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which former Lawrence Public Schools (“LPS”) Graphics Department Clerk Charles Birchall, III (“Birchall”) admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, for accepting a bribe to issue an LPS purchase order to Wellington Publishing (“Wellington”) for a piece of equipment, which Birchall knew would not be delivered to the LPS, and for using LPS Graphics Department time, equipment and supplies to print copies of a book for Wellington. Pursuant to the Agreement, Birchall paid a $6,000 civil penalty for the violations, and he paid to the LPS a civil forfeiture of $2,449, the amount of the unjust enrichment he received through his violations of the conflict of interest law.
According to the Agreement, on or about September 8, 2008, Birchall, as LPS Graphics Department Clerk, generated a purchase order in the amount of $4,893 to buy a folding machine from Wellington. Birchall did so knowing that Wellington was not going to deliver the machine to the LPS. On or about October 20, 2008, Wellington issued an invoice for $4,945 to the LPS, which reflected the purchase order amount plus an additional $52 in shipping costs. On November 17, 2008, the City of Lawrence paid the $4,945 invoice. On November 27, 2008, Wellington paid Birchall $2,200 for issuing the purchase order. The LPS never received a folding machine from either Wellington or Birchall.
The Agreement also states that in 2007, Wellington owners Algrid Sunskis (“Sunskis”) and Stephen Jarvis (“Jarvis”) asked Birchall to print copies of a book they had written. Birchall printed at least 100 copies of the book using LPS Graphics Department equipment and supplies. Birchall spent about 16 hours during his regular work day to print copies of the book and was paid approximately $300 by LPS, his regular rate of pay, for the time he spent printing the book copies. Sunskis and Jarvis also paid Birchall at least $249 for his work.
Section 2(b) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from corruptly receiving anything of value for himself in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act or act within his official responsibility. The Agreement states that Birchall violated section 2(b) by receiving a $2,200 payment from Wellington in return for generating a fraudulent $4,893 purchase order to Wellington for a folding machine he knew Wellington would not deliver to the LPS.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal 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 available to similarly situated individuals. The Agreement states that Birchall violated section 23(b)(2) by using LPS Graphics Department time, equipment and supplies to print approximately 100 copies of the book for Wellington. He also violated section 23(b)(2) by accepting $249 from Wellington as payment for doing so.
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