Former Lawrence Public School Department Graphic Designer John Laurenza Cited for Accepting Bribes
Accepted money in a bid rigging arrangement with a vendor
The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which former Lawrence Public School Department (“LPS”) Graphic Designer John Laurenza (“Laurenza”) admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by accepting payments from a vendor, Wellington House Publishing (“Wellington”) to rig bids on two LPS contracts so that Wellington could be awarded the contracts. According to the Agreement, Laurenza will pay a $4,000 civil penalty for accepting bribes from Wellington and will pay a $536 civil forfeiture to the City of Lawrence for the money paid to him by Wellington.
The Agreement states that in 2008, Laurenza was assigned to procure 10,000 pocket folders for the LPS. Wellington offered to pay Laurenza in exchange for Laurenza arranging for Wellington to be awarded the contract. Wellington did not have the equipment to provide pocket folders to the LPS. Laurenza obtained a bid of $4,347.60 from another vendor to produce the pocket folders. Laurenza then reported to the LPS that Wellington had provided the lowest bid of $4,788. After being awarded the contract, Wellington purchased the pocket folders for $4,347.60 from the vendor identified by Laurenza, and provided them to the LPS. On June 3, 2008, Wellington submitted an invoice in the amount of $4,950.40 to LPS for the pocket folders, reflecting the amount reported by Laurenza as the low bid plus a purported shipping charge. On July 17, 2008, the City of Lawrence issued a check in the amount of $4,950.40 to Wellington, which, in turn, paid a $245.84 kickback to Laurenza for arranging for Wellington to be awarded the pocket folders contract.
Also in 2008, Laurenza was assigned to update and procure 15,000 copies of a bi-weekly timesheet used by the LPS Payroll Department. Wellington offered to pay Laurenza in exchange for Laurenza arranging for Wellington to be awarded the contract. Wellington did not have the equipment to produce the timesheets. Laurenza obtained a bid from another vendor to print the timesheets for an amount substantially less than $1,194. Laurenza then reported to the LPS that Wellington had submitted the lowest bid of $1,194. After being awarded the contract, Wellington purchased the timesheets from the other vendor and provided them to the LPS. On August 26, 2008, Wellington submitted an invoice to LPS in the amount of $1,347.92 for the timesheets, with the increased amount representing a purported shipping charge. On September 29, 2008, the City of Lawrence issued a check in the amount of $1,347.92 to Wellington as payment for the timesheets. On October 20, 2008, Wellington paid a $290.28 kickback to Laurenza for arranging for Wellington to obtain the timesheets contract.
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. According to the Agreement, Laurenza’s arrangement with Wellington was corrupt because it involved an agreement to rig the contract bid process in exchange for payments. Laurenza violated section 2(b) by falsely certifying that Wellington was the low bidder on each of the two contracts, by arranging for LPS purchase orders to be issued to Wellington, and by accepting payments in the total amount of $536.12 from Wellington in exchange for arranging for Wellington to be awarded the contracts.
This is the second instance in which an LPS Graphics Department employee was cited for accepting bribes from Wellington. On October 6, 2011, the Commission cited former LPS Graphics Department employee Charles Birchall for accepting bribes in exchange for arranging for LPS to purchase a folding machine from Wellington that did not exist and was never delivered to the LPS, and for using LPS Graphics Department resources to print copies of a book for Wellington. Birchall paid a $6,000 civil penalty and a $2,449 civil forfeiture.
The Ethics Reform Law of 2009 increased the maximum amounts of the civil penalties that may be imposed by the Commission. Violations of the conflict law that occurred prior to September 29, 2009 remain subject to a maximum civil penalty of $2,000 per violation.
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