OIG Annual Report 2021: Legal Division

Part IX of the Office of the Inspector General's 2021 Annual Report

 The Legal Division provides essential legal advice to the Office and manages legal strategy in all Office litigation. Attorneys in the Legal Division represent the Office in state and federal court, draft and review legislation, teach MCPPO classes and provide guidance on state and local public procurement matters. Attorneys in the Legal Division also support the Office on investigations, audits and reviews by assisting during formal interviews; analyzing evidence; conducting legal research; coordinating responses to and enforcing summonses; and liaising with state, municipal and private entities.

Header for the OIG's Legal Division

The Legal Division also plays a key role in compliance and internal controls within the Office, including onboarding new employees; developing and updating policies and procedures; and regularly providing in-house training on topics such as confidentiality, ethics and conflicts of interest. Furthermore, through its Civil Recovery Unit (CRU), the Legal Division pursues civil actions on behalf of the Commonwealth and local governments to recover public funds lost to fraud, waste and abuse. Finally, in addition to their other responsibilities, members of the Legal Division produce and edit content for the Office’s quarterly publication, the OIG Bulletin.

Over the past 10 years, the Legal Division has played a key role in two aspects of the work of the Office: (1) the investigation of the Hinton Drug Lab; and (2) the pursuit of civil recovery actions. From 2012 to 2014, the Office conducted a comprehensive investigation of the operation and management of the Drug Laboratory at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute (Hinton Drug Lab) after a chemist working there admitted to tampering with evidence. The Office identified multiple systemic management failures at the lab: chemists received little or no supervision; the lab had no formal protocols regarding training, chain of custody and testing methods; and the lab failed to provide potentially exculpatory evidence to parties in criminal cases. In 2014, the Office published its first report on the Hinton Drug Lab, describing its findings and recommending major changes to the management and oversight of the lab. 

The Office later conducted a supplemental review of over 15,000 drug samples, working with an independent lab to retest certain samples. The Office published a second report in 2016, making additional findings and recommendations. Since then, the Legal Division has continued the Office’s work regarding the lab by responding to and collaborating with district attorneys’ offices seeking more information about the Office’s investigations in response to post-conviction litigation of cases related to the Hinton Drug Lab.

Another milestone event over the past 10 years was the establishment of the CRU within the Legal Division in January 2019. The CRU, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, seeks to recover public funds lost to fraud, waste and abuse. In 2020, the CRU recovered $850,000 from two companies that sold cleaning supplies and other chemical products to cities and towns across the Commonwealth. The CRU found that these companies used high-pressure telemarketing techniques and misleading statements to induce local governments to buy supplies they did not want, need or even have the budget to purchase. The Office and the Attorney General’s Office returned nearly $400,000 of the settlement payment to 43 Massachusetts cities and towns and $385,000 to the Commonwealth’s General Fund.27 

In March 2020, the Legal Division welcomed the Office’s first Justice Geraldine S. Hines Diversity Fellow. Despite the challenges presented by starting work during a global pandemic, the Hines Fellow participated in assignments for all divisions in the Office and quickly became an integral part of the Legal Division and the Office as a whole. In 2021, the Hines Fellow provided legal assistance to the Investigation Division, State Police Division, Bureau of Program Integrity, Transportation Unit, Policy Division and MCPPO program. The Hines Fellow also assisted the Legal Division with its review and update of internal policies and procedures. In addition, the Hines Fellow made valuable contributions to the Office’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, including developing internal presentations and outreach programs. The Office welcomed its second Hines Fellow in February 2022. 

In 2020 and 2021, the Legal Division also devoted its efforts to supporting the Office during the COVID-19 pandemic. While continuing with its existing responsibilities, the Legal Division helped implement new statutory requirements and public health guidance arising from the pandemic. The Legal Division reviewed the Office’s policies and procedures through the lens of a remote and hybrid workplace to ensure the Office’s internal controls meet the demands of a changing workplace.

Table of Contents

I. Civil Recovery Unit

The CRU has continued its charge of investigating and pursuing civil actions to recover money on behalf of the Commonwealth and local governments. The CRU investigates and develops matters for potential civil recovery, in partnership with other Office divisions and the Attorney General’s Office. Since its establishment in January 2019, the CRU, in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office, has recovered more than $1.8 million for the Commonwealth, cities and towns.

Attorneys in the CRU also support the Office’s other work. CRU attorneys taught classes about identifying common scams and procuring legal services for the Office’s MCPPO program. They also made a presentation to another state agency about preventing fraud and contractor overbilling. In addition, the CRU contributed to the OIG Bulletin, drafted guides and alerts on fraud prevention and detection, and helped staff the Chapter 30B hotline.

A. Civil Recoveries from Former State Troopers for Unworked Overtime

In 2021, the CRU, working with the State Police Division and the Attorney General’s Office, reached settlements with 11 former Massachusetts State Police (MSP) troopers from the former Troop E to recover money they were paid for overtime that they allegedly did not work. To date, the CRU has reached settlements with 13 former troopers, recovering over $245,000.28  

The recoveries arose from the MSP’s investigation of overtime abuse by Troop E members who were assigned to special overtime shifts intended to reduce accidents, crashes and injuries on state highways. The troopers were supposed to be on patrol and highly visible, targeting aggressive and speeding drivers. 

B. Bridge Maintenance Contractors 

The CRU, in collaboration with the Office’s Transportation Unit, investigated allegations from a hotline complaint that NEL Corporation (NEL), a Massachusetts-based bridge contractor, overbilled MassDOT. Based on the investigation, the Transportation Unit and the CRU concluded that NEL overbilled MassDOT under contracts to repair and maintain bridges throughout the state. The Office alleged that NEL knowingly charged MassDOT for items that NEL was required to provide at its own expense under the contracts, including certain tools, equipment, sanitary facilities and personal protective equipment.

In March 2021, NEL agreed to a $700,000 settlement with the Office and the Attorney General’s Office. As part of the settlement, NEL also agreed to implement measures to prevent future overbilling, including designating a contract manager to ensure that the company only bills MassDOT for work, supplies and equipment allowed under the contract. In addition, NEL agreed to hire an outside auditor to review NEL’s billing on all open MassDOT contracts annually and provide a copy of the audit to the Transportation Unit. These measures will remain in effect for five years. NEL neither admitted nor denied the allegations.

Similarly, the CRU and the Transportation Unit investigated billing by Massachusetts-based company, Kodiak Corporation (Kodiak), on MassDOT contracts to repair and maintain bridges throughout the state. Based on the investigation, the Office concluded that Kodiak had overcharged MassDOT. The Office alleged that Kodiak knowingly charged MassDOT for items that Kodiak was required to provide at its own expense under the contracts, including tools and equipment, sanitary facilities and personal protective equipment The Office also alleged that Kodiak knowingly double-billed MassDOT by submitting the same invoices for reimbursement more than once. 

In January 2022, Kodiak agreed to pay $55,000 to settle the claims with the Office and the Attorney General’s Office. Under an assurance of discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Kodiak was also required to implement measures to prevent future overbilling. It agreed to designate a contract manager for all new and existing MassDOT contracts who will train employees about billing and ensure that Kodiak’s billing complies with contractual requirements. Kodiak also agreed to notify MassDOT if it discovers any unallowed billing or payment. These measures will remain in effect for five years. Kodiak did not admit to wrongdoing under the settlement.

Additional Resources

Contact   for OIG Annual Report 2021: Legal Division

Address

One Ashburton Place, Room 1311, Boston, MA 02108

27 Money from settlements and civil recoveries that the CRU works on are returned to the Commonwealth’s General Fund, with the exception of investigative costs in limited cases.

28 This total includes settlements the CRU reached with two troopers in April 2022 for $8,921.

Date published: April 29, 2022

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