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Letter Ruling

Letter Ruling Public Education Letter in the Matter of Brian Scheetz

Date: 06/23/2020
Organization: State Ethics Commission
Referenced Sources: G.L. c. 268A, the Conflict of Interest Law, as Amended by c. 194, Acts of 2011

Table of Contents

Public Education Letter

June 23, 2020

Brian Scheetz

Dear Mr. Scheetz:

As you know, the State Ethics Commission conducted a preliminary inquiry into whether you, in your capacity as a former state employee of the State Auditor’s Office (SAO), violated the conflict of interest law by acting as agent for a private business, Riscovery with which you were associated. 

On November 21, 2019, the Commission voted to find reasonable cause to believe that your actions, as described below, violated the state conflict of interest law, General Laws chapter 268A, more specifically that your actions violated section 5(a) of the law. Rather than initiating adjudicatory proceedings, however, the Commission chose to resolve this matter through the issuance of this Public Education Letter because: (1) the SAO investigated related allegations against you and, as a result, you were terminated; (2) you cooperated fully with the Commission’s investigation; and (3) the issuance of this public education letter will give other public employees in similar circumstances a clearer understanding of the conflict of interest law and how to comply with it. 

The Commission and you have agreed that this matter will be resolved publicly with this letter and that there will be no formal proceedings against you. You have chosen not to exercise your right to a hearing before the Commission. 

The Facts

From October 2012 to December 2017, you were employed at the Massachusetts State Auditor’s Office (“SAO”). You began as a staff analyst and then served as the assistant director for the data analytics unit from December 2014 until your termination on December 22, 2017. 

In or about 2011, the SAO developed the Rules Based Risk Engine (“RBRE”), a data analytic tool. You were the lead developer for the RBRE. The RBRE, as intellectual property, was owned by the SAO.

While working at the SAO, you and two other SAO employees (“Employee 1” and “Employee 2”), formed a private business, named Riscovery. Riscovery’s website claimed that it had designed solutions that helped to “identify, prevent, or recover hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payments in Medicaid, Transitional Assistance programs, State Transaction and Accounting Systems, and many other government programs and systems.” In or about September 2014, Riscovery was incorporated in Delaware.

In or about November 2015, the SAO opened an audit of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) to examine its process for reporting critical incidents and fatality investigations. You were a member of the audit team. Prior to the formal opening of the audit, you and members of the data analytic unit performed a speculative analysis of Medicaid Management Information System (“MMIS”) data.

The SAO audit of DCF, which used the RBRE, reviewed MMIS data from January 2014 through December 2015 for incidents such as suicide attempts, injuries from firearms, serious burns, and other types of medical incidents. The SAO’s team of auditors chose the types of medical incidents and procedure codes to be reviewed and you wrote SQL queries to extract these incidents from the MMIS data.

You told us that you acted as a liaison between the SAO and the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate (“OCA”) regarding the SAO’s audit of DCF. You met with the Child Advocate and other OCA staff regarding whether MMIS data appeared to demonstrate a critical incident that DCF had failed to report to OCA.

On December 7, 2017, the SAO released the results of its audit of DCF which found that DCF did not “effectively identify and investigate all occurrences of serious bodily injury to children in its care.” The SAO recommended that DCF “establish policies and procedures that require its staff to routinely monitor MMIS data…” DCF’s response, which was part of the audit report, claimed that it would “…determine the feasibility of accessing MassHealth claims data in its MMIS system to identify medical treatment that may indicate a child was abused or neglected and should have been reported to DCF...” The audit also found that DCF failed to report all critical incidents affecting children in its care to the OCA.

When the SAO audit of DCF was released, Employee 1 contacted the OCA and arranged a meeting for Riscovery.  Employee 1 also contacted DCF by email regarding Riscovery.  On December 20, 2017, the SAO began to investigate Employee 1’s communications on behalf of Riscovery with DCF. 

On December 22, 2017, you were terminated from your SAO employment. On January 3, 2018, you made a presentation on behalf of Riscovery to the OCA. You made a PowerPoint presentation which was clearly marked “Riscovery” and titled “Identifying Children at Risk Through Data Analytics.” The presentation described features of a program that would use both MMIS and DCF data to alert, in real time, caseworkers of children at risk. The purpose of the presentation was to show OCA what the members of Riscovery thought they could produce in the future.    

Legal Discussion

Until the termination of your SAO employment, you were a state employee as defined by M.G.L. c. 268A, §1(q). Upon your termination, you became a former state employee.

Section 5(a) prohibits a former state employee from knowingly acting as agent or attorney for or receiving compensation directly or indirectly from anyone other than the Commonwealth or a state agency, in connection with any particular matter in which the Commonwealth or a state agency is a party or has a direct and substantial interest, and in which the former state employee participated while so employed.

You acted as agent for Riscovery when you participated in the meeting with the OCA in which Riscovery demonstrated to the OCA a program to monitor DCF’s MMIS data. Riscovery’s marketing of its software to OCA was in response to and, thus, in connection with the particular matter of SAO’s determination that DCF should monitor the MMIS data. 

As you wrote the SQL queries that extracted relevant information from the MMIS data that formed the basis for the SAO’s determination that DCF should monitor MMIS data in your public role as the SAO’s assistant director of analytics, and the Commonwealth had a direct and substantial interest in the monitoring of the MMIS data, your actions at the OCA meeting on behalf of Riscovery were in connection with a particular matter in which you participated as an SAO employee. Although you were not involved in the actual data analysis, as a SAO employee you were integral to the collection of the raw material that led to SAO’s recommendation that DCF monitor MMIS data. Therefore, the Commission found reasonable cause to believe that you violated §5(a). 

Disposition

The Commission is authorized to resolve violations of G.L. c. 268A with adjudicatory proceedings and civil penalties. Based upon its review of this matter, however, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be best served by the issuance of this educational letter in lieu of adjudicatory proceedings, and that your receipt of this Public Education Letter should be sufficient to ensure your understanding of and future compliance with the conflict of interest law.

This matter is now closed.           

           

Sincerely,

David A. Wilson

Executive Director

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