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Press Release Ethics Commission Imposes Civil Penalties on Three Middlesex Sheriff's Department Employees for Conflict of Interest Law Violations

For immediate release:
3/23/2011
  • Karen L. Nober, Executive Director

Media Contact for Ethics Commission Imposes Civil Penalties on Three Middlesex Sheriff's Department Employees for Conflict of Interest Law Violations

David Giannotti, Communications Division Chief

Captain Eril Ligonde and Corrections Officers Richard McKinnon and Heidi Ricci Used Public Resources in Connection with Political Fundraiser

Boston, MA — The State Ethics Commission has approved three Disposition Agreements (collectively, the "Agreements") in which Middlesex Sheriff's Office ("MSO") corrections officers assigned to the Billerica House of Corrections, Captain Eril Ligonde ("Ligonde"), Corrections Officer Richard McKinnon ("McKinnon") and Corrections Officer Heidi Ricci ("Ricci"), respectively, each admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by using public resources in connection with a political fundraiser for then-Sheriff James DiPaola ("DiPaola"). Pursuant to the Agreements, Ligonde paid a $10,000 civil penalty, McKinnon paid a $3,000 civil penalty, and Ricci paid a $2,000 civil penalty.

According to the Agreements, in October 2009, Ligonde decided to hold a campaign fundraiser for DiPaola, and he approached McKinnon and Ricci, who both agreed to assist him. Ligonde contacted DiPaola's MSO staff and campaign staff to schedule the date of the fundraiser. Ricci arranged to hold the fundraiser at the Tewksbury Country Club on November 19, 2009. Ricci also used an MSO computer to create two spreadsheets, one which listed 500 MSO employees, which she provided to Ligonde, and one which listed 50 MSO employees, which she provided to McKinnon. Ligonde and McKinnon used the lists to solicit MSO employees for campaign contributions, and to track how many tickets to the fundraiser each employee received and how much money each employee donated to the campaign.

The Agreements state that, while on state time and within MSO facilities, Ligonde and McKinnon repeatedly solicited MSO employees for contributions for the political fundraiser. As noted in the Agreements, Ligonde mostly solicited from his subordinates, while McKinnon solicited peers and superiors. At the fundraising event, Ricci delivered to the campaign treasurer an envelope containing approximately $4,000 in campaign contributions solicited by Ligonde and McKinnon. The Agreements note that G.L. c. 55, the campaign finance law, prohibits appointed public employees from soliciting political contributions and also prohibits anyone from soliciting or receiving campaign contributions in government buildings.

Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a state 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. The Agreements state that Ligonde and McKinnon each violated section 23(b)(2)(ii) by using their MSO positions to secure for DiPaola campaign donations obtained in violation of G.L. c. 55. In addition, they each violated section 23(b)(2)(ii) by soliciting MSO employees on state time and in state buildings to attend the fundraiser, and by maintaining the lists of MSO employees on MSO computers. Ricci violated section 23(b)(2)(ii) by using state time and MSO computers to assist Ligonde and McKinnon, and by creating and maintaining the lists of MSO employees for political fundraising purposes.

"The conflict of interest law prohibits public resources from being used for campaign or political purposes. Public employees are also prohibited under the conflict of interest law from soliciting contributions from their subordinates due to the inherently exploitable nature of the superior-subordinate employee relationship," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober.

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Media Contact for Ethics Commission Imposes Civil Penalties on Three Middlesex Sheriff's Department Employees for Conflict of Interest Law Violations

State Ethics Commission 

The State Ethics Commission is an independent state agency that administers and enforces the provisions of the conflict of interest law and financial disclosure law.

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