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Former Lawrence Public School Dept. Graphic Designer, John Laurenza Cited for Accepting Bribes

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement in with former Lawrence Public School Department Graphic Designer John Laurenza today. Laurenza admitted to violating conflict of interest laws, (specifically MGL. c. 268A), by accepting bribes from a vendor, Wellington House Publishing to rig bids on two LPS contracts so that Wellington could be awarded the contracts.

In March Lawrence Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy was convicted for accepting a $1,500 kickback from Laurenza among other charges.

According to the agreement between Laurenza and the Ethics Commission, 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 between Laurenza and the Ethics Commission, Laurenza’s arrangement with Wellington was a corrupt act 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.

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover Massachusetts, a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, a 1990 Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program on 980WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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