Lowell Regional Water Utility Executive Director Improperly used Utility generators and employees for personal purposes
The Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement in which Lowell Regional Water Utility (“LRWU”) Executive Director Daniel Lahiff admitted to violating MG.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by using an LRWU generator in his home, by soliciting an LRWU employee to transport and connect an LRWU generator to his home furnace during power outages, and by using another LRWU employee to perform private contracting work. Pursuant to the Agreement, Lahiff paid a $5,000 civil penalty for the violations.
According to the Agreement, in December 2008, when ice storms caused widespread power outages in the region, Lahiff transported an LRWU generator to and from his home and solicited an LRWU employee to connect the generator to supply electricity to Lahiff’s residence. The generator remained at Lahiff’s home for approximately 24 hours. In 2009, during another power outage that occurred when Lahiff was out of state, Lahiff solicited the same LRWU employee to transport the LRWU generator to and from Lahiff’s home and connect it so to restore power for a member of Lahiff’s family who was in the home. Connecting the generator to the furnace involved electrical work to create a bypass in the circuit board.
The employee transported the generator and performed the electrical work on his own private time. Lahiff paid the employee approximately $100 in each instance. The Agreement states that in each instance, Lahiff received a discount of at least $300 from what he would typically have had to pay to rent a generator and to hire someone to perform the electrical work.
The Agreement also states that in 2009, Lahiff solicited another LRWU employee to install a wood floor in Lahiff’s residence.
The employee charged Lahiff a discounted rate of $150 for four hours of labor, less than the fair market value for the labor of at least $375. Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal 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. According to the Agreement, Lahiff violated section 23(b)(2) by securing the LRWU generator for his own personal use, by soliciting an LRWU subordinate to transport and connect the generator, and by securing the services of a subordinate to install a wood floor at a discount.
“Public employees are prohibited from using public resources, including public equipment and the time and services of public employees, for personal purposes,” stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober. “Private business relationships between supervisors and their subordinates are inherently exploitable, and are generally prohibited unless specific safeguards are in place.”