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Middlesex Corrections Officers Admit to Conflict of Interest Violations

State Ethics Commission determined a Middlesex Sheriff's Department captain and two corrections officers used public resources in connection with a political fundraiser for former Sheriff James DiPaola.

Three Middlesex County Corrections officers have admitted to breaking the state's conflict of interest laws by using public resources for former Sheriff James DiPaola's reelection campaign in 2009, the State Ethics Commission Officials announced Wednesday.

Captain Eril Ligonde along with Corrections Officers Richard McKinnon and  Heidi Ricci used Sheriff's department resources to coordinate a fundraiser at Tewksbury Country Club in October 2009, used department computers to generate lists of Sheriff's office employees, and repeatedly solicited co-workers for donations, according to an Ethics Commission press release. 

For their actions, Ligonde paid a $10,000 civil penalty, McKinnon paid $3,000 and Ricci paid a $2,00o.

The state's conflict of interest law prohibits a state employee from, knowingly using, or attempting to use, his official position to benefit themselves or others. Violations can also include individuals who may not have knowingly broken the law, but had reason to know.

The fines stem from the efforts of DaPaola's staff to reelect him to office. In the fall of 2009, Ligonde approached McKinnon and Ricci about holding a campaign fundraiser, both of whom agreed to assist him, according to the press release.

Ligonde then contacted DiPaola’s sheriff staff and campaign staff to schedule the date of the fundraiser. Ricci arranged to hold the fundraiser at the Tewksbury club on November 19, 2009.

Ricci also used a Sheriff's office computer to create two spreadsheets, one which listed 500 Sheriff's office employees, which she provided to Ligonde. The other list included 50 employees, which Ricci provided to McKinnon.

Ligonde and McKinnon used the lists to solicit sheriff's office 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. 

While on state time and within sheriff office facilities, Ligonde and McKinnon repeatedly solicited employees for contributions for the political fundraiser, according to the agreement.

Ligonde mostly solicited from his subordinates, while McKinnon solicited peers and superiors, according to the agreement. At the Tewksbury fundraiser, Ricci gave DiPaola's campaign treasure an envelope with about $4,000 in contributions that were solicited by Ligonde and McKinnon.

DiPaola committed suicide in November 2010, after he had announced he would resign in January after controversy over his plans to exploit a loophole in the state law enforcement pension system.

But days prior to his death, the Attorney General Martha Coakley's office had started an investigation into allegations of campaign corruption in the Sheriff's department.

In the wake of DiPaola's death, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Peter Koutoujian, a former prosecutor and state representative, as the new sheriff.

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