From My Corner: August 15, 2021

Rascals everywhere

In last week’s edition of Rumbo, we notified our readers that we’ll be writing regarding a City-appointed Director who has violated the ethics rules several times and has been reported by an official whistleblower to the State Ethics and other enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

To allow you (our readers) to understand this report, we must first educate you on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts States Ethics Commission rules and laws. When while fulfilling an official public appointed, or elected position, a person cannot utilize the city’s equipment, supplies, or workforce personnel to conduct the personal business of any kind, especially if that same is not afforded to its residents, people, or customers. Anyone performing services for a city or town or holding a municipal position, whether paid or unpaid, including full- and part-time municipal employees, elected officials, volunteers, and consultants, is a municipal employee under the conflict-of-interest law.

Every employee, elected official, intern, summer hires, special municipal employees, volunteers, and others receive and sign a receipt of a “Conflict of Interest Law Summary” from the city and is placed in their official personnel file. It’s a 12-page summary of the conflict-of-interest law, General Laws chapter 268A is intended to help municipal employees understand how that law applies to them.

Additionally, every two years based on Massachusetts law, every city, state employee must study and pass a test of Conflict-of-Interest Law, G.L. chapter. 268A, training as required under Section 28 of that law. A certificate is on file with the City Clerk’s office for each city employee.

The conflict-of-interest law seeks to prevent conflicts between private interests and public duties, foster integrity in public service, and promote the public’s trust and confidence in that service by placing restrictions on what municipal employees may do on the job and after hours. Civil penalties can be imposed up to $10,000 or in the case of bribery $25,000 for each violation.

It has been reported to the States Ethics Commission that Information Technology (IT) Director Luis Santiago (a city employee and working for the campaign of Kendrys Vasquez) has violated said laws in several ways. The report indicates a violation of three separate incidents. The first is that City IT Director Santiago used his subordinate staff to do personal work at the house of another employee.

Supposedly, the report indicates that Mr. Santiago placed a security system in and around the home of a Methuen resident. Additionally, Mr. Santiago had a city employee, who also works in the IT Department as a Technician (a subordinate of his) to assist in the personal installation of security cameras. This work was a paid personal job. Several cameras and recording devices were installed and internet connections were made for the proper functioning of the said security system.

What is unknown is if Mr. Santiago installed this system during his work hours or workdays, and if he utilized city equipment (such as tools, mounting screws, city laptop to connect to the internet for installation, etc.) and supplies (wires, mounts, pilot drills, power sources, etc.)

One thing for sure is that utilizing a subordinate is illegal. As a subordinate, the person (Vierlo Acosta),  could have been intimidated to say no to the work. Think of it as an employee saying no to his supervisor, and later in the year the supervisor retaliating in any manner. It’s a misuse of his position under paragraph c of G.L. c. 268A.

I spoke with Mr. Santiago via telephone and he denied all of this.  He claims to be an exemplary employee who would never do any of those things but I have been told by members of the city council as well as other employees that they have been told by Mr. Santiago having done those things.  They recommended I call him because he talks freely.

It is no secret that Director Santiago has been in a meeting, with Franklin Miguel and Interim Mayor Vasquez, in which Luis Santiago wanted to involuntarily discharge Mr. Acosta from city employment. It’s not a secret that Mr. Santiago has told a multitude of people that Mr. Acosta is a drug mule because of the many times he has traveled to the Dominican Republic. We inform you so that you know that there is intimidation of job security if the subordinate does not do as he is told.

The second complaint against Mr. Luis Santiago, to the state ethics commission, is that he has been using his city department office and city equipment, during city time, to create and work on campaign websites and campaign material for the upcoming mayoral elections for Kendrys Vasquez. Reports have come in from several sources, including other department heads on this violation. What will be a surprise, to see, is if Mr. Santiago’s subordinate (Vierlo Acosta) speaks up when he is interviewed by the state ethics investigators or any of the other city technicians.

The third complaint against Mr. Santiago is that he has, on several occasions, destroyed information that is to be kept public. The Massachusetts Public Records Law (Public Records Law) and its regulations provide that each person has a right to access public information. This right of access includes the right to inspect, copy or have a copy of records provided upon the payment of a reasonable fee if any. The Public Records Law broadly defines “public records” to include “all books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee” of any Massachusetts governmental entity.

One of the occasions, in which Luis Santiago destroyed public records, was upon the departure of the previous Mayor (during December 2020), in which Luis uploaded every document in the Mayor’s work desktop computer hard drive and handed all the information to him on a USB storage device, for the mayor to take with him. Additionally, Luis Santiago then formatted the desktop and wiped all its existence of any evidence, and public records that could have been made available to the public or investigators, for that matter.

On a second occasion, last year, Luis Santiago created a technological advantage in which he created a way to intercept emails (before the emails hitting the server). He and the previous Mayor would confer on which emails to allow into the Mayor’s email drive/server. This strategy was made for emails not to show up as emails available for public records.

Luis Santiago is the current IT Director and is slated to receive an increase of $25,000 in this year’s budget. We will wait to see the winner of the elections and whether Interim Mayor Vasquez will sign said increase that has already been approved by the council. Luis Santiago’s inability to concentrate on his work instead of violating laws and working on other non-city work tasks has resulted in the City’s technological infrastructure being a hack for ransomware and having to pay $400,000 for an encryption key to salvage all the data and systems of the City of Lawrence. Go figure!

Luis told me that that amount was not paid because he solved the problem in a week with three different systems that he has at his service. Imagine!


Birds of a feather flock together

Last week I told you about the complicated history of Ana Victoria Morales; a person who wants to shine using the push that others can give her and not by her effort.

On Tuesday, August 17, she will appear before the City Council because the acting mayor has nominated her to serve on the Licensing Committee.

I recommend that you read my column on July 15, when I elaborated on something strange that is happening within the Licensing Commission.

Commissioner Alfred Potter took a unanimous vote to cancel the Mt. Vernon Liquors license on June 23. On the 25th, two days later he resigned from that position and on the 28th he was appointed to a post in the mayor’s office. That vacancy did not exist, was not published, and was not approved by the city council.

After reading what I wrote last week, what is Ana Victoria’s true mission on that board?

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