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March 24, 2014

Torrisifaces potential conflicts

LAWRENCE — Eleven days after Patriot Ambulance hired David Torrisi as its first lobbyist in at least a decade, the former state representative escorted the company’s owners to a private meeting with his long-time friend, Mayor Daniel Rivera.

For the first time in 15 years, Patriot was in a fight to keep its contract with the city, which gave it exclusive rights to respond to the thousands of 911 calls seeking medical assistance that come into the Police Department annually.

Patriot’s top competitor for the contract was Lawrence General Hospital. And Torrisi was serving on the hospital’s board of directors even as he ushered Patriot’s owners into the meeting with the new mayor to urge him to stick with Patriot.

Torrisi said he had heard “rumblings and speculation” that the hospital also was seeking the city contract by the time he met with Rivera on Jan. 31, but he said he did not violate his fiduciary obligation to the hospital when he lobbied against its interests at the meeting. Later, after learning that the hospital was indeed seeking the contract, he said, he fulfilled his ethical responsibility by telling Matthew Caffrey, the chairman of the board, that he was lobbying for a competitor.

Torrisi continued serving on the hospital board until Feb. 26, four weeks after his meeting with Rivera, when the hospital won the ambulance contract from his client. He resigned, he said, in part because he was unhappy the hospital won the contract.

Robert McNulty, the director of programs at Bentley University’s Center for Business Ethics, said Torrisi’s disclosure of his competing interest did not resolve the conflict he faced by advocating against the hospital’s interests while serving on its board.

“It’s pretty clear,” McNulty said. “If he’s on the board of directors, his duty to them is to advance the interest of the hospital. To represent a competitor in a lobbying context, that to me looks like a pretty clear conflict of interest. He ought not to be taking clients that are in direct competition with the hospital.”

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