In the end, it was Wilfredo Laboy's arrogance that was his downfall.
In Salem Superior Court, the "imperial" Laboy was on display, just as it was for much of his 10-year tenure as superintendent of Lawrence public schools. So when Laboy took the witness stand in his own defense, he admitted to committing several of the crimes of which he was accused.
Yes, Laboy said, he had ordered school employees to pick up his son and drive him to and from his job.
Yes, he had sent school employees to his home to take out the garbage.
Yes, he had school employees meet with contractors at his home.
Certainly, non-school related jobs were done on the school printing press, including some for the Latino superintendents organization Laboy led and for the pizza shop his son owned. But they were supposed to be billed. Laboy said he wasn't responsible for confirming the proper billing. He just signed off on the bills where he was told.
And sure, he would have a glass of wine in his office when he was working late.
The main reason Laboy used to excuse this behavior? Why it was because he was working so very hard for the schools.
Yes, Laboy's defense was that he was allowed to break these laws because he was a hard worker dedicated to Lawrence's schools.
Laws, it seems, are for lesser people than Wilfredo Laboy.
It only took the jury three hours to convict Laboy on five counts — using public school resources for his personal gain and possession of alcohol on school property.
Perhaps many of the jurors were hard working, busy people themselves, who manage nonetheless to get by without taxpayer-funded school employees to help them with their personal problems.
Laboy was sentenced to two years in jail with 90 days to serve, followed by one year of house arrest, three years' probation and 600 hours of community service. Laboy had faced up to 10 years incarceration.
The sentence seems about right. Laboy is not John Dillinger, but he did betray the trust the community placed in him when he was named superintendent of Lawrence schools. The sentence sends a message that his kind of disregard for the law will be punished.
Laboy's imperious attitude concerning what he believed was his due as superintendent began early in his tenure. Laboy had demanded that running boards be installed on his city-supplied SUV to make it easier for his wife to get into the vehicle.
At the time, Laboy was making $156,000 a year. He billed the city $490 for the running boards he had installed.
"It's part of the vehicle. It's not my vehicle," Laboy said of his demand that the city pay.
It was downhill from there.
There were assault and counter-assault charges between Laboy and former School Committee member Amy McGovern over a door-slamming incident. There were allegations of a sex tryst between students in an unsupervised classroom, the dismissal of a teacher over lasagna brought to a foreign language class. And perhaps the final straw was the use by Laboy's assistant of software designed to track truant students to perform background checks on local politicians, professional athletes, movie stars and the like.
Through it all, Laboy no doubt was working very hard. But he never understood that his hard work did not entitle him to treat the schools as his own personal empire.
The resources that Laboy used for his personal benefit belonged not to him but to the people of Lawrence. That's a crime, one for which Laboy rightly is being punished.