EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 24, 2013

City anti-poverty officials settle suit alleging they got paid for not working

LAWRENCE — Officials at the city's largest anti-poverty agency has settled a lawsuit alleging several employees, including its former executive director Phillip Laverriere, were paid for work on federal grants that was never done.

The suit against the Greater Lawrence Commuity Action Council (GLCAC) followed a month-long investigation by The Eagle-Tribune in March 2011 where Laverriere was found to be spending much of his work day at a social club in Lawrence instead of in his office.

The suit alleges GLCAC Facilities Manager George Peters was being paid to work full-time, when in fact, during warm weather months, he was golfing one or more afternoons per week during work hours, according to a press release put out by the U.S. Attorney's office this morning. The suit also alleged two other full-time employees were working part-time for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children while on GLCAC's dime.

In the settlement, GLCAC does not dispute the government’s allegations.

“Non-profit agencies perform important work in our communities, oftentimes using public monies. Agencies receiving taxpayers’ dollars are expected to have a sense of integrity and to utilize funds for the actual purposes for which they are intended," said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "Federal grant funds have become increasingly competitive in this fiscal climate. Communities suffer when funds are used inappropriately to subsidize employee moonlighting or recreational activities.”

The total settlement amount is $80,282. GLCAC will receive a credit of $57,282 for amounts previously paid to the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to an administrative audit finding.

Today’s settlement with GLCAC resolves a lawsuit filed by former GLCAC employee Ruth Tarbox under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Ms. Tarbox will receive $11,500 as her share of the government’s recovery.

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