Auditor employees violated conflict of interest law

Tried to use audit to sell their firm’s software to state agency

THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION says a former employee and a former consultant of the state auditor’s office violated Massachusetts conflict of interest laws by forming a software company that attempted to sell products to a state agency to help it comply with an audit they worked on.

The Ethics Commission issued a “public education letter” to the former employee, Brian Scheetz, which will resolve the allegations against him with no further actions. The agency said it intends to hold an adjudicatory hearing against consultant Jeffrey Fournier, which could result in fines.

Tim Dooling, general counsel for the auditor’s office, said the agency fired the two individuals once the situation came to light and referred the matter to the Ethics Commission.

“The Auditor’s Office holds its employees and contractors to the highest possible professional and ethical standards, which is why we swiftly terminated these individuals, referred the matter to the Ethics Commission, and brought in an independent auditor who found that the integrity of the audit had not been compromised. We are grateful to the commission for its actions in this matter,” Dooling said in a statement.

Scheetz was employed in Auditor Suzanne Bump’s data analytics unit. Fournier worked as an information technology consultant for the office. They, along with a third employee, formed a software company called Riscovery in September 2014, while they were still working for the auditor. Riscovery designed software to help government agencies identify improper payments made by public programs such as Medicaid or welfare.

In November 2015, the auditor’s office conducted an audit of the Department of Children and Families that faulted the agency for not identifying all instances of serious bodily injury for children in its care. The audit recommended DCF monitor a Medicaid database to better track these incidents.

In December 2017, after the audit was publicly released, Fournier emailed his wife news stories about the audit and wrote that they were “in the money,” according to the State Ethics Commission. Fournier then went unannounced to the Office of the Child Advocate and asked for a meeting. He emailed the Child Advocate’s office from his Riscovery email address, identifying himself as a consultant for the auditor. He said he and other employees from the auditor’s office had formed Riscovery and reengineered audit software to be “more DCF focused.” He tried to pitch Riscovery’s software as a tool DCF could use to monitor the Medicaid database.

The commission alleges that Fournier improperly used his position at the state auditor’s office to try to sell the Child Advocate software that his company developed.

The commission said Scheetz, after he was fired from the auditor’s office in December 2017, made a presentation to the Office of the Child Advocate on behalf of Riscovery. The public education letter said because Scheetz was involved in collecting data for the state audit, he should not have been marketing software to the state agency that was the focus of the audit.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Bump fired all three people involved in Riscovery – Scheetz, Fournier, and another unnamed consultant – and referred the matter to the Ethics Commission. She commissioned an independent expert to review the DCF audit. That review, released in April 2018, confirmed the validity of the findings, the auditor’s office said.

The Ethics Commission has not publicly released any information regarding the third individual. Due to confidentiality laws, Ethics Commission spokesman Gerry Tuoti said he could not comment on anything outside the scope of the public documents related to Scheetz and Fournier.