In true “If something is wrong, somebody must be to blame and it must be a crime” fashion, the MA town of Arlington’s selectmen have voted to notify the Middlesex District Attorney’s office of a $1.5 million deficit in the school department’s budget for fiscal year 2010.
The board voted unanimously to notify the prosecutor’s office of the deficit, which school officials announced in mid August, more than a month after the conclusion of fiscal 2010.
That’s right, unanimous.
Well, would you want to be the lone person against reporting the potential white collar crime to the Commonwealth? Do you think “What do you have to hide?”type of questions might haunt you if you did?
Well, several town officials have criticized Superintendent Kathleen Bodie for failing to reveal the extent of the deficit sooner, and Selectmen Chairwoman Diane Mahon told School Committee members Monday that they need to take “swift and decisive action” concerning the deficit.
Bodie has said the deficit was caused by several factors, including rising special education costs and a reduction in grant funding. She also said the total amount of the deficit was not known until August and was then revealed to the School Committee.
Town Counsel Juliana Rice said Monday that the district attorney’s office must be notified of the deficit under a Massachusetts law that prohibits any department from overspending its budget.
So, the reporting is not necessarily because of any questions about criminal activity.
Not, yet, anyway.
“Sam, what’s the big deal? It would appear that there is no allegation of criminal activity here.”
So it would seem. However, there is also another scenario that I have seen play out in the past. Things happen when something is sent over for investigation to a law enforcement agency such as the district attorney’s office.
You see, the Office of the District Attorney is the office of criminal prosecutions. Therefore, there is a bias there. Often, financial short falls result, at least in part, by mistakes that are made by human beings. Generally, “mistakes” do not appear in the lexicon of prosecutors looking into such high-profile matters.
Under the guise of “merely looking for the truth”, investigators can appear nonthreatening, cheerfully gathering statements from all kinds of people. After all, no reason for anyone to “lawyer up”, right?
Well, as we have discussed a number of times in the past, when investigations occur, and people make various statements, sometimes suspicions develop from either clumsy, or downright manipulated statements.
That’s when the word “indictment” starts getting mentioned.
Should you be on an investigators’ list for questioning, whether or not you believe you did anything wrong or that anything criminal happened in the first place, think before you speak. Consider whether you should hire counsel. Should you wish to discuss such a matter with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.
For the original story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/arlington/2010/09/arlington_refers_school_budget.html