Eagle-Tribune Story Prompts Official Action

The Eagle-Tribune reported on December 12 that the state has ordered the police department to implement tighter regulations on the way it disposes of seized property.

A state and federal investigation was opened after a September 18 Tribune article described a questionable car-swap between the city of Lawrence and the politically connected owner of Santo Domingo Motors. The deal involved 13 cars seized by the city in drug busts, including a Cadillac Escalade, Lexus ES 300 and an Acura SUV, in exchange for four Chevrolet sedans the city received in return.

Robert Nunes, the city’s state-appointed fiscal overseer, found that the private deal violated as many as four state and federal laws, as well as a directive from the Essex County District Attorney. The city also lost $36,408 in the swap, according to Nunes’ report.

Going forward, the police department will now need approval from the city’s procurement officer when acquiring or disposing of property and must record transactions as part of the city’s annual audit.  For disposal of property’s value exceeding $1,000, police will also need approval of the mayor.