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Ex-auditor admits violating state law

DeNucci fined for hiring cousin

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / August 2, 2011

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Former Massachusetts auditor A. Joseph DeNucci agreed yesterday to pay a $2,000 civil fine after admitting he violated state conflict of interest law by hiring his 75-year-old cousin to work in his office in 2008.

DeNucci, once a revered figure in Massachusetts politics, had a pall cast over his tenure by a scathing independent review of his final months in office, released in May.

The latest proceedings from the State Ethics Commission show that he directed his staff to interview his unemployed first cousin, Guy Spezzano, for a position as a fraud examiner in 2008. DeNucci then hired Spezzano, a former saxophone player and music teacher, for the job. He later admitted to the Ethics Commission that Spezzano “did not meet the requirements for the position.’’

Spezzano, according to the Ethics Commission, worked in the auditor’s Bureau of Special Investigations office in Brockton until December 2009, when he went on sick leave. He was terminated in April 2010 after using up all his paid sick time.

The Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division filed a conflict of interest allegation against DeNucci in September last year.

“After a long career in public service, I’ve learned to take the bad with the good,’’ DeNucci said in a statement yesterday. “I accept the small civil penalty and have entered into a disposition agreement with the Ethics Commission.’’

The later stages of DeNucci’s 24-year tenure as auditor, which ended with his retirement in January, have been unraveling ever since a review by the National State Auditors Association was released in May showing woeful shortcomings during his final 18 months in office.

The review found that the auditor’s office, charged with ensuring that government offices do not waste taxpayer dollars or stray from their mission, failed to meet professional standards in audit planning, staff competence, documentation, and reporting. The review showed that members of DeNucci’s staff were inadequately educated and poorly trained, and that they failed to warn other agencies of fraud risk.

It also charged that in 12 of 15 audits of other state agencies, DeNucci’s office failed to check sufficiently for fraud or risk of fraud.

The review prompted the new auditor, Suzanne M. Bump, to fire 27 employees and demote 12 others, distancing herself from her predecessor, who had endorsed her candidacy. When Bump took office in January, she announced that 37 other DeNucci employees would be leaving, mostly through layoffs and retirements.

“We are reforming virtually every aspect of the state audit office,’’ Bump said in May.

Bump’s office declined to comment yesterday.

With DeNucci’s admission of fault and $2,000 payment, the Ethics Commission has dismissed the case.

“You cannot use your job to secure benefits for yourself or others you are connected to, such as a public job,’’ said David Giannotti, a spokesman for the Ethics Commission.

Andrea Estes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globe_guilfoil