Ethics commission: Highway inspector took bribes from P.A. Landers

Steve Adams

A former Massachusetts Highway Department inspector faces accusations from the State Ethics Commission’s enforcement division over alleged bribes that he accepted from Hanover contractor P.A. Landers Inc.

Thomas Kennedy accepted between $2,000 and $3,000 in cash payments from a P.A. Landers employee during the Route 44 paving project in the Plymouth area in 2002, according to a staff report that the ethics commission released on Tuesday.

The commission’s enforcement division also filed a complaint against Terry Edwards, a former Landers employee who had been a project manager on the Route 44 project. The commission’s staff says Edwards arranged the cash payments, which ranged up to $200 a week, as mileage reimbursements for Kennedy. The complaint alleges that the payments were intended to encourage Kennedy to relax his inspections of the project.

The commission will hold public hearings within three months to deliberate on both cases, which could lead to fines against both individuals.

The bribery allegations came to light last year during a federal fraud case that sent owner Preston “Skip” Landers of Hanover and Vice President Gregory Keelan of Pembroke to prison. A jury found that the company overcharged the state and federal government and many communities south of Boston on paving jobs between 1995 and 2004 by submitting inflated asphalt weight tickets for reimbursement.

The highway department scheduled a termination hearing for Kennedy in February 2007 after a Patriot Ledger report of the corruption allegations, and he resigned hours before it was scheduled to begin.

During the Landers trial last year, the Route 44 project was used by federal prosecutors as a key example of how the contractor systematically overcharged taxpayers.

One former Landers employee testified that the company overcharged the Massachusetts Highway Department for more than 500 tons of asphalt on a single day on the Route 44 job.

The ethics commission alleges that Kennedy began accepting cash bribes from Edwards after Edwards refused Kennedy’s request for a gas credit card. The commission’s report said Edwards instead told Kennedy to submit his gas receipts for reimbursement – even though Kennedy was also receiving separate mileage payments from the state.

The commission alleges that in exchange for the bribes, Kennedy relaxed his oversight of the project, accepting six asphalt weight slips from Landers on June 29, 2002 without inspecting the truckloads.

The commission’s staff alleges that both Kennedy and Edwards violated a conflict-of-interest law that prohibits public employees from soliciting or accepting things of value in exchange for influencing their public duties, or using their position to secure unwarranted privileges of substantial value.

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