The US Department of Justice is investigating whether its lead attorney in a voting-rights lawsuit against the City of Boston collected pay and travel-related expenses for the Boston case while spending most of the time at a beach house on Cape Cod.
Department lawyer Susana Lorenzo-Giguere supervised a case this summer seeking to win translation of candidates' names into Chinese characters on Boston election ballots. The investigation is based on a complaint filed by a Justice Department employee.
While she was supposed to be working on the case, the complaint alleges, Lorenzo-Giguere spent half of June and much of July and August with her husband and children at a family-owned house in Mashpee. All the while, the complaint says, she collected her regular salary and $64 in per diem expenses for nearly every day during the summer, "including most weekends and the Fourth of July holiday."
Lorenzo-Giguere, acting deputy director of the Voting Rights Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, declined to comment.
The complaint is dated Sept. 20 and was sent to the Justice Department's inspector general. It is not a public document, but a copy with the name of the employee blacked out was obtained by the Globe. The allegations were first reported last month by the
A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the complaint in an interview but issued a statement.
"The Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the allegations," said the statement, e-mailed by spokeswoman Jodi Bobb. "Upon conclusion of the investigation, the department will take appropriate action."
Lorenzo-Giguere, a 1989 graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., received an award from the Department of Justice last year for her voting-rights work, including in Boston. Public records indicate Lorenzo-Giguere's parents have homes in Boston and Mashpee.
In the case this summer, Lorenzo-Giguere directed Department of Justice trial lawyers to seek a court order compelling Secretary of State William F. Galvin, whose office provides ballots for elections in cities and towns statewide, to print candidates names in Chinese on ballots for the City of Boston. The Justice Department's attempt was unsuccessful.
The complaint says that Lorenzo-Giguere was not in Boston until two days before a hearing in the case July 25, and that after appearing in the courtroom, she returned to Mashpee and continued to collect pay and per diem. After the judge issued a decision against the federal government on Aug. 3, the complaint says, Lorenzo-Giguere stayed at the Cape for another week, collecting pay and per diem until Aug. 10.
"Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere spent little time in Boston, and the trial attorneys who actually developed the factual record for the court's July 25, 2007, hearing can identify minimal work done by Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere which required her to be in Boston," the complaint says. "To the extent those attorneys' efforts were supervised or overseen by Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere, that supervision, which often took place by telephone calls placed to them in Boston while Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere remained on the beach, would have been at least as effective had Ms. Lorenzo-Giguere telephoned them from her office in Washington."
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.