Former Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser Jr. testified Monday that he never authorized Edward Scigliano IV to use personal credit cards for thousands of dollars of department purchases.
Scigliano, a district chief with the Boston Fire Department, is on trial for allegedly stealing $46,000 from the city, money prosecutors say he used to pay his credit card bills and buy items such as a gas grill and 52-inch television.
Scigliano, 46, has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer Monday sought to portray the questioned transactions as legitimate attempts to improve the Boston Fire Academy.
Fraser, who was commissioner from 2006 to 2014, described Scigliano as “a strong advocate” for the training center, but in lengthy testimony said he never gave him permission to buy supplies with his personal credit card, make purchases using credits from a vendor, or receive reimbursement for his purchases.
“I was not aware that anyone would buy anything on their own credit card,” Fraser told jurors in Suffolk Superior Court.
Last week, a sales executive at Greenwood Emergency Vehicles Inc. testified that Scigliano approached him in 2007 and told him that Fraser had authorized him to use credited funds for the Boston Fire Academy. The executive, Mark MacDonald, said he had no reason to doubt Scigliano.
“Ed was my point of contact” with the department, MacDonald said. “I trusted him.”
But Fraser said he told vendors in 2010 that the department’s transportation director was in charge of spending on equipment, not Scigliano.
“I wanted there to be no confusion,” Fraser said.
But Scigliano allegedly continued to make purchases with his own credit cards and credits owed to the department. Prosecutors say he personally profited from these transactions.
“Did you know this conduct was going on?” Assistant Attorney General Peter Mullin asked Fraser.
“No,” he replied.
After buying supplies with his own credit card, Scigliano then applied for reimbursement, prosecutors said. He sometimes received payments directly from a vendor, Mullin said.
Prosecutors say Scigliano directed an equipment vendor to buy more than $14,000 worth of items for Scigliano’s personal use, including a gas grill, a living room set, and an elliptical machine.
Fraser recalled meeting with Scigliano in 2012 after learning he was under police investigation. He said he made the purchases himself because “he didn’t want to wait” to receive the supplies.
“He said he had made a mistake,” Fraser recalled. “He said he knew that was wrong.”
Scigliano said he had receipts for all his purchases and “wanted to set the record straight.” Fraser placed him on administrative leave.
Under cross-examination from Scigliano’s lawyer, Michael Doolin, Fraser said he did not take notes in the one-on-one meeting and did not feel it was necessary to have others join the meeting.
“I had no idea what he wanted to speak with me about,” he said.
Doolin sought to portray Scigliano’s use of credits as an above-board, legitimate practice, and that he was following Fraser’s lead in seeking to improve training at the academy.
Fraser agreed that Scigliano had mentioned credits to him before, and agreed that Scigliano didn’t “shy away” from the topic as if it were improper.
Doolin also noted that Scigliano had previously charged $14,000 on credit cards for travel expenses for himself and a number of other employees, charges that were reimbursed.
“That was preapproved,” Fraser said.Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.