Former Harvard Law School administrator Darris M. Saylors was arraigned in Cambridge District Court last week, beginning court proceedings involving her and one other former Law School administrator accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the school between 2012 and 2013.
Along with Saylors, Margaret DeMarco, the Director of Student Affairs at the Law School until 2013, has been accused of improperly using Law School funds for personal purposes while an employee. DeMarco is set to appear in court for her arraignment on April 5.
Saylors, who worked as a staff assistant at the Law School until 2013, is accused of purchasing $47,793.66 worth of electronics, clothing, DVDs, and other items using money primarily from the budget for the accommodation of students with disabilities, according to court documents. DeMarco is accused of purchasing $62,832.90 worth of electronics and other items, also primarily from the budget for the accommodation of students with disabilities.
Last week’s arraignment begins a legal process that could last months. Though the alleged thefts concluded in 2013, Arthur L. Kelly, Saylors’ attorney, said charges weren’t filed until 2015 in the Waltham District Court. Those charges were later withdrawn, and with new charges filed in Cambridge District Court Feb. 10. Police were conducting interviews for the investigation as recently as May 2016.
“[The Waltham District Court] charges were filed and then withdrawn and I can’t tell you whether they were withdrawn at the behest of Harvard University, or the District Attorney’s office, or both,” Kelly said.
Elizabeth Vlock, a spokesperson for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, said they were not involved in the Waltham Court filings.
Law School spokesperson Robb London said the Law School declined to comment beyond the school’s initial statement last week.
In interviews with the police, Saylors alleged that the former Law School Dean of Students Ellen M. Cosgrove encouraged her to attribute purchases to the budget for accommodating student with disabilities in order to avoid going over budget in other areas. Cosgrove wrote in an email that she only told employees to attribute purchases to that fund if it could be categorized multiple budget areas, writing that the disabilities budget was more flexible.
“There are times that an expense can logically be charged to two separate budgets,” Cosgrove wrote. “For instance, if we hired a sign language interpreter for commencement, I could see the charges being applied to the commencement budget or the disability budget. In cases such as that, my preference was to use the disabilities budget and I direct staff to do that.”
Saylors also alleged that DeMarco and Cosgrove had “created a climate where purchases where it was OK to treat yourself on occasion,” according to court documents. Cosgrove wrote that she played no role in Saylors’ alleged thefts.
“I never encouraged or condoned stealing,” Cosgrove wrote. “I'm confident that the investigations conducted by Harvard and the police were thorough and the actions were limited to the accused.”
DeMarco could not be reached for comment.
Saylors pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 20.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JamieDHalper.