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Published in Print: May 11, 2005, as Ex-Official Pleads Guilty to Conflict of Interest

Ex-Official Pleads Guilty to Conflict of Interest

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A former Department of Education official has pleaded guilty in federal court to one misdemeanor count of conflict of interest that included using federal money to pay for personal expenses.

Eric G. Andell, a former deputy undersecretary for the department’s office of safe and drug-free schools, admitted April 29 that between November 2002 and September of the following year, he had approved official travel for himself 14 times.

The trips, according to a press release from the Department of Justice on Mr. Andell’s plea, were motivated at least in part by Mr. Andell’s “interest in private personal and financial matters.” The motivations, according to the release, included his “desire to accrue service time” toward a pension from the state of Texas.

Mr. Andell, 58, a former Texas appeals court justice, visited Austin and Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and New York City. During each of those trips, he conducted personal business, and some of his expenses on the trips were reimbursed by the federal government.

Also, during some of the trips, Mr. Andell took paid sick leave from his job at the department, but on some of those days, he was in fact working as a visiting judge in Texas, the Justice Department release said.

Sentencing for Mr. Andell is scheduled for July 29, but as part of his plea agreement, he has agreed to pay $8,659.85 to reimburse the government for “fraudulent expenses,” the release said. He could also face up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Apology Issued

On the day of his appearance in U.S. District Court in Washington, Mr. Andell issued a statement apologizing for the violations.

“I take full responsibility for the violation of the conflict-of-interest statute, having already reimbursed the department for the expenses,” he said in the statement. “I regret the trouble this will cause the people I love most—my family, friends, colleagues, and the community.”

Mr. Andell was appointed by then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige in September 2002 to lead the office of safe and drug-free schools within the department.

His duties were to oversee activities related to safe schools, crisis response, alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention, the health and well-being of students, and promotion of character. The office also took a lead role in the department’s homeland-security efforts.

Before becoming deputy undersecretary for the safe and drug-free schools office, Mr. Andell had been working at the department for a year as a senior adviser to Mr. Paige, providing guidance on juvenile justice, school safety, and drug-abuse reduction.

In Texas, Mr. Andell served as a justice for the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas, and prior to that, he was a judge for the 315th District Court of Texas, a juvenile court.

At the time of Mr. Andell’s appointment to the deputy undersecretary post, he was lauded by Mr. Paige.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Judge Andell’s skills directing this crucial effort to help preserve the safety of America’s schools and promote healthy lifestyles among its students,” Mr. Paige said.

Vol. 24, Issue 36, Page 29

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