The State Ethics Commission is a non-partisan, independent state agency responsible for interpreting and civilly enforcing the conflict of interest law and financial disclosure laws.
The Commission consists of five members who are appointed to serve staggered, five-year terms. Three Commissioners, including the Chairman, are selected by the Governor, one by the Secretary of State and one by the Attorney General. No more than two of the gubernatorial appointments, and no more than three members of the Commission as a whole, may be from the same political party. The Commissioners serve part-time and employ a full-time staff.
Since 1963, the Massachusetts conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, has regulated the conduct of public officials and employees.
The conflict of interest law governs what state, county and municipal employees may do on the job, what they may do after hours or "on the side," and what they may do after they leave public service. It also sets standards of conduct for all public employees. The law requires that public servants give undivided loyalty to the government they work for and act in the public interest rather than for private gain.
Prior to 1978, the conflict of interest law was enforced solely as a criminal matter under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General and the various local District Attorneys.
In 1978, the financial disclosure law was passed. Under the financial disclosure law, political candidates, elected state and county officials, and state employees in designated "major policy-making positions" are required to annually file a statement of their financial interests and private business associations.
The State Ethics Commission was created in 1978 and provided with the power to interpret and enforce the conflict of interest law and the financial disclosure law. Today, the Commission provides free legal advice and education regarding the conflict of interest and financial laws and serves as the primary civil enforcement agency for these laws.