The Ethics Commission has issued a formal advisory opinion, EC-COI-12-1, that explains how the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, applies to municipal employees who solicit donations or engage in fundraising on behalf of the municipality where the persons and entities approached for a donation may have business dealings with the municipality or its agencies or employees.
In general, public employees are prohibited by §§ 3 and 23(b)(2) from soliciting anything of substantial value from anyone with whom the public employee has official business dealings. However, as discussed in EC-COI-12, a municipal employee may solicit donations to a municipal entity from persons and entities with whom he, or other municipal employees, has or expects to have official dealings, consistent with c. 268A, provided that all of the following are true:
- the solicitation is carried out in accordance with G.L. c. 44, § 53A, which authorizes acceptance of gifts by municipal employees on behalf of the municipality, and, by implication, authorizes the solicitation of gifts;
- the solicitation is not made in circumstances that are inherently coercive because the person or entity solicited may be directly and significantly affected by a pending or anticipated decision of the same municipality;
- no overt pressure is exerted in connection with any such solicitation;
- the municipality and its employees apply objective standards in all dealings with persons and entities who are solicited, and do not favor those who give or disfavor those who do not; and
- the municipal employee principally responsible for making such solicitations discloses publicly and in writing the names of those solicited, pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3).
A link to the opinion appears below. Please contact the Commission at 617-371-9500 with any questions. If you need specific advice about how the advisory opinion applies to your prospective situation, ask to speak to the Legal Division.