On July 1, 2009, Governor Patrick signed into law Chapter 28 of the Acts of 2009, An Act to Improve the Laws Relating to Campaign Finance, Ethics and Lobbying pdf format of    Ethics Bill (2009).pdf  file size 1MB (the "Bill") . The Bill's changes to the conflict of interest law took effect on September 29, 2009.  G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, as amended by c. 194, Acts of 2011 and G.L. c. 268B, the financial disclosure law, as amended by c. 194, Acts of 2011. The Bill contains mandatory ethics training requirements for all public employees and imposes certain related obligations on City and Town Clerks. In addition, all municipalities must designate a senior level employee to serve as their liaison to the Commission. All individuals who are considered state, county or municipal employees [1] under the conflict of interest law, including special employees, will be required to comply with the new training requirements. Below is an overview of these requirements.

 

As part of the Bill, the Commission is authorized to prepare procedures to implement these requirements and ensure compliance with them. The Commission has posted on this website Implementation Procedures which were most recently revised as of November 28, 2011. 


Designation of Municipal Liaisons

The City Council, Board of Selectmen or Board of Aldermen of each municipality must designate a senior level employee as the municipality's liaison to the Ethics Commission, and must notify the Commission in writing of the designation by e-mailing the name, title, telephone number and e-mail address of the designated liaison to the Commission's Public Education Division Chief, David Giannotti, at dgiannotti@eth.state.ma.us. The Commission will provide educational materials to the liaisons and assist them in developing procedures for the municipality to comply with the ethics training requirements, and the conflict of interest law generally.


Summaries of the Conflict of Interest Law

Each year by the end of December, and on an annual basis thereafter, all current state, county and municipal employees, including special employees, must be provided with a summary of the conflict of interest law, as posted on the Commission's website. Newly hired state, county and municipal employees should be provided with the summary within 30 days of the date on which they commence employment, and on an annual basis thereafter. Every public employee must sign a written acknowledgment that he has received the summary.


The City or Town Clerk of each municipality must provide the summary of the law for municipal employees to that municipality's employees, and must maintain employees' acknowledgements of receipt. State and county agencies must provide the summaries of the law for state and county employees to their employees, and must maintain their employees' acknowledgments of receipt. The Ethics Commission will provide summaries of the law to elected state and county employees and maintain their acknowledgments of receipt.

 

The summaries are available on the website and are also available in Spanish and Portuguese translations.

 

Online Training Programs 

On or before April 2, 2012, all current state, county and municipal employees will be required to again complete an ethics training program on the Commission's website. [2].  Newly hired public employees must complete the online training within 30 days of the dates on which they commence employment, and every 2 years thereafter. Public employees will be required to provide a certificate of completion of the training to the appropriate employer [3] and the certificate shall be retained by the employer for 6 years.


The Commission currently has on its website an online training program, which, until such time as it is revised, should be used by state, county and municipal employees to comply with the Bill's training requirement. Although the program currently on our website is designed primarily for state employees, county and municipal employees should also use this program until such time as it is revised or replaced with one tailored to them. Upon completion of the program, employees should print out the completion certificate and keep a copy for themselves. Employees will also be required to provide a copy of the completion certificate to the Town or City Clerk (municipal employees), their employing agency (appointed state and county employees), or to the Ethics Commission (elected state and county employees). Completing the single program will be considered by the Commission as meeting the Bill's training requirements until such time as a second program is added. We are currently developing new online training programs which will replace the current program.


We are aware of some minor problems with the current online program, such as hyperlinks that are not working properly, and we are working to address those problems. Please note that when multiple users attempt to complete the current online training program using the same computer they may experience a problem accessing the beginning of the training program. To resolve this problem, the user will need to open their internet browser, then click on "Tools," then "Internet Options," select the "Delete Cookies" button and then click "OK." The user should then be able to click back on the Online Training module on the Commission's website and start at the beginning.



[1] For purposes of the conflict of interest law, all individuals who serve in state, county or municipal agencies are considered public employees. This includes individuals who serve full-time, part-time, intermittently, as well as individuals who are appointed or elected, paid or unpaid (i.e. volunteers). In addition, individuals who serve as consultants and/or have a contract with a state, county or municipal agency may be considered public employees, and thus required to comply with the new training requirements. To determine whether you are a state, county or municipal employee for purposes of the conflict of interest law, please see G.L. c. 268A, § 1(d),(g), and (o), or contact the Commission's Legal Division at (617) 371-9500.

[2] One online training program will provide a general introduction to the requirements of the conflict of interest law, and a second program will provide information about how the law applies to former public employees.

[3] The appropriate employer is the City or Town Clerk for municipal employees, the employing agency for appointed state and county employees, and the Ethics Commission for elected state and county employees.