Docket No. 465

In the Matter of Anthony Benevento

April 28, 1993

Disposition Agreement




This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Anthony
Benevento (Benevento) pursuant to s. 5 of the Commission's
Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented to
final order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L.
c. 268B, s. 4(j).

On September 10, 1992, the Commission initiated, pursuant to
G.L. c. 268B, s. 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible
violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by
Benevento. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on March
30, 1993, found reasonable cause to believe that Benevento
violated G.L. c. 268A.

The Commission and Benevento now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. Benevento was, during the time relevant, an elected
member of the Board of Assessors of the Town of Swampscott
(Board). As such, Benevento was a municipal employee as that term
is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s. 1.

2. The Board is composed of three elected members
responsible for the valuation of real estate for tax purposes.

3. In 1984, Benevento purchased a house at 86 Blodgett
Avenue in Swampscott. The house had an ocean view.

4. In 1985, Peter McCarriston (McCarriston) was interested
in purchasing 84 Blodgett Avenue, which was at the time a vacant
lot situated between Benevento's house and the ocean.

5. Based upon a letter from an attorney, Benevento
believed the parcel at 84 Blodgett Avenue was an unbuildable lot.

6. McCarriston asked his friend, Attorney William Dimento
(Dimento), if the lot was buildable. Dimento researched the
history of the parcel and determined that the lot was
grandfathered and therefore buildable.

7. Later in 1985, McCarriston purchased the lot and
obtained the appropriate building permits. McCarriston built a
house on the lot which partially blocked Benevento's view of the
ocean from his house.

8. During construction of McCarriston's house and for the
next few years thereafter, discussions occurred between Benevento
and McCarriston concerning Benevento's access to the beach over
McCarriston's property. McCarriston's and Benevento's versions
differ as to whether McCarriston promised Benevento beach access
rights. Ultimately, McCarriston did not deed a right of way to
Benevento.

9. Dimento advised McCarriston throughout these right-of-
way discussions.

10. At all relevant times herein, Thomas Belhumeur
(Belhumeur) was a close friend and business associate of
McCarriston. Benevento was aware of McCarriston's and Belhumeur's
friendship. Belhumeur joked about McCarriston's house blocking
Benevento's ocean view at Rotary Club meetings [1].

11. In the fall of 1990, Patriot Properties, a professional
appraisal firm, re-evaluated the approximately 5,500 Swampscott
properties for tax purposes.

12. Patriot Properties gave a copy of the preliminary
valuations to the Board on October 9, 1990. Those valuations
generally reflected an across-

-632-

the-board decrease (averaging approximately 10%) in residential
property values.

13. On October 23, 1990, the Board voted to accept the
valuations.

14. Later on October 23, 1990, Benevento unilaterally
increased the valuation of McCarriston's 84 Blodgett Avenue house
from $602,100 to $694,600 and increased the valuation of
Dimento's 64 Bay View Drive house from $371,600 to $414,600.

15. On October 27, 1990, Benevento increased the valuation
of Belhumeur's 423 Puritan Road house from $443,000 to $461,700.

16. Benevento only increased four of the 5,500 valuations
[2].

17. Although the procedures were not in writing, the
Board's standard policy at the relevant time required a majority
vote to change any valuation. The other assessors were not aware
of the increases Benevento made to the valuations.

18. On November 27, 1990, Patriot Properties submitted the
valuations to DOR.

19. After the tax bills with the final valuations were
released in January 1991, the increases Benevento made to the
valuations were discovered.

20. In February 1991, McCarriston, Dimento and Belhumeur
applied to the Board for and obtained (with Benevento abstaining)
abatements of the above increases.

21. In July 1991, Benevento, Dimento and Assessor Ernest
Mazola met to discuss the above increases. Dimento and Mazola
testified that at this meeting, Benevento stated, in effect, that
he had made the increases because he wanted to punish McCarriston
and Dimento; and he would do it again if he had the opportunity.
Benevento denies making this statement.

22. On March 1, 1992, Benevento resigned from the Board.

23. On June 2, 1992, DOR released a report concerning their
investigation of the matter. The report found that although it
could not say the values as increased by Benevento resulted in
overvaluations, the unprofessional manner in which the changes
were carried out, at the very least, gave the appearance of
impropriety.

24. G.L. c. 268A, s. 23(b)(3) prohibits a municipal
employee from acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable
person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to
conclude that any person can improperly influence him or unduly
enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or
that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship,
rank, position or undue influence of any party or person.

25. On each occasion he increased the valuations of
McCarriston's, Dimento's and Belhumeur's properties, Benevento
acted in a manner which would cause a reasonable person with
knowledge of all the relevant circumstances to conclude that he
could be improperly influenced in the performance of his official
duties by his private relationship with these individuals,
thereby violating G.L. c. 268A, s. 23(b)(3). This conclusion is
based on two factors: (1) he substantially deviated from standard
procedure -- he neither obtained a majority vote authorizing the
changes, or, for that matter, even notified the other Board
members of what he was doing; and (2) at the time he made these
changes, Benevento was on bad terms with McCarriston, Dimento and
Belhumeur. This conclusion of undue influence is underscored by
the fact that these valuations went up significantly when there
was, with the exception of one other property, an across-the-
board decrease in residential valuations.

In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Benevento, the Commission has determined that the public interest
would be served by the disposition of this matter without further
enforcement proceedings, on the basis of the following terms and
conditions agreed to by Benevento:

(1) that Benevento pay to the Commission the sum of five
thousand dollars ($5,000) as a civil penalty for the
violations of G.L. c. 268A, s. 23(b)(3);

(2) that Benevento waive all rights to contest the findings
of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions
contained in this Agreement in this or any other related
administrative or judicial proceedings to which the
Commission is or may be a party.



-633-

-----------------------------------
[1] Benevento, McCarriston, Dimento and Belhumeur were all
Rotary Club members.

[2] Benevento also unilaterally increased the valuation of
Peter Beatrice Jr.'s 39 Salem Street house from $192,500 to
$214,700. Although Beatrice's son owns an insurance agency which
competes with Benevento's insurance agency, Benevento's
motivation for increasing the father's property valuation is
unclear.