Docket No. 616
In the Matter of Victoria Deibel
March 21, 2001
The State Ethics Commission and Victoria Delbel enter into
this Disposition Agreement pursuant to Section 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.40).
On May 22, 2000, 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 Delbel. The Commission
has concluded its inquiry and, on September 20,2000, found
reasonable cause to believe that Delbel violated G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Deibel now agree to the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law:
1. At all times relevant to this matter, Delbel was a member
of the Rockland Board of Health ("Board"). As such, she was a
municipal employee within the meaning of G.L. c. 268A, s. 1.
2. During the relevant period, members of Deibel's immediate
family owned a restaurant in Rockland called Anita Marie's.
3. In June 1998, the Board hired Michael Hambly as health
agent. In August 1998, the Board hired John Doyle as health
director. Doyle's contract did not have a notice-of-termination
clause. Hambly's contract required 60-day written notice before he
could be terminated.
4. On August 27, 1998, Hambly and Doyle inspected Anita
Marie's. They found four critical and 16 non-critical violations.
5. On September 10, 1998, Hambly and a State Department of
Public Health Food and Drug Inspector re-inspected Anita Marie's.
The inspection resulted in one critical and 11 non-critical
6. In the ordinary course of the health inspection process, a
re-inspection of Anita Marie's would have occurred in late
7. At the September 22, 1998 Board meeting, a motion was made
to terminate Doyle's and Hambly's contracts, "effective
immediately." Deibel seconded the motion. The motion passed 2 to I
with Deibel voting in favor of termination. The termination notice
was communicated immediately to both Doyle and Hambly, without a
60-day notice to Hambly.
8. Delbel testified that her vote to terminate Doyle and
Hambly was unrelated to any inspections of Anita Marie's. Deibel
maintains that her actions were based on merit. mainly the
inspectors' failure to perform their duties in matters concerning
the landfill and their failure to send notices to residences of a
potential methane gas leak in a timely manner. Deibel, however, did
not indicate her rationale at the time of the September 22, 1998
Board termination vote.
9. The Commission has no evidence to suggest that Deibel was
aware that her actions violated G.L.
c. 268A when she participated in the decision to terminate the employment contracts of health director Doyle and health agent Hambly. Ignorance of the law,
however, is no defense to a violation of G.L. c. 268A. In re Doyle,
1980 SEC 11, 13. See also, Scola v. Scola, 318 Mass. 1, 7 (1945).
10. General Laws chapter 268A, s.23(b)(3), in relevant part,
prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly or with reason to
know, acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person
having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that
any person can improperly influence the employee or unduly enjoy
the employee's favor in the performance of the employee's official
duties, or that the employee is likely to act or fail to act as the
result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party
or person. Section 23(b)(3) further provides that "[I]t shall be
unreasonable to so conclude if [the employee] has disclosed in
writing to his appointing authority ... the facts which would
otherwise lead to such a conclusion."
11. By as a Board member voting to terminate the employment
contracts of health director Doyle and Health agent Hambly, who had
recently been involved with negative inspections of her family's
restaurant, and who would likely perform follow up inspections in
the near future, Deibel knowingly or with reason to know acted in
a manner which would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of
the relevant circumstances to conclude that her and/or her family's
interests could improperly influence Delbel in the performance of
her official duties as a Board member. In so doing, Deibel violated
s.23(b)(3). (This violation could have been avoided if Deibel had
made a written s.23 disclosure which was public in nature of her
family's restaurant inspection history with Hambly and Doyle.)
12. Deibel cooperated with the Commission's investigation.
In view of the foregoing violation of GL. c. 268A by Deibel, 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 Deibel:
(1) that Delbel pay to the Commission the sum of $1,000 as a
civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, s.23(b)(3)-, and
(2) that Delbel 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