January 6, 2010

 

Disposition Agreement

 

The State Ethics Commission and Brian Laumann ("Laumann") 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, § 4(j).
 

On February 20, 2009, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by Laumann. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on September 18, 2009, the Commission found reasonable cause to believe that Laumann violated G.L. c. 268A, §§ 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3).
 

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

 

Findings of Fact

 

1. At all relevant times, Laumann was a correction officer at the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office ("NCSO"). As such, Laumann was a county employee as that term is defined by G.L. c. 268A, § 1(d).
 

2. As a correction officer, Laumann had supervision over inmates.
 

3. In or about December 2003 and/or early 2004, Laumann offered to purchase inmate Paul McDermott's house ("McDermott's house").
 

4. Laumann offered to pay off the approximately $200,000 in outstanding mortgages on McDermott's house and give McDermott's wife $10,000 to $20,000 in cash.[1]
 

5. In February 2004, Laumann purchased McDermott's house by paying off the approximately $200,000 in outstanding mortgages but gave McDermott's wife only $5,000 at the closing.
 

6. According to Laumann, he spent approximately $20,000 in repairs to McDermott's house.
 

7. In 2003 and 2004, the NCSO regulations prohibited correction officers from contacting or associating with inmates or any member of an inmate's family except as required by the correction officers' assigned duties.
 

8. Purchasing McDermott's house was not part of Laumann's assigned duties.
 

9. At the time that he purchased McDermott's house, Laumann knew that Paul McDermott was an inmate of the NCSO.
 

10. Laumann did not disclose his purchase of McDermott's house to his superiors at the NCSO.
 

11. On May 24, 2004, Laumann sold McDermott's house for $289,000.



Purchase of McDermott's House


Conclusions of Law


Section 23(b)(2)

 

12. General Laws chapter 268A, § 23(b)(2) prohibits a county employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.[2]


13. The opportunity to purchase McDermott's house without having to compete on the open market was a privilege.
 

14. The privilege was unwarranted because (1) it violated the NCSO regulations prohibiting contact or association with inmates or their relatives outside of the employee's assigned duties, and (2) as a correction officer where McDermott was an inmate, Laumann's solicitation of a private commercial relationship with McDermott and/or his wife was inherently coercive.[3]
 

15. The privilege was of substantial value because the opportunity to purchase the house without having to compete for it on the open market was a benefit worth $50 or more.
 

16. By soliciting this purchase from an inmate under his supervision as a correction officer, Laumann used his official position as a correction officer to secure this unwarranted privilege.
 

17. The unwarranted privilege was not available to similarly situated individuals.
 

18. By using his official position as an NCSO correction officer to purchase McDermott's house as described above, Laumann knowingly, or with reason to know, used his official position to secure for himself an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. Therefore, Laumann violated § 23(b)(2).

 

Section 23(b)(3)

 

19. Section 23(b)(3) prohibits a county 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 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.
 

20. Laumann was poised to act in his official capacity regarding Paul McDermott while and after negotiating the purchase McDermott's house.
 

21. Therefore, Laumann knowingly or with reason to know, acted in a manner that would have caused a reasonable person knowing all of the facts to conclude that Paul McDermott could unduly enjoy Laumann's favor in the performance of his official duties and/or that Laumann was likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of Paul McDermott.
 

22. By failing to submit a written disclosure to his NCSO superiors that the purchase of McDermott's house was (1) entirely voluntary and, (2) initiated by Paul McDermott, Laumann violated § 23(b)(3). See Commission Advisory 92-7. See supra note 3.

 

Purchase of McDermott's House at Less Than the Agreed Upon Price


Conclusions of Law


Section 23(b)(2)

 

23. The opportunity to purchase McDermott's house for less than the agreed to price was a privilege.
 

24. The privilege was unwarranted because Laumann used the power of his position as a correction officer to force McDermott and/or his wife to accept $5,000, rather than the $10-$25,000 that he had agreed to pay.
 

25. The difference between what Laumann agreed to pay and what he paid was of substantial value, $50.00 or more.
 

26. The unwarranted privilege was not available to similarly situated individuals.
 

27. By using his official position as an NCSO correction officer to pay less than he had promised for McDermott's house as described above, Laumann knowingly, or with reason to know, used his official position to secure for himself an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. Therefore, Laumann violated § 23(b)(2).

 

In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by Brian Laumann, 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 Brian Laumann:

(1) that Brian Laumann pay to the Commission the sum of $ $6,000 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, §§ 23(b)(2) and (b)(3); and

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

 

STATE ETHICS COMMISSION

 

    //signed//                            12/11/09    
Brian Laumann                         Date

 

    //signed//                            1/6/10    
Karen L. Nober                         Date
Executive Director

 

I, Brian Laumann, have personally read the above Disposition Agreement. I understand that it is a public document and that by signing it, I will have agreed to all of the terms and conditions therein including payment of $6,000 to the State Ethics Commission.

 

    //signed//                            12/11/09    
Brian Laumann                         Date



 

[1] There are different recollections as to the amount of the offer but they range from $10,000 to $20,000.

[2] Chapter 268A of the General Laws was amended by 2009 Mass. Acts 28. The language of § 23(b)(2) now appears in § 23(b)(2)(ii) of G.L. c. 268A as amended.

[3] In Commission Advisory 92-7, the Commission recognized the inherently coercive nature of these types of relationships stating: "We now clarify that a public employee's private business relationship with a subordinate employee, a vendor whose contract he supervises, or a person or entity within his regulatory jurisdiction, violates s. 23, unless (1) the relationship is entirely voluntary; (2) it was initiated by the person under the supervisory employee's jurisdiction; and (3) the supervisory employee's public written disclosure under s. 23(b)(3) states facts clearly showing elements (1) and (2). Thus, failure to meet elements (1) or (2) will violate s. 23(b)(2); failure to make the disclosure required by (3) will violate s. 23(b)(3)."