December 21, 2011

 

DISPOSITION AGREEMENT

 

The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) and Michael Jackson (“Jackson”) 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 October 14, 2011, 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 Jackson.  The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on December 16, 2011, found reasonable cause to believe that Jackson violated G.L. c. 268A.

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


Findings of Fact

1.  During the relevant time, James DiPaola was the elected Middlesex County Sheriff.  The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office (“MSO”) is responsible for the operation of the Billerica House of Correction (“BHC”).
 

2.  During the relevant time, Jackson was an MSO senior deputy sheriff. 
 

3.  In October 2009, Jackson wanted to hold a fundraiser at his home for DiPaola’s re-election campaign.
 

4.  Jackson, on state time, and while at the MSO workplace, repeatedly solicited and received donations for the fundraiser from MSO employees, almost all of whom were Jackson’s subordinates.  The suggested donation for a ticket to the fundraiser was $50-$100 per person.   
 

5.  On October 14, 2009, a fundraiser for DiPaola’s re-election campaign was held at Jackson’s home. 
 

6.  Approximately 30 people, the majority of whom were MSO employees and their spouses, attended the fundraiser.  According to Jackson, the fundraiser raised a total of approximately $4,800.

 

Conclusions of Law

 

7.  Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a state 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.  The Commission has interpreted that section to forbid soliciting anything from one’s official subordinates, because of the inherently coercive nature of any such solicitation.  EC-COI-93-23.  The Commission has expressly identified solicitation of campaign contributions by Sheriff’s Department employees from their subordinates as a violation of § 23(b)(2).  In the Matter of Eril Ligonde, 2011 SEC ___.
 

8.  As an MSO deputy sheriff, Jackson was a state employee as defined by G.L. c. 268A, § 1.[1]
 

9.  Jackson knowingly, or with reason to know, used or attempted to use his official position to secure the above-described campaign donations for the DiPaola fundraiser.  Jackson, as an MSO deputy sheriff in a paramilitary organization, had authority over the subordinates he solicited.  Consequently, any request by him to a subordinate unavoidably implicated his official position, particularly where those requests were made during his MSO work hours and in the MSO workplace.
 

10.  Each donation received as a result of Jackson’s solicitations was an unwarranted privilege[2] because it was obtained by soliciting a contribution from a subordinate, someone in an inherently exploitable position.
 

11.  This unwarranted privilege was of substantial value because the suggested donation per ticket to the fundraiser was $50-$100 per person, and MSO employees and/or their relatives paid those amounts.[3]
 

12.  This unwarranted privilege was not properly available to similarly situated individuals (i.e., other candidates vying for public office).
 

13.  Therefore, by, in the manner described above, using his MSO deputy sheriff position to secure campaign donations for DiPaola, Jackson knowingly or with reason to know used his official position to obtain unwarranted privileges of substantial value not properly available to other similarly situated individuals in repeated violation of § 23(b)(2)(ii).
 

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

    1. that Jackson pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment delivered to the  Commission, the sum of $5,000 as a civil penalty for repeatedly violating G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2)(ii); and
    2. that Jackson 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 by

 //signed//                       12/21/11  
Karen L. Nober                   Date
Executive Director

 

 //signed//                  12/19/11           
Michael Jackson               Date      

       

I, Michael Jackson, 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 $5,000 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment delivered to the State Ethics Commission.           
 

 //signed//                  12/19/11  
Michael Jackson           Date

 

 


[1] MSO employees are employees of the Commonwealth.  1997 Mass. Acts  48.   
[2]  The donations were also an unwarranted privilege because they were obtained in violation of G.L. c. 55,  which prohibits appointed and compensated employees, such as Jackson, from making such solicitations   (c. 55, § 13) and/or doing so in a public building (c. 55, § 14).
[3] Substantial value is $50 or more.  930 CMR 5.05.