January 4, 2012   

DISPOSITION AGREEMENT

 

The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) and Marjorie Malone (“Malone”) 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 May 20, 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 Malone.  The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on December 16, 2011, found reasonable cause to believe that Malone violated G.L. c. 268A.

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

 

Findings of Fact

 

1.  The Town of Avon Board of Assessors (“BOA”) is composed of three elected members responsible for the valuation of real estate for tax purposes.

2.  Malone was hired as the Avon Assistant Assessor in August 2009.

3.  In the morning of August 4, 2010, Malone met with town officials and was informed that she was facing disciplinary action for a matter involving a personal 
     expense report.

4.  In the afternoon of August 4, 2010, without the BOA’s authorization or knowledge, Malone increased the assessments of two properties, each of which was 
     separately owned by two town officials.  The changes would have increased the annual property taxes for the two properties by $1,452 and $835, respectively 
     Malone increased the assessments without justification and without notifying anyone else at the town.

5.  Later on August 4, 2010, the town terminated Malone’s employment for the matter involving the personal expense report.   

6.  In December 2010, town officials discovered the increased assessments and restored the original assessed values.  No additional property taxes were paid by 
     the town officials as a result of the assessments Malone had improperly increased.   

 

Conclusions of Law

 

7.  Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use her official position to 
     secure for herself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated 
     individuals.

8.  As the Assistant Assessor, Malone was a municipal employee as defined by G.L. c. 268A, § 1.

9.  The ability to retaliate against someone by increasing that person’s  property assessment without justification was a benefit to Malone, and, therefore, a 
      privilege. 

10.  Each such privilege was unwarranted because the increase in the property assessment was without justification and was not in accordance with established 
       procedures. 

11.  Each such unwarranted privilege was of substantial value because Malone’s actions resulted in her obtaining the satisfaction of retaliating against a public 
       official from a town which was taking employment-related actions against her.  Such satisfaction, an intangible, non-quantifiable benefit, is worth $50 or 
       more.  See In re Turner, 2011 SEC (The peace of mind obtained from knowing burial would occur in town cemetery was of intangible substantial value 
       worth $50 or more). 

12.  Malone, as Assistant Assessor, had access to official town property assessments.  But for her Assistant Assessor position, Malone would not have had access 
       to official town property assessments. Therefore, by increasing the property assessments on properties owned by two town officials as described above, 
       Malone used her official position to secure these unwarranted privileges for herself.

13.  These unwarranted privileges were not properly available to similarly situated individuals (i.e., other town employees).

14.  Therefore, by, in the manner described above, using her official position as Assistant Assessor to retaliate against two town officials by improperly increasing 
        their property assessments, Malone knowingly or with reason to know used her official position to obtain for herself unwarranted privileges of substantial 
        value not properly available to other similarly situated individuals in violation of § 23(b)(2)(ii).

 

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

  1. that Malone pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment delivered to the  Commission, the sum of $5,000 as a civil penalty for  violating G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2)(ii); and
  2. that Malone 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//                            1/4/12  
Karen L. Nober                  Date
Executive Director

 

 //signed//                          12/20/11        
Marjorie Malone               Date  

 

                                                       

I, Marjorie Malone, 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//                     12/20/11  
Marjorie Malone           Date