Docket No. 566

In the Matter of Casper Charles Sanzone

Date: June 24, 1997


DISPOSITION AGREEMENT


This Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and Casper
Charles Sanzone ("Sanzone") 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.4(j).

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On April 9, 1997, 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 Sanzone. The
Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on June 11, 1997, found
reasonable cause to believe that Sanzone violated G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Sanzone now agree to the following findings of
fact and conclusions of law:

1. Sanzone was, during the time here relevant, a guidance
counselor at Monument Mountain Regional High School ("High
School"). As such, Sanzone was a municipal employee as that term is
defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(g).

2. As part of his official High School guidance counselor
responsibilities, Sanzone assisted in inputting course grades into
the computer. Sanzone had access to course grades maintained in the
school computer and could make authorized grade changes.

3. Sanzone has a daughter ("Sanzone's daughter"[1]) who
attends the High School. Sanzone's daughter is a member of the
class of 1998. In the summer of 1996, Sanzone's daughter was in a
competitive position for valedictorian.[2]

4. In 1996, Sanzone anticipated that in the future he would
contribute financially toward the cost of his daughter's college
education.

5. In the summer of 1996, an out-of-state student transferred
to the High School junior class (class of 1998) beginning in the
fall of 1996 ("the transfer student").[3] The transfer student's
grades and other transfer materials were sent to Sanzone for
processing in his capacity as a High School guidance counselor.

6. As part of processing the transfer student's records,
Sanzone read the transfer student's grades to the guidance
counselor secretary for input into the computer.[4] Instead of
reading the correct numeric grades, however, Sanzone intentionally
lowered several of the grades of the transfer student, thereby
effectively lowering the transfer student's cumulative average and
class rank.[5]

7. Immediately thereafter, Sanzone went to his guidance
department private office. Sanzone logged onto the computer using
his official access code and then raised some of his daughter's
grades.[6]

8. Had Sanzone accurately read the transfer student's grades
to the guidance secretary who recorded them and not raised his
daughter's grades, the transfer student would have been ranked
first in the class and his daughter would have ranked third in
the class of 1998. As a result of Sanzone's lowering the transfer
student's grades and raising his daughter's grades, his daughter
advanced to first place and the transfer student was lowered to
third place in class rank.

9. The High School valedictorian automatically becomes
eligible for certain scholarships,[7] is eligible to apply for
certain other scholarships reserved for high ranking graduates[8]
and is in a more advantageous position than other graduates to
receive additional scholarships and admission to competitive
colleges and universities. Additionally, the valedictorian status
has intangible value due to the prestige accompanying the honor and
the distinction of being the High School graduation speaker.

10. The grades of both the transfer student and Sanzone's
daughter have since been corrected and the class rank of the class
of 1998 recalculated.

11. On April 3, 1997, Sanzone resigned from his High School
guidance counselor position.

12. Section 23(b)(2) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal
employee from knowingly or with reason to know using or attempting
to use his position to obtain for himself or others an unwarranted
privilege of substantial value which is not properly available to
similarly situated individuals.

13. Sanzone used his position as guidance counselor to
incorrectly enter the transfer student's grades and to gain access
to his daughter's computerized grades, which he then raised.

14. This use of position gained for his daughter the
unwarranted privilege of having a class rank which she had not
earned.

15. As indicated above, her class rank was of substantial
tangible and intangible value in that it enhanced his daughter's
chances for scholarships, acceptance into certain colleges and
universities, and position for valedictorian.

16. The privilege which Sanzone obtained for his daughter was
not available to "similarly situated individuals."

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17. Thus, by lowering the transfer student's grades and
raising his daughter's grades, Sanzone knowingly used his guidance
counselor position to obtain an unwarranted privilege of
substantial value not properly available to other similarly
situated individuals in violation of s.23(b)(2).[9][10]

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

(1) that Sanzone pay to the Commission the sum of two thousand
dollars ($2,000)" as a civil penalty for the violations of
G.L. c. 268A, s.23(b)(2); and

(2) that Sanzone 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.

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[1] Sanzone's daughter is not identified by name because she
is a minor.

[2] The valedictorian is the first student by class rank.

[3] The transfer student is not identified by name because she
is a minor.

[4] The transfer student's courses and grades were comparable
to those at the High School, therefore, no mathematical adjustments
were necessary.

[5] The exact grades remain confidential to protect the
privacy of the transfer student.

[6] There is no evidence that the daughter was aware of the
grade changes.

[7] Certain local scholarships are awarded by community groups
based solely on a graduate's class rank.

[8] For example, the University of Massachusetts offers the
"University Scholars Program" which allows the top two ranking
students at every high school in the state to receive an $8,000
scholarship if they choose to attend the state university. This
scholarship is renewable annually for four years as long as the
student maintains a 3.0 grade point average and takes at least 12
credits per semester.

[9] There were additional grade changing allegations made
against Sanzone. The Commission has investigated these matters. Due
to the statute of limitations restrictions imposed by 930 CMR
1.02(10), the Commission is unable to pursue these charges. Sanzone
does not admit changing grades other than those mentioned above.

[10] Sanzone's actions with respect to his daughter's grades
also raise concerns under s.s.19 and 23(b)(3) of G.L c. 268A.
Section 19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from
participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which
to his knowledge he or an immediate family member has a financial
interest. General Laws, 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.

The Commission decided to resolve this matter solely as a
s.23(b)(2) violation in order to emphasize that abuse of public
position for private gain is an unwarranted privilege and is
prohibited by the conflict of interest law.

[11] The Commission is empowered to impose a fine of up to
$2,000 for each violation of the conflict of interest law. The size
of the fine in this disposition agreement reflects the seriousness
of the conduct and that the action was intentional and adversely
affected innocent third parties.


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End of Decision