Docket No. 411
In the Matter of Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation

Date: May 14, 1991

DISPOSITION AGREEMENT

 

This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation (Stone & Webster) pursuant to section 5 of the Commission's Enforcement Procedures.  This Agreement constitutes a consented to final Commission order enforceable in the Superior Court pursuant to G. L. c. 268B, §4(j).

On May 31, 1990 the Commission initiated a preliminary inquiry pursuant to G. L. c. 268B, §4(a) into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G. L. c. 268A involving Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation.  The Commission concluded its preliminary inquiry and on August 1, 1990, found reasonable cause to believe that Stone & Webster had violated G. L. c. 268A, §3.

The Commission and Stone & Webster now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1.  Stone & Webster is an international engineering firm that provides consulting engineering, design and construction services to clients throughout the United States.  It is headquartered in Boston and numbers among its clients some Massachusetts state and local agencies.

2.  In 1986 and 1987 Stone & Webster invited various federal, state and local public officials in Massachusetts with an interest in water resources and infrastructure issues to attend an educational program that included a seminar and harbor cruise.

3.  In each year there were two seminar programs held on consecutive days. The first focused on water resource issues and the second on infrastructure issues.  Each public official who was invited to attend was invited for only one of the two seminars depending on his or her likely area of interest and expertise.  Among the officials invited were representatives of various state and municipal agencies.  Stone & Webster was doing or had done business with some of these agencies.  With others, it had never done business previously, though it might in the future, and with some it was unlikely ever to do business.  The purpose of the seminars was to educate public officials on matters of current interest in their fields, to improve communication both between the public and private sectors and among different public agencies at all levels of government, to educate company employees as to concerns of public agencies and to generate goodwill for the company.

4.  On each day, the presentation portion of the program was approximately two hours long and consisted of four half-hour lectures and question periods.  Following the lectures, the participants, and in some instances their spouses, were taken on a cruise of Boston Harbor.  This was intended by the company to provide a relaxed atmosphere where the participants could enjoy themselves and engage in further informal discussions of the issues that had been raised in the seminars.  In 1986, the lectures were held in the morning and lunch and a bar were provided on the cruise.  A hospitality suite was made available for those seminar participants who wished to change or freshen up after the cruise.  In 1987, the lectures were held in the early afternoon and hors d'oeuvres and a bar were provided on the cruise.

5.  Although attendance records were not kept, over 100 persons (including company employees) participated in the program each year.  The cost of the cruise (including food and beverages) exceeded $100 per person in 1986. The hospitality suite increased the overall per person cost for those who used it. Although the costs in 1987 were somewhat lower, they still exceeded $100 per person in that year.

6. The seminars and the accompanying cruises were discontinued by Stone & Webster after 1987 and prior to the commencement of this investigation by the Commission.

7. Section 3 of G. L. c. 268A prohibits, other than as provided by law, the giving of anything of “substantial value” to any municipal or state employee for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such an employee.[1]

8. In this instance, there is no evidence that Stone & Webster had a corrupt intent or intentionally violated G. L. c. 268A, §3. Nor is there any evidence that the conduct of any public official was improperly influenced by the Stone & Webster program.

9. The Commission has authority to impose a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation of §3. In this case, however, because of the educational aspects of the events at issue, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by resolving the matter without further enforcement proceedings and with the imposition of less than the maximum fine.  Thus, this matter will be resolved on the following terms and conditions agreed to by Stone & Webster:

     (1)  that it pay to the Commission the amount of $2,000.00 (two thousand dollars) as a civil penalty for its violations of §3; and

     (2)  that it waive all rights to contest the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and terms and conditions contained in this agreement in this or any related administrative or judicial civil proceeding in which the Commission is a party.

 



[1] In the past, the Commission has considered entertainment expenses in the amount of $50 to constitute “substantial value.”  Public Enforcement Letter 88-1.  See, Commission Advisory No. 8 issued May 14, 1985.

Furthermore, for §3 purposes it is unnecessary to prove that any gratuities given were generated by some specific identifiable act performed or to be performed. In other words no specific quid pro quo or corrupt intent need be shown. Rather, the gift may simply be an attempt to foster goodwill.  It is sufficient that a public official, who was in a position to use his authority in a manner which could affect the gift giver, received a gratuity to which he was not legally entitled, regardless of whether or not that public official ever actually exercised his authority in a manner that benefitted the gift giver. See, Commission Advisory No. 8. See also United States v. Standefer, 452 F. Supp. 1178, (W.D.P.A. 1978), aff'd other grounds, 447 U.S. 10 (1980); United States v. Evans, 572 F.2d 455, 479-482 (5th Cir, 1978).