Docket No. 451
In the Matter of Arthur L. Hilson
October 5, 1992
This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Arthur L.
Hilson (Mr. Hilson) 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).
On January 16, 1992, 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 Mr.
Hilson. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on June 16,
1992, by a majority vote, found reasonable cause to believe that
Mr. Hilson violated G.L. c. 268A, s.s.3 and 23.
The Commission and Mr. Hilson now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Mr. Hilson was, during the time here relevant, the
Director of the Department of Public Safety (Department) at the
University of Massachusetts in Amherst. As such, Mr. Hilson
was a state employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A,
2. As the Department Director, Mr. Hilson had supervisory
authority over Department personnel. Mr. Hilson's supervisory
responsibilities included signing off on all promotions and
personal evaluations, and acting as the appeal authority for
3. In 1990, Mr. Hilson's duties as the Department Director
also included serving as the Chief of the University of
Massachusetts Police Department.
4. Until April 19, 1990, Erma Rocasah worked for the
Department in its payroll division. She did not work directly for
Mr. Hilson during the times relevant here.
While subject to his authority, Rocasah developed a
friendship with Mr. Hilson.
5. In March 1990, Mr. Hilson executed a $1,367 personal
check to Choice Meats of Greenfield, Massachusetts for the
purchase of beef. Mr. Hilson lacked sufficient funds in his
checking account to cover the check
6. On March 26, 1990, Mr. Hilson approached Rocasah and
borrowed $1,000 from her to augment his checking account. Mr.
Hilson signed a promissory note for the loan. The loan was
made payable by April 30, 1990, but called for no interest payments.
7. Both Mr. Hilson and Rocasah maintain that friendship
motivated their participation in the loan transaction.
8. On April 13, 1990, the wife of a Department special
police officer complained to Department personnel that her
husband's W-2 forms reflected wages far greater than income he
had actually earned.
9. On April 19, 1990, Mr. Hilson ordered an investigation
into the suspected embezzlement of $15,000 worth of special
police officer detail checks by Rocasah. On April 19, 1990,
Rocasah resigned from her position with the Department.
10. Also on April 19, 1990, the Department's investigator
informed the Northwestern District Attorney's office of the
Department's probe. The District Attorney's office played no role
in the investigation until September 1990.
11. Mr. Hilson informed his supervisor, a University of
Massachusetts Vice-Chancellor, of the investigation and his
Department's contact with the District Attorney's office. Due to
adverse media concerns, the Vice-Chancellor criticized Mr. Hilson
for contacting the District Attorney's office and for not
handling the matter internally by referring it to the
12. On April 20, 1990, Mr. Hilson telephoned Rocasah at her
home. Rocasah inquired when she was going to be arrested and
taken to jail. Mr. Hilson responded that Rocasah was not to worry
as the university only wanted its money back and that the matter
in all probability would be handled internally.
13. On April 24, 1990, Mr. Hilson authorized an audit of the
Department's payroll division as part of the ongoing
14. On May 1, 1990, Mr. Hilson repaid $500 of the March 26,
1990 $1,000 loan from Rocasah. He has not repaid the outstanding
15. On June 11, 1990, Rocasah mailed a letter and a $1,000
check to Mr. Hilson. The letter stated that the check was "[a]
token of sincere appreciation for standing by me and turning a
deaf ear to all the voices of discontentment with me. H Rocasah
explained she offered the gift partially to thank Mr. Hilson for
his support during her resignation, and partially to thank him
for his support and efforts during problems she encountered with
her former immediate Department supervisor.
16. Mr. Hilson deposited the $1,000 check into a personal
bank account on June 13, 1990.
17. The Department investigator completed his probe on
September 12, 1990, and furnished his findings to the District
18. In December 1990, the District Attorney indicted Rocasah
on larceny charges in Superior Court.
19. At all times during the investigation, Mr. Hilson as the
Department Director possessed the authority to terminate the
Department's investigation. After interviewing 20 university
employees and law enforcement officials, however, the Commission
has found no evidence that Mr. Hilson ever attempted to interfere
with the investigation, or advocate lenient treatment for
20. General Laws c. 268A, s.3(b) forbids a public official,
except as otherwise provided by law, from accepting an item of
substantial value for or because of an official act performed
or to be performed. An official violates s.3 when he accepts a
gift from a person he is in a position to officially benefit, and
the giver is motivated to extend the gift because of the
official's public duties.
21. By accepting a $1,000 gift from a criminal suspect being
investigated by his police department when he was in a position
to terminate that investigation, Mr. Hilson violated s.3.
22. General Laws c. 268A, s.23(b)(3) prohibits a state
employee from acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable
person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to
conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his
favor in the conduct of his office duties.
23. By securing an immediate, no-interest $1,000 loan from
his subordinate, Mr. Hilson acted in a manner which would cause a
reasonable person to conclude that Rocasah could unduly enjoy his
official favor in personnel evaluation, promotion and
disciplinary matters. Thus, Mr. Hilson violated s.23(b)(3).
Mr. Hilson exacerbated this appearance of an impropriety by
failing to repay the $500 loan balance, especially when his
failure to do so occurred while the Department's investigation of
Rocasah was pending.
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by Mr.
Hilson, 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 Mr. Hilson:
1. that Mr. Hilson pay to the Commission the sum of two
thousand dollars ($2,000.00) as a civil penalty for violating s.3
by accepting the gift; and
2. that Mr. Hilson pay to the Commission the sum of two
thousand dollars ($2,000.00) as a civil penalty for violating
G.L. c. 268A, s.23 by soliciting the loan and failing to fully
repay it; and
3. that Mr. Hilson forfeit to the Commission one thousand
dollars ($ 1,000.00) as the improper benefit of the June 1, 1990
4. that Mr. Hilson 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
 Following the Commission's reasonable cause finding, Mr.
Hilson resigned his position as Director, effective September 30,
 Mr. Hilson asserts that he responded to Rocasah's
question by stating that the matter was out of the university's
hands, and within the control of the District Attorney. As noted
in paragraphs 10 and 17, the Commission determined that the
District Attorney's office played no role in this matter until
September 1990. The Commission also determined that Mr. Hilson in
November 1990 stated to Rocasah's husband that his wife's case
was out of the university's hands, and now in the District
 Anything valued at $50 or more is an item of substantial
value. Commonwealth v. Famigletti, 4 Mass. App. 584, 587 (1976).
 The Commission will not consider a gift to have been
given "for or because of an official act" where a subject
establishes that friendship was the motive for the gift. In re
Ackerley Communications, 1991 SEC 518, 520 n.5. Where friendship
partly motivates a gift, the gift is still prohibited if the
giver is also motivated by a desire to create official good will.
Here, Rocasah's letter makes clear that friendship was not the
motive for the $1,000 gift.
 See In re Lennon, 1984 SEC 208 (school superintendent
violates s.23(b)(3) by borrowing money from subordinate). Mr.
Hilson's assertion that the loan was motivated by friendship is
not a defense since no matter how thoroughly this matter is
investigated, some uncertainty will remain as to whether the loan
was motivated in part by job considerations. Absent the
friendship factor, the loan would probably be an unwarranted
privilege violating G.L. c. 268A, s.23(b)(2) or an unlawful
gratuity violating G.L. c. 268A, s.3.