IN THE MATTER OF EUGENE J. MAHONEY
Date: March 14, 1983
This disposition agreement ("agreement") is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and Eugene J.
Mahoney ("Mr. Mahoney") pursuant to Section 11 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,s.4(d).
On September 9,1982, the Commission initiated a preliminary
inquiry, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, s.4(a), into possible violations
of the Conflict-of-Interest Law, G.L. c. 288A, involving Mr.
Mahoney, a former member of the Braintree Board of Assessors. The
Commission has concluded that preliminary inquiry and, on February
4, 1983, found reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Mahoney has
violated G.L. c. 288A, s.s.19 ad 3(b). The parties now agree to the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Mr. Mahoney was a member of the Braintree Board of
Assessors ("Board") from April 5,1978 to March 1,1982; he was
chairman of the Board from 1978 to 1981. He therefore was a
"municipal employee" as defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(g).
2. The Braintree Board is comprised of three elected members.
Mr. Mahoney was not only chairman of the Board for three years of
his tenure; but he was also the Board's acknowledged expert on the
assessments on Braintree's approximately 1,100 commercial parcels,
and it was to his judgment that the other members deferred on these
matters. In Fiscal 1980 (July 1,1979 to June 30,1980), the Town of
Braintree had a tax base of approximately $550,000,000.
Jubilation Realty Trust
3. On January 8, 1979, the Citgo station located at 1599
Washington Street in Braintree and owned by Cities Service Company
(the "Citgo parcel") burned, substantially damaging the building.
4. In February 1979, Mr. Mahoney began negotiations in his
private capacity on behalf of himself and a friend and business
associate to purchase the Citgo parcel from Cities Service.
5. On March 13,1979, Mr. Mahoney paid the deposit of $7,000
to secure the $70,000 purchase price for the Citgo parcel to which
the parties had agreed. The purchase and sale agreement executed
that same day was signed on behalf of the purchaser by the friend
and business associate of Mr. Mahoney.
6. In May 1979, the friend and business associate having
withdrawn from the deal, Mr. Mahoney and his attorneys determined
that title to the Citgo parcel should be taken in the name of a
realty trust with secret beneficiaries. Jubilation Realty Trust
("JRT"), of which Mr., Mahoney and his family were
the beneficiaries, was formed for this purpose.
7. On June 20,1979, the closing on the sale of the Citgo
parcel occurred. Mr. Dignan as trustee, represented JRT at the
closing and took title for it. The balance due on the purchase
price, approximately $63,000, was paid by Mr. Mahoney.
8. In August 1979, the Braintree Assessors' Office began its
process of compiling and preparing the property tax bills for
Fiscal 1980. By statute, G.L. c. 59, s.11, those tax bills were
based on the assessed value of property as of January 1,1979.
9. As of January 1, 1979, the assessed value on the Citgo
parcel totaled $121,800 ($47,100 in the land and $74,700 in the
10. In September or October 1979, Mr. Mahoney directed Mary
Norton, the administrative secretary of the Assessors Office who
was in charge of the billing process for Fiscal 1980, to reduce the
assessment of the building on the Citgo parcel from $74,700. to
$2,500. No legitimate reason (e.g., abatement application,
demolition permit or Appellate Tax Board decision on the parcel)
existed for the reduction. Because this change came from only a
single assessor rather than from the whole Board, Mrs. Norton noted
that the reduction was "per Mr. Mahoney" on the record card for the
parcel maintained by the Assessors' Office.
11. This reduction in value resulted in a tax savings on
the parcel for Fiscal 1980 totaling $3,158.75.
12. On December 5, 1979, Mr. Dignan, as trustee for JRT, paid
the property bill on the Citgo parcel for the first half of Fiscal
1980, The funds for this tax payment came from Mr. Mahoney.
13. In or about June 1980, Mr. Mahoney became aware of the
"per Mr. Mahoney" notation on the record card for the Citgo parcel
and directed Mrs. Norton to remove it. Under protest, she erased
14. Section 19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee
from participating a such an employee in a particular matter in
which to his knowledge he or his immediate family has a financial
15. As a municipal employee, Mr. Mahoney violated G.L. c.
268A, s.19, by lowering the assessment on the Citgo parcel which
he knew he and members of his immediate family owned through a
16. In imposing a penalty for this violation of Section 19,
the Commission has taken into consideration a number of
exacerbating factors: (1) Mr. Mahoney's attempts to keep his
interest in the Citgo parcel concealed by utilizing JRT with its
secret list of beneficiaries as record-owner, denying any interest
in or knowledge of JRT to governmental agencies investigating the
matter, and directing Mrs. Norton (who has since died) to erase the
notation attributing the decrease to Mr. Mahoney; and (2) the fact
that the reduction in value was made by Mr. Mahoney acting on his
own, Because of these factors, the Commission deems this an
appropriate case to impose the maximum fine and to seek both
recovery of the benefit accruing to Mr. Mahoney as a result of his
action in this matter -- i.e., the tax savings for Fiscal 1980--
and some of the costs incurred by the Commission in investigating
17. In early December 1979, Mr. Dignan, acting on behalf of
JRT, offered a real estate broker, Donald Tofias, acting as agent
for the Walworth Company ("Walworth"), $1,000 for the approximately
25,700 square-foot parcel ("Parcel A") owned by Walworth that
fronted on Washington Street next to the Citgo parcel. Mr. Tofias,
on Walworth's behalf, rejected JRT's $1,000 offer and informed Mr.
Dignan that Walworth's asking price for Parcel A was $25,000.
18. On December 14, 1979, Walworth filed abatement
applications for two other real estate parcels ("Parcel B" and
"Parcel C") it owned in Braintree, larger than Parcel A and also
adjacent to the Citgo parcel. Walworth sought to reduce the total
assessments on these two parcels by $2,421,333 (from $4,932,100 to
$2,470,767). This would have resulted in a tax savings for the
first year of the abatement of approximately $110,000.
19. On December 26,1979, Mr. Tofias called the Assessors'
Office to schedule a meeting to discuss Walworth's abatement
applications, in which Mr. Tofias was also acting as Walworth's
agent. He was referred to Mr. Mahoney.
20. The same day, Mr. Tofias spoke with Mr. Mahoney to arrange
a meeting to discuss the applications. During this conversation,
Mr. Mahoney asked about the status of JRT's offer for Parcel A and
disclosed that he had an interest in JRT. Mr. Tofias told Mr.
Mahoney that Walworth had rejected JRT's offer and explained that
Walworth viewed the sale of Parcel A to JRT and the abatement
applications for Parcels B and C as separate issues that should not
be discussed in the same conversation.
21. At the meeting to discuss Walworth's abatement
applications that followed in late December 1979 or early January
1980, Mr. Mahoney again raised JRT's offer of $1,000 to purchase
Parcel A. Mr. Tofias reiterated that Walworth regarded the issues
as separate, Mr. Tofias was concerned lest the success of the
abatement applications be linked to the sale of Parcel A to JRT.
22. In a telephone conservation in January 1980 to follow up
this discussion of the abatement applications, Mr. Mahoney
increased JRT's offer for Parcel A to $3,000. Mr. Tofias again
emphasized Walworth's position that the issues were separate and
23. Walworth's abatement applications were not granted by the
Board and were therefore deemed denied. ATB appeals covering these
and later Walworth abatement applications were settled in 1982.
24. In December 1981, Walworth sold Parcels A, B and C. to the
25. Section 3(b) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal
employee from soliciting a item of substantial value for himself
for or because of his official duties or official acts performed
or to be performed.
26. The Commission has construed section 3(b) to mean that if
there is an official regulatory relationship between the donor and
the donee and each is aware of the relationship, the solicitation
or receipt of anything of substantial value by the public official
is prohibited barring some legitimate justification. See In the
Matter of Saccone and DelPrete, Commission Adjudicatory Docket No.
132, Decision and Order, pp. 10-11 (June 1, 1982); In the Matter
of George A. Michael, Commission Adjudicatory Docket No. 137,
Decision and Order, p. 31 (September 28, 1981). The Commission
recognizes that in certain circumstances -- such as where the item
of substantial value involves a personal service contract or other
sales agreement for fair value rather than a gift or other gratuity
-- further inquiry may be necessary to determine whether section
3 has been violated. Factors to be considered in making the
determination in these circumstances include: (1) whether the
official has particular power or leverage within his agency; (2)
whether the private party is someone with substantial interests
that have or may be expected to come before the official's agency
for action; and (3) whether the official has a prior relationship
with the person he regulates.
27. As a municipal employee, Mr. Mahoney violated G.L. c.
268A, s.3(b), by trying to arrange JRT's purchase of Parcel A from
Walworth, the owner of a substantial amount of commercial property
in Braintree with pending abatement applications. Not only was Mr,
Mahoney chairman of the Board at the time and the acknowledged
commercial expert on the Board to whom the other two members
deferred (factor 1 above), but Walworth had abatement applications,
involving a large amount of money, pending at the time Mr. Mahoney
discussed JRT's offer to purchase Parcel A with Mr. Tofias (factor
2). In addition, Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Tofias and Walworth had had no
dealings with each other before Mr. Mahoney's election to the Board
28. In deciding to impose the maximum penalty for this
violation and to seek recovery of some of its investigative costs,
the Commission has taken into consideration that Mr. Mahoney tried
to negotiate the purchase of Parcel A in three separate
conversations and sought a purchase price substantially below the
asking price at least twice following Mr. Tofias informing him that
Walworth had rejected JRT's $1,000 offer.
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A, s.s.19
and 3(b), and the statutory rights of the Town of Braintree pursuant
to G.L. c. 268A, s.21, 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. Mahoney:
1. that he pay to the Commission the sum of $1,000 as a civil
penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, s.19, by reducing the assessed
value on a parcel in which he knew he had a financial interest;
2. that he pay to the Town of Braintree the sum of $3,150 as
reimbursement for the economic advantage he obtained a result of
the reduced assessment;
3. that he pay to the Commission the sum of $1,000 as a civil
penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, s.3(b), by soliciting the
purchase of a parcel of land from a company with abatement
applications pending before the Board; and
4. that he pay to the Commission the sum of $4,850 as costs
incurred in investigating these violations.
End Of Decision