Docket No. 595
In the Matter of William R. Shemeth, III
Date: September 28, 1999
The State Ethics Commission ("the Commission") and
William R. Shemeth, (" Shemeth") enter into this Disposition
Agreement ("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.
On January 13, 1999, 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
Shemeth. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on September
15, 1999, found reasonable cause to believe that Shemeth violated
G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Shemeth now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Shemeth was, during the time relevant, a member of the
Spencer Board of Selectmen. [1/] As such, he was a municipal
employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s. 1.
2. The selectmen are the appointing authority for the
police officers.[2/] Shemeth, in his capacity as selectman,
participates and/or is responsible for disciplinary action over police officers.
3. Shemeth is also an attorney engaged in the private
practice of law.
4. In 1991, Shemeth contracted with the Worcester Bar
Advocates ("WBA") to represent indigent defendants. Shemeth
received compensation from the court for the legal services he
5. Between 1994 and 1998, as a public defender, Shemeth
was assigned approximately 50 cases involving defendants who were
investigated and/ or arrested by Spencer police officers. Several
of these cases resulted in Shemeth cross-examining Spencer police
officers in court.
6. In July 1994, the WBA assigned Shemeth to represent
the defendant in the case of Commonwealth v. Andrews (Docket no.
9469CR646). The defendant was charged with assault and battery on
his girlfriend, being a disorderly person, two counts of assault
and battery on a police officer:[4/] and two counts of malicious
destruction of property (damage done to a police cruiser estimated
at a cost of $485.60 to repair).
7. Shemeth, in his representation of the defendant,
submitted to the court a tender of plea to resolve the case. The
tender suggested a plea arrangement which included restitution to
the town for damage done to the police cruiser. The court, however,
rejected this tender of plea.
8. Upon this rejection, the defendant elected to have the
matter heard before a jury. As a result of a subsequent pretrial
conference, a plea agreement was ultimately agreed upon by which
the defendant was found guilty of all counts and ordered to serve
two years in the house of correction. No restitution was requested
9. Section 17(a) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal
employee from directly or indirectly receiving compensation from
anyone other than the municipality in relation to a particular
matter[5/] in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and
10. Section 17(c) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal
employee from acting as agent for anyone other than the
municipality in connection with a particular matter in which the
municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.
11. As a judicial proceeding, the case of Commonwealth v.
Andrews was a particular matter.
12. Where charges alleged in Commonwealth v. Andrews
involved damage done to a police cruiser amounting to $485.60 and
assault and battery on a police officer, the town had a direct and
substantial interest in that criminal proceeding.[6/]
13. Shemeth represented the defendant in Commonwealth v.
Andrews. Thus, he acted as attorney for someone other than the town
in connection with a particular matter in which the town had a
direct and substantial interest. By doing so, Shemeth violated s.
14. Shemeth received compensation for representing the
defendant in Commonwealth v. Andrews. Thus, he received
compensation from someone other than the town in relation to a
particular matter in which the town had a direct and substantial
interest. By doing so, Shemeth violated s. 17(a).
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Shemeth, 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 Shemeth:
(1) that Shemeth pay to the Commission the sum of five
hundred dollars ($500) as a civil penalty for violating
G.L. c. 268A, s. 17(a) and (c);
(2) that Shemeth pay to the Town of Spencer the sum of
four hundred eighty five dollars and sixty cents
($485.60) for the damages done to the police cruiser; and
(3) that Shemeth 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.
[1/] Shemeth was elected to the Board of Selectmen in May 1994
and served until May 1998.
[2/] In 1945, Spencer accepted c. 41, s.97 (Police
departments; establishment) and in 1980 accepted c. 4 1, s.97A
(Police departments; chief of police; powers and duties).
Section 97 provides:
In towns which accept this section or have accepted
corresponding provisions of earlier laws there shall be
a police department established under the direction of
the selectmen, who shall appoint a chief of police and
such other police officers as they deem necessary, and
fix their compensation in an amount not in the aggregate
exceeding the annual appropriation therefor. In any such
town in which such appointments are not subject to
chapter thirty-one, they shall be made annually or for a
term of years not exceeding three years, as the selectmen
shall determine, and the selectmen may remove such chief
or other officers for cause at any time during such
appointment after a hearing.
[3/] In 1998, Shemeth decided not to renew his contract with
the WBA because of possible conflicts of interest.
[4/] No permanent or temporary disability claims were filed by
any police officer for any alleged injuries received in connection
with the above-described assault and batteries.
[5/] "Particular matter" means any judicial or other
proceeding, application, submission, request for a ruling or other
determination, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation,
arrest, decision, determination, finding, but excluding enactment
of general legislation by the general court and petitions of
cities, towns, counties and districts for special laws related to
their governmental organizations, powers, duties, finances and
property. G. L. c. 268A, s. I (k).
[6/] As the Commission has recently stated, a municipality has
a direct and substantial interest in a particular matter at least
where that legal matter affects its legal rights or liabilities,
pecuniary interest, property interest or involves a proceeding that
the municipality would have a stake in the outcome. See
EC-C01-97-2. Moreover, a criminal proceeding involving an assault
and battery on one or more of its police officers could well give
the town a "significant interest" in the matter even though that
interest is neither financial nor proprietary. See ECCOI-98-7.
End of Decision