Docket No. 604
In the Matter of Michael A. Tetreault
Date: April 11, 2000
The State Ethics Commission ("the Commission") and Michael A.
Tetreault ("Tetreault") 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. 268B,
On July 21, 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. in c. 268A, by Tetreault. The
Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on December 15, 1999,
found reasonable cause to believe that Tetreault violated G.L. c.
The Commission and Tetreault now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Tetreault was, during the time relevant, a member of the
board of health in Mendon. As such, Tetreault was a municipal
employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1.
2. The board of health is responsible for issuing disposal
system construction permits on behalf of the town 0 to individuals
who desire to install or repair septic systems.
3. Prior to 1993, Tetreault worked as a private
contractor installing and repairing septic systems in
Mendon for private parties. Tetreault performed his work
as the principal employee of Tetreault, Inc.
4. In September 1993, Tetreault received a letter from the
Ethics Commission informing him that he appeared to have violated
the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, s.17, by serving on
the board of health and u performing private septic system work
pursuant to permits issued by the town. The Commission advised
Tetreault 9 to resign from the board or refrain from performing
private septic system work in Mendon. The Commission also informed
Tetreault that the town could vote to accept the provisions of G.L.
c. 111, s.26G, which statute permits a board of health member to
perform private septic system work within his or her own town
without violating G.L. c. 268A, s.17.
5. In 1994, Mendon town meeting voted not to accept the
provisions of G.L. c. 111, s.26G. Tetreault was aware of this vote.
6. Nevertheless, despite the prior warning from the Ethics
Commission that Tetreault appeared to have violated G.L. c. 268A,
and despite the town's vote not to accept the provisions of G.L. c.
111, s.26G, Tetreault continued to perform private septic system
work in Mendon as the principal employee of Tetreault, Inc. Between
1996 and 1999, Tetreault, Inc. installed, replaced or repaired at
least forty (40) septic systems for private parties in Mendon.
Tetreault, Inc. was compensated by the homeowner or developer for
each such job. Tetreault, Inc. received a profit of $2,000 to
$3,000 per job, with a total
profit of about $100,000 earned over the course of three years.
As the principal employee of Tetreault, Inc., Tetreault received
compensation for his work.
7. Tetreault did not apply for any of the septic system
permits himself, nor did he sign the permits as a member of the
board of health.
8. For each of the forty septic system jobs, the health agent
for the town of Mendon performed two inspections, a preliminary and
a final. Tetreault was present at these inspections about 3 0% of
the time and responded to the health agent's questions or concerns
on approximately ten of those occasions.
9. Any action by the health agent was potentially appealable
to the board of health, although no appeals were ever entered or
heard by the board during the time relevant.
10. Section 17(a) prohibits a municipal employee from,
otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of
official duties, directly or indirectly receiving or requesting
compensation from anyone other than the city or town or municipal
agency in relation to any particular matter in which the same city
or town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.
Section 17(c) prohibits a municipal employee from, otherwise than
in the proper discharge of his official duties, acting as agent or
attorney for anyone other than the city or town or municipal agency
in prosecuting any claim against the same city or town, or as agent
or attorney for anyone in connection with any particular matter in
which the same city or town is a party or has a direct and
11. The board of health's decisions to issue septic system
permits were particular matters. in which the town was a party
and had direct and substantial interests. In particular, the
permits authorized activities which could significantly affect the
public health and safety.
12. Between 1996 and 1999, Tetreault, Inc. performed at least
forty (40) septic system installations and/ or repairs pursuant to
permits issued by the town. Tetreault, Inc. received compensation
from its clients for the private septic system work. As the
principal employee of Tetreault, Inc., Tetreault performed the work
and received compensation therefor.
13. Because the septic system permits were issued by the town
and authorized activities which could significantly affect the
public health and safety, Tetreault's septic system work and
compensation were in relation to matters in which the town was a
party and had direct and substantial interests.
14. Accordingly, by receiving compensation from private
parties in relation to particular matters in which
the town was a party and had direct and substantial interests,
Tetreault violated s. 17(a).
15. As described above, each inspection involved a
determination by the town's health agent. Therefore, each
inspection was a particular matter in which the town was a party
and had direct and substantial interests.
16. Tetreault, on behalf of his clients and/or on behalf of
his corporation, Tetreault, Inc., interacted with the health agent
on about ten of those inspections.
17. Accordingly, by acting as agent for his private clients
and/or his corporation in connection with those inspections,
particular matters in which the town was a party and had direct and
substantial interests, Tetreault violated s. 17(c).
18. According to Tetreault, he mistakenly believed that so
long as he did not personally apply for or sign the septic system
permits, he could perform septic system work in Mendon without
violating the provisions of G.L. c. 268A. The 1993 letter from the
Commission to Tetreault, however, clearly stated that Tetreault
could not perform such work. In addition, Tetreault knew in 1994
that the town did not accept the provisions of G.L. c. 111, s.26G,
which acceptance he knew would have specifically authorized him to
perform such work.
19. In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Tetreault, 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 Tetreault:
(1) that Tetreault pay to the Commission the sum of fifteen
thousand dollars ($15,000) as a civil penalty for violating s.
17(a) and (C); and
(2) that Tetreault 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
 Except as otherwise permitted, s. 17 prohibits a municipal
employee from receiving compensation from or acting as agent for
anyone other than the town in relation to any particular matter in
which the town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.
 Section 26G of G.L. c. 111 provides in pertinent part:
In any city, town or district which accepts the provisions of
section notwithstanding the provisions of section seventeen of
chapter two hundred and sixty-eight A, a septic system installer
who is appointed or elected to the board of health may engage or
work at the business of septic system installation within the area
over which the board of health has jurisdiction while serving as a
board member; provided, however, that neither the board of health
member nor the board shall inspect a septic system installation
done by said board of health member, or said member's partner,
employer, employee or co-employee. The inspections of work so done
shall be performed either by the board of health of another city,
town or district or by a special assistant health agent who is
appointed solely for the purpose of performing such inspections by
the mayor of a city, the board of selectmen of a town or the
governing board of a district.
 Section 17 was amended in May 1998 to allow a municipal
employee to apply on behalf of anyone for, inter alia, a septic
system permit, or to receive compensation in relation to such
permit, unless the employee is employed by or provides services to
the permit granting agency or an agency that regulates the
activities of the permit granting agency. Where Tetreault's own
board issued the relevant permits and Tetreault provided services
to the permit-granting agency, he may not take advantage of this
 "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. 1(k).
 The large penalty imposed here is warranted for the
following reasons. First, Tetreault performed work pursuant to
permits issued by his own department, and the health agent
inspecting his work was an agent of Tetreault's own department.
Second, Tetreault had been previously, explicitly and in writing
put on notice by the Ethics Commission that such conduct would
violate s.17, a warning which was underscored by the town's vote
not to adopt G.L. c. 111, s.26G. Finally, Tetreault profited
substantially from his knowing violation of the law.
End of Decision