Docket No. 586
In the Matter of Harry L. Brougham
Date: May 3, 1999
The State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and Harry L.
Brougham ("Brougham") 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, s.40).
On July 22,1998, 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
Brougham. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on April
21, 1999, by a majority vote, found reasonable cause to believe
that Brougham violated G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Brougham now agree to
the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Brougham was, during the time relevant, a member of
the Belchertown Water District Commission ("BWDC"). As such, he was
a municipal employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s. I
(g). Brougham has served on the BWDC since 1958.
2. The BWDC is an elected, three member board which
oversees the operation of the Belchertown Water District
("District"). The BWDC meets monthly to review and approve bills
and to authorize significant expenditures.
3. The BWD commissioners appoint a full-time paid
superintendent. The superintendent oversees the day-to-day
operation of the District Water Department.
4. The BWD commissioners authorized the BWD
superintendent to contract with vendors for any emergency
repairs,[1/] and for routine maintenance jobs under$] 000,without
first getting the approval of the commissioners.[2/] The
superintendent is responsible for certifying that the work
performed by the contractors was completed satisfactorily. The
commissioners do not inspect the contractor's work. The
commissioners do, however, sign the weekly pay warrants authorizing
the treasurer to pay the contractors hired by the superintendent.
A minimum of two commissioners must sign the warrant before it can
be paid. in addition, G.L. c. 41, s.56 gives a board responsibility
for determining that warrants submitted for payment are correct and
that the work was done.[3/]
5. M. Brougham Excavating is a sole proprietorship owned
by Brougham's son, Mickey. Brougham does not have a financial
interest in the business.
6. Between 1994 and 1997, M. Brougham Excavating
performed work totaling $34,470 for the District. During this time
period, Brougham, as a BWD commissioner, signed 25 warrants
approving a total of $17,350 in payments for bi I Is where M.
Brougham Excavating was the payee.[4/]
7. Except as otherwise permitted in that section,[5/]
G.L. c 268A, s. 19 in relevant part prohibits a municipal employee
from participating as such in a particular matter in which to his
knowledge he or an immediate family member has a financial
8. The decisions by the BWDC to approve bills from M.
Brougham Excavating were all particular matters.[6/]
9. Because Brougham was substantially and personally
involved in making the foregoing decisions, he participated[7/] in
those particular matters.
10. Each such decision involved a company owned by
Brougham's son, an immediate family member. Brougham's son had a
financial interest in those particular matters. Brougham was, of
course, aware of those financial interests at the time he so
11. Therefore, by participating in the payment decisions
as described above, Brougham repeatedly participated in particular
matters as a BWDC member in which to his knowledge his son had a
financial interest, thereby violating s. 19.
12. Brougham did not realize that signing the pay
warrants violated c. 268A.[8/]
In view of the foregoing violation of G.L. c. 268A by
Brougham, the Commission has determined that the public interest
would be served by the disposition of this matter without further
enforcement proceedings.[9/] Indisposing of this matter by this
disposition agreement, Brougham waives 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/] The superintendent does not need the Commissioners'
approval for contracts for emergency repairs regardless of the
[2/] For scheduled maintenance work over $1000 and large
projects, the superintendent must obtain estimates from three
bidders which he submits to the commissioners.
[3/] General Laws, c. 41, s.56 states: "The selectmen and all
boards, committees, heads of departments and officers authorized to
expend money shall approve and transmit to the town accountant as
often as each month all bills. drafts, orders and pay rolls
chargeable to the respective appropriations of which they have the
expenditure. Such approval shall be given only after an examination
to determine that the charges are correct and that the goods,
materials or services charged for were ordered and that such goods
and materials were delivered and that the services were actually
rendered to or for the town as the case may be ... "
[4/] The District superintendent had certified that the work
in relation to each bill had been satisfactorily performed.
[5/] None of the exceptions applies here.
[6/] "Particular matter," 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).
[7/] "Participate," participate in agency action or in a
particular matter personally and substantially as a state, county
or municipal employee, through approval, disapproval, decision,
recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation or
[8/] Ignorance of the law is no defense to a violation of G.L.
c. 268A. In re Doyle, 1980 SEC 11, 13. See also, Scola v. Scola,
318 Mass. 1, 7 (1945).
[9/] The Commission chose not to impose a fine because it
found somewhat mitigating that Brougham's action took place after
the appropriate department head had certified the work was done
satisfactorily. Even so, the Commission wants to emphasize that it
does not consider a board's actions in authorizing warrants under
these circumstances to be a mere "rubber stamping" of the
department head's approval. Instead, G.L. c. 4 1, s.56 requires
board members to exercise independent responsibility in approving
such bills. In the Commission's view, such action is significant
End of Decision