Docket No. 450
In the Matter of William Butters
September 9, 1992
This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and William
Butters (Mr. Butters) pursuant to s.5 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(j).
On February 19, 1992, the Commission initiated a preliminary
inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law,
G.L. c. 268A, involving Mr. Butters, a Norwood Selectman. The
Commission concluded that inquiry and, on July 14, 1992, found
reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Butters violated G.L. c.
The Commission and Mr. Butters now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. At all times relevant to this matter, Mr. Butters was a
selectman of the Town of Norwood. Mr. Butters served as a Norwood
selectman from 1971 to 1977 and from 1980 to the present. Mr.
Butters was, therefore, during the period here relevant, a
municipal employee as defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(g).
2. Mr. Butters' son, Paul Butters, has been a Norwood
firefighter at all times relevant to this matter.
3. The Norwood firefighters serve pursuant to successive
contracts with the town. The firefighter contracts are negotiated
by town counsel and the firefighters' union. Mr. Butters has not
been involved in these negotiations.
4. On December 12, 1989, at a regular selectmen's meeting,
the selectmen, including Mr. Butters, unanimously approved and
signed the firefighter contract. The contract raised Paul
Butters' salary $1,682.76.
5. On June 12, 1990, at a regular selectmen's meeting, Mr.
Butters seconded the motion to approve a new fire department
contract. The selectmen unanimously approved the contract. The
contract raised Paul Butters' salary $2,481.
6. On June 14, 1990, the town meeting approved the fire
department contract. Shortly thereafter, however, a referendum
petition was initiated to overturn the town meeting vote
approving the fire department contract and other municipal
7. On July 2, 1990, at a regular selectmen's meeting, Mr.
Butters participated extensively in a discussion concerning
whether to call for a referendum on the municipal employee
contracts. The selectmen split 22 on the motion, with Mr. Butters
voting against holding the referendum.
8. On August 21, 1990, at a regular meeting, the selectmen,
including Mr. Butters, again unanimously approved and signed the
9. Except as otherwise permitted, s.19 of G.L. c. 268A
prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such an
employee in a particular matter in which to his knowledge his
immediate family has a financial interest.
10. The fire department contracts were particular matters as
that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(k).
11. As a firefighter, Mr. Butters' son had a financial
interest in the approval of the contracts. At all relevant times,
Mr. Butters was aware of that financial interest.
12. Mr. Butters participated in the fire department
contracts by voting in favor of and signing the fire department
contracts in both 1989 and 1990, and by voting against holding
the referendum on the contract in 1990.
13. By acting as described, Mr. Butters participated in
matters in which to his knowledge his son had a financial
interest. Therefore, Mr. Butters violated s.19.
14. Mr. Butters held a Norwood liquor license for South
Norwood Pharmacy, Inc. from 1987 to 1991. The South Norwood
Pharmacy is owned and operated by Butters' immediate family.
Butters serves as an employee of the corporation.
15. Mr. Butters, as a selectman, signed the following liquor
license renewal applications or renewal licenses:
a. in 1988, his and six competitors' licenses and
b. in 1989, his and five competitors' licenses;
c. in 1990, one competitor's license; and
d. in 1991, six competitors' applications.
16. The decisions of the board of selectmen to approve the
above liquor licenses were particular matters.
17. Mr. Butters' association with and his immediate
family's ownership of South Norwood Pharmacy, Inc. gave him and
his family a financial interest in the above liquor license
matters. At all times relevant herein, Mr. Butters was aware of
those financial interests.
18. Mr. Butters participated in the liquor license process
by signing the application and licenses of South Norwood
Pharmacy, Inc. and those of his competitors from 1988 through
1991, as described above.
19. By acting as just described, Mr. Butters participated as a
selectman in matters in which to his knowledge he and his
immediate family had a financial interest. Therefore, Mr. Butters
Based on the foregoing facts, 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. Butters:
1. that he pay to the Commission the amount of one thousand
dollars ($1,000.00) as a civil fine for violating G.L. c. 268A,
s.19 by participating as a selectmen in matters in which his
firefighter son had a financial interest;
2. that he pay to the Commission the amount of five hundred
dollars ($500.00) as a civil fine for violating G.L. c. 268A,
s.19 by participating as a selectmen in liquor license matters in
which he had a financial interest;
3. that Mr. Butters will act in conformance with the
requirements of G.L. c. 268A in his future conduct as a municipal
4. that Mr. Butters waive all rights to contest the findings
of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in
this Agreement in this or any related administrative or judicial
proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party.
 Paul Butters was treated the same as all other
firefighters holding the same position under both the December
12. 1989 and June 12, 1990 contracts.
 None of the exceptions in s.19 is relevant here.
 Although Mr. Butters abstained from liquor license
hearings citing his holding of a liquor license as the rationale,
Mr. Butters improperly invoked the Rule of Necessity at a
December 15, 1987 selectmen's meeting and affirmatively voted
for a competitor's liquor license transfer.
 Section 19 also prohibits a municipal employee from
participating in a particular matter in which a business
organization for which he is an employee, officer or director has
a financial interest.
 The statute covering the aforementioned liquor licenses,
G.L. c. 138, s.16A, provides that a license will be renewed
absent a showing of cause not to, but as a practical matter,
selectmen can refuse to grant renewals, even without cause,
requiring licensees to appeal the denials. The Commission has
found that selectmen who participate in such liquor license
renewals when they have a financial interest violate s.19. In re
Lavoie, 1987 SEC 286.