Docket No. 345
In the Matter of Yvonne B. Desrosiers
October 6, 1987
This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into between
the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Yvonne B. Desrosiers
(Ms. Desrosiers) 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(j).
On March 16,1987, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c.
268B, s.4(a), a preliminary inquiry into a possible violation of
the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by Ms. Desrosiers. The
Commission has concluded that inquiry and, on May 18,1987, found
reasonable cause to believe that Ms. Desrosiers violated G.L. c.
The Commission and his. Desrosiers now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Ms. Desrosiers is and at all material times herein was the
Treasurer/Tax Collector for the Town of Acushnet. Ms. Desrosiers
is, therefore, a municipal employee as defined in s.1(g) of G.L.
2. In or about May of 1984, Ms. Desrosiers appointed her son,
Ronald Desrosiers, to be a deputy tax collector for the Town of
Acushnet. As a deputy collector, Ronald did not receive a salary
but received statutory fees that varied, depending upon what he did
to collect the tax delinquency. For example, a deputy is entitled
to seven dollars for sending out a notice of warrant and
$12 for serving it on a tax payer in person. According to Ms,
Desrosiers, Ronald served as Deputy Tax Collector in 1984,1985 and
1986, earning $1,140, $2,048, and $1,520, respectively.
3. According to Ms. Desrosiers, before she hired Ronald, she
called the Property Tax Bureau at the Department of Revenue (DOR)
and asked if it would be legal for her to hire her son. She stated
she was told that she could hire her son. 
4. After being notified by Commission staff that her employing
her son raised a conflict of interest concern, she dismissed her
son as a deputy tax collector effective April 3,1987.
5. Section 19 of G.L. c. 268A provides in relevant part that,
except as permitted by s.19, a municipal employee is prohibited
from participating, as such as employee, in a particular matter in
which, to his knowledge, a member of his immediate family has a
6. The appointment of Ronald Desrosiers as a deputy tax
collector was a "particular matter. Ms. Desrosiers "participated"
in that matter by making the appointment. Because the position
entilled him to fees, Ronald Desrosiers had, at the time of the
appointment, a "financial interest" in the appointment. Ms.
Desrosiers was aware at the time she appointed her son that he
would receive fees for his services as a deputy tax collector.
7. By appointing her son to be a deputy tax collector, as
described above, Ms. Desrosiers participated as the Treasurer/Tax
Collector for the Town of Acushnet in a particular matter in which
her son had a financial interest, thereby violating G.L. c. 268A,
8. The Commission has no evidence indicating that Ms. Desrosiers
was aware at the time she acted as described above that she was
violating G.L. c. 268A, s.19.
9. Assuming that Ms. Desrosiers was told by someone from DOR
that she could properly hire her son, the Commission will not
accept her reliance on such incorrect advice as a defense to this
violation. As the Commission has made clear in prior disposition
agreements, see e.g., In the Matter of John A. Deleire, 1985 SEC
236; In the Matter of James F. Connery, 1985 SEC 233; if a public
employee involved in a potentially serious conflict of interest
situation seeks to rely on a legal opinion as a shield against
action by this Commission, the important substantive provisions
controlling the issuance of such opinions must be followed. The
opinion must be from town counsel, in writing and made a matter of
public record. See G.L. c. 268A, s.22. (Note that as of May 1,1986,
such opinions must also be filed with the Commission. 930 CMR
1.03(3)). For the same reasons, the Commission will not accept as
a defense that Ms. Desrosiers received incorrect legal advice from
Nevertheless, insofar as Commission staff found Ms. Desrosiers'
assertion that she received such advice from DOR to be credible,
the Commission has given consideration to that factor in assessing
a penalty here. Accordingly, while the Commission can impose up to
a $2,000 fine for each violation of s.19, it has determined that
a relatively small fine is appropriate.
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 agreed to by Ms. Desrosiers:
1. that she pay to the Commission the amount of two hundred
fifty dollars ($250) as a civil penalty for her violation of
2. that she refrain from participating as a municipal employee
in any matter in which she or an immediate family member has
a financial interest; and
3. that she waive all rights to contest the findings of fact,
conclusions of law and terms and conditions proposed under this
Agreement in this or any related administrative or a judicial
civil proceeding in which the Commission is a party.
 Commission investigators were not able to find anyone at DOR
able to recall giving such advice to Ms. Desrosiers. On the other
hand, in taking Ms. Desrosiers' testimony under oath, Commission
staff found Ms. Desrosiera to be credible in her assertion that she
received such advice.
 None of the s.19 exceptions applies to this case.
 Ignorance of the law is no defense to a violation of G.L. c.
268A. In the Matter of C. Joseph Doyle. 1980 SEC 11,13.