Docket No. 561
In the Matter of Roger W. Howlett
Date: January 22, 1997
This Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and Roger W.
Howlett ("Howlett") 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 February 14, 1996, 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
Howlett. The Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on January
15, 1997, found reasonable cause to believe that Howlett violated
G.L. c. 268A, s. 19.
The Commission and Howlett now agree to the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law:
1. At all relevant times Howlett was an elected assessor for
the Town of Raynham. As such, Howlett was a municipal employee as
that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(g).
2. In July 1995, the Raynham Assessor's office posted a
position for a full-time senior clerk in the assessor's office.
3. At that time the senior clerk position paid an hourly wage
of approximately $10.00, with benefits, but no overtime.
4. The assessors received ten applications for the position,
and from those an assessor and the assistant assessor selected the
four candidates to interview. One of the four candidates was
Lisa McDonald ("McDonald"), Howlett's daughter.
5. Before interviewing the applicants at an assessor's meeting
on July 25, 1995, Howlett, the other two assessors and the
assistant to the assessors discussed questions to ask the
candidates (during their interviews).
Howlett participated in this discussion and suggested some of
the questions which the candidates were asked.
6. At the assessor's meeting on July 25, 1995,each of the four
candidates met individually with Howlett, the other two assessors
and the assistant.
7. Howlett sat in on each interview, including the interview
of his daughter, McDonald. Most of the questions were asked by one
of the other assessors, but, Howlett asked a few questions of some
of the candidates. (Howlett, however, did not ask his daughter any
8. According to the Assessors' minutes of July 25, 1995, "Mr.
Lynn, Mr. Ritchie, and Maureen voted for Lisa McDonald. Mr. Howlett
abstained from voting. "
9. On July 26, 1995, McDonald began working at the assessor's
office as the senior clerk. The nine applicants who were not hired
were sent letters signed by Howlett as chairman of the board of
assessors, informing them that the position had been filled.
10. Section 19 of G.L. c. 268A, except as permitted by
paragraph (b) of that section, prohibits a municipal employee from
participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which
to his knowledge, he or an immediate family member has a
financial interest. None of the exceptions contained in s. 19(b)
apply in this case.
11. The determination to hire someone for the full time senior
clerk position was a particular matter.
12. As set forth above, Howlett participate as an
assessor in the hiring determination by proposing questions and
participating in the interviews.
13. As an applicant for the senior clerk position, McDonald
had a financial interest in the appointment to this position.
Howlett knew of his daughter's financial interest at the time he
participated in the hiring process.
14. Accordingly, by participating in the hiring process for
the position, as set forth above, Howlett participated as an
assessor in a particular matter in which he knew that an immediate
family member had a financial interest, thereby violating G.L. c.
15. Howlett cooperated with the Commission's investigation.
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Howlett, 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 Howlett:
(1) that Howlett pay to the Commission the sum of five hundred
dollars ($500.00) as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c.
268A, s.19 as stated above;
(2) that Howlett will act in conformance with the requirements
of G. L. c. 268A, s. 19 in the future; and
(3) that Howlett 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
 Howlett did not participate in deciding whom to interview.
 Howlett did not participate in the vote because he thought
it would be a conflict of interest to vote to hire his daughter; he
did not think it would be a conflict of interest to participate in
the interviews or help formulate the interview questions.
 It is customary practice for the chairman to sign all
 "Immediate family," the employee and his spouse, and
their parents, children, brothers and sisters. G.L. c. 268A,
s.1(e). As his daughter, McDonald is a member of Howlett's
 "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.l(k).
 "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
otherwise. G.L. c. 268A, s.10).
 See, e.g., Commission Advisory No. 11. Nepotism, page 2.
"Personal and substantial participation involves any significant
involvement in the hiring process. For example, interviewing or
creating a test for applicants, one of whom is a family member,
would violate the law."
 On November 29, 1996, McDonald resigned from the senior
End of Decision