Date: March 5, 2014
The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) and Blake Lamothe (“Lamothe”) enter into this Disposition 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, § 4(j).
On March 15, 2013, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. On October 17, 2013, the Commission concluded its inquiry and found reasonable cause to believe that Lamothe violated G.L. c. 268A, § 19.
The Commission and Lamothe now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
Findings of Fact
- Since 1998, Lamothe, a resident of the Town of Palmer (“Town”), has been a member of the Palmer Redevelopment Authority (“PRA”). For the past ten years, he has served as PRA chairman. As such, Lamothe is a municipal employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, § 1.
- In his private capacity, Lamothe is president and the sole shareholder of Real Estate Restoration, Inc.
- Since 1987, Real Estate Restoration, Inc. has owned Union Station, the only train station in the Town. Union Station has not operated as a passenger rail station in over 40 years.
- In 1999, and again in 2002, the Commission’s Enforcement Division sent private education letters to Lamothe advising that his ownership of Union Station and his efforts as a PRA member to rehabilitate the station and restore passenger rail service raised concerns under § 19 of the conflict of interest law, among other sections, because he had a financial interest in those matters.
- By letter dated January 31, 2002, Lamothe filed a disclosure pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3) with the PRA and the town clerk, acknowledging that he was “directly interested in the rehabilitation and development of Union Station and in restoring passenger rail service”, and announcing that he would recuse himself from any PRA matter affecting the Union Station.
- In 2004, Lamothe and his wife opened the Steaming Tender Restaurant inside Union Station.
- In or about July 2012, Lamothe, in his capacity as PRA chairman, invited Larry Shaffer Associates Municipal Solutions, LLC (“Shaffer Associates”) to submit a proposal to the PRA whereby Shaffer Associates would, for a fee, complete a MassWorks infrastructure grant application on behalf of the PRA for funding to make improvements to Union Station to support the restoration of passenger rail service at Union Station.
- In August 2012, Lamothe: (1) voted as a PRA member to hire Shaffer Associates to complete the MassWorks grant application on behalf of the PRA; and (2) signed the contract between the PRA and Shaffer Associates in his capacity as PRA chairman.
- In September 2012, as a PRA member, Lamothe voted on and signed a resolution authorizing Shaffer Associates to submit the completed MassWorks grant application to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
- The MassWorks grant application submitted on behalf of the PRA sought approximately $3.5 million for improvements to Union Station and the immediate surrounding area, including parking to accommodate 400 vehicles, train platforms with awnings, restrooms, ticketing terminals, benches, lighting and signage.
- The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development denied the PRA’s request for funding.
Conclusions of Law
- Except as otherwise permitted by § 19 of G.L. c. 268A, § 19 prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he has a financial interest.
- The decision to apply for the MassWorks infrastructure grant to fund improvements to Union Station to support the restoration of passenger rail service was a particular matter.
- Lamothe participated in that particular matter by, in his capacity as PRA chairman, inviting Shaffer Associates to submit a proposal to complete the MassWorks application on behalf of the PRA, voting to hire Shaffer Associates and signing the contract with Shaffer Associates, and voting on and signing the PRA resolution authorizing Shaffer Associates to submit the completed MassWorks grant application.
- Lamothe had a financial interest in the particular matter because the grant would provide $3.5 million to fund improvements to Union Station and the immediate surrounding area, which would increase the value of Union Station, which is owned by the company of which Lamothe is president and sole shareholder.
- At the time of his participation, Lamothe knew he had a financial interest in the particular matter because his company owned Union Station, which was the only train station in the Town, and the Enforcement Division had repeatedly warned him that he had financial interests in PRA matters related to Union Station.
- Accordingly, Lamothe violated § 19 by, in his capacity as PRA chairman, participating in the decision to apply for MassWorks infrastructure grant funding to make improvements to Union Station to support the restoration of passenger rail service at Union Station, a decision in which he knew he had a financial interest.
In view of the foregoing violation of G.L. c. 268A by Lamothe, 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 Lamothe:
(1) that Lamothe pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment to be delivered to the Commission, the sum of $5,000 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, § 19; and
(2) that Lamothe waive all rights to contest, in this or any other administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party, the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement.
By signing below, Blake Lamothe acknowledges that he has personally read this Disposition Agreement, that it is a public document, and that he agrees to all of the terms and conditions therein.
STATE ETHICS COMMISSION
Karen L. Nober Date