Docket No. 516
In the Matter of Geoffrey Newton
February 6, 1995
This Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") is entered into
between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and Geoffrey
Newton ("Newton") pursuant to s.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 July 12, 1994, 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 Newton. The
Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on October 19, 1994,
found reasonable cause to believe that Newton violated G.L. c.
The Commission and Newton now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. At all relevant times, Newton was employed as the
Building Inspector for the Town of Royalston. This was a part-
time position to which Newton was appointed by the Royalston
Board of Selectmen and for which he was paid an annual salary of
$5,000. As the Royalston building inspector, Newton was a
municipal employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A,
2. Newton's official duties as the Royalston building
inspector included issuing building permits for construction done
in the town and performing
inspections to ensure that all work performed pursuant to such
permits complied with the state building code.
3. At all relevant times, Newton's brother, Wayne
("Wayne") was self-employed as a carpenter and building
4. On the following dates, and at the places indicated,
Newton, in his capacity as the Royalston Building Inspector,
issued the following building permits to his brother Wayne:
(a) on February 23, 1989, a permit to build an entryway
and mud room at a North Fitzwilliam Road property;
(b) on September 19, 1990, a permit for re-roofing at a
South Royalston Road property;
(c) on September 26, 1990, a permit for a garage
addition to a Frye Hill Road property;
(d) on May 27, 1991, a permit for a temporary ramp at
an Athol Road property;
(e) on May 18, 1992, a permit for the re-silling of a
barn at a Main Street property;
(f) on May 12, 1993, a permit for bathroom renovations
at an Athol Road property;
(g) on June 30, 1993, a permit for interior renovations
at an Athol Road property;
(h) on June 30, 1993, a permit for a home built on
Athol Richmond Road; and
(i) on September 19, 1993, a permit to build a barn at
an Athol Richmond Road property.
5. 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.
6. The decisions to issue the building permits listed in
paragraph 4, above, were particular matters.
7. As set forth in paragraph 4, above, Newton participated
as a building inspector in those particular matters by issuing
the building permits.
8. Wayne, as the contractor performing the permitted work,
had a financial interest in the issuance of each of the above-
listed building permits. Newton knew of his brother's financial
interest at the time he issued each of the building permits.
9. Accordingly, by issuing the building permits to Wayne,
as set forth in paragraph 4, Newton participated in his official
capacity in particular matters in which he knew an immediate
family member had a financial interest, thereby violating G.L. c.
10. Newton cooperated with the Commission's investigation.
11. Newton testified that it was common knowledge in his
town that he was issuing permits to Wayne and that his appointing
authority, if asked, would have been inclined to grant him an
exemption pursuant to s.19(b)(1) of G.L. c. 268A. While there
is some evidence supporting Newton's contention, the exemption in
fact was never sought and cannot be granted retroactively.
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Newton, 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 Newton:
(1) that Newton pay to the Commission the sum of five
hundred dollars ($500.00) as a civil penalty for
violating G.L. c. 268A as stated above; and
(2) that Newton 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 party.
 Section 19(b)(1) provides that it is not a violation of
s.19 if the municipal employee first advises the official
responsible for appointment to his position of the nature and
circumstances of the particular matter and makes full disclosure
of such financial interest, and receives in advance a written
determination made by that official that the interest is not so
substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the
services which the municipality may expect from the employee.
 That Newton's penalty is not higher reflects the fact
that his appointing authority was generally aware of his actions.
Nevertheless, strict compliance with the written disclosure and
authorization provisions of s.19(b)(1) is necessary to ensure
that all due consideration is given to issues with potential
controversy and the potential for abuse. Had Newton followed the
proper exemption procedure, the selectmen may have concluded at
that time that an alternate building inspector should issue the