Docket No. 533
In the Matter of William P. Pearson
August 17, 1995
The State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and William P.
Pearson ("Pearson") enter into this Disposition Agreement
("Agreement") 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 June 22, 1993, 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 Pearson. The
Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on July 12, 1994, by a
majority vote, found reasonable cause to believe that Pearson
violated G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Pearson now agree to the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Pearson was, during the time relevant, a member of the
Byfield Water Commission ("BWC"). As such, he was a municipal
employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s.1(g).
Pearson has served on the BWC since 1990.
2. The BWC is an elected, five member board which oversees
the operation of the Byfield Water District ("District"). The
BWC meets once a month to review and approve bills and to
authorize significant expenditures.
3. The Byfield Water District is an independent entity
formed in 1947, pursuant to a special act of the Legislature, to
provide water to a specified geographical area in the town of
Newbury. The District serves approximately 600 customers and
has an annual budget of about $225,000. (The budget is set at
the District Annual Meeting. The commissioners do not have the
authority to exceed that budget. All major projects are subject
to approval at special or annual District meetings.) The
District superintendent oversees the day-to-day operation of the
District Water Department.
4. Pearson has private interests in three corporations:
Pearson Landscaping, Inc.; Pearson Hardware, Inc.; and Highfields
Realty, Inc. All three businesses are located at 2 Fruit Street,
Byfield. Pearson jointly owns all three businesses with his
brother (each owning 50%). Pearson receives a salary from
Pearson Landscaping of approximately $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
He does not receive a salary from Pearson Hardware or Highfields
Realty. Pearson shares in any profits from each of the three
5. The District purchases miscellaneous hardware items
from Pearson Hardware. The District has, at least until
recently, used Pearson Landscaping for all of its emergency
waterline repairs, and for the installation of major watermain
projects. Finally, beginning on or about March 1, 1991, the
District has rented its office space from Highfields Realty,
Inc., paying $180 a month.
6. Between January 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992,
Pearson, as a BWC commissioner, signed warrants approving a total
of $30,530.30 in payments for bills from Pearson Landscaping,
Pearson Hardware and Highfields Realty.
7. On January 8, 1992, the BWC discussed a Wayside Avenue
homeowner's request that water be run to his home. As a result
of that discussion, the BWC agreed that it would be best to
install the water main the full 2,000 feet length of the street
at a cost of $20,000. The BWC further agreed that the homeowner
should prepare a ten taxpayer petition requesting a District
special meeting to consider this project. On Pearson's motion,
the BWC voted to schedule a special district meeting to vote on
the project once the required petition was received. In or about
spring of 1992, the BWC placed an article in the warrant before
the District annual meeting which would authorize approximately
$6,000 for the installation of a watermain on Hickory Lane. In
each of the foregoing cases, Pearson involved himself in the
discussion concerning, and the ultimate decision to take, the
described action. In each case, Pearson acted in favor of the
action. At the time Pearson so acted, he knew it was reasonably
likely that Pearson Landscaping would do the watermain work, or
submit a bid for the work.
8. Pearson Landscaping did do the watermain work on the
Wayside Avenue and the Hickory Lane projects, receiving a total
of approximately $14,000 for the two projects.
9. Part of Pearson's Pearson Landscaping salary in 1992
was derived from the District's payments to Pearson Landscaping
for the work on the Wayside Avenue and Hickory Lane projects.
10. Pearson acted as Pearson Landscaping's agent regarding
both the Wayside Avenue and Hickory Lane projects by, as a
Pearson Landscaping employee, discussing various issues regarding
the projects with the District superintendent.
11. Except as otherwise permitted in that section, G.L.
c 268A, s.19 in relevant part prohibits a municipal employee from
participating as such in a particular matter in which to his
knowledge he or a business organization by which he is employed
has a financial interest.
12. The various decisions and determinations by the BWC to
approve bills from Pearson Hardware, Pearson Landscaping and
Highfields Realty were all particular matters. The decisions
by the BWC in
January and Spring 1992 to place the Wayside Avenue and Hickory
Lane projects before the District Meetings were also particular
13. Because Pearson was substantially and personally
involved in making the foregoing decisions, he participated in
those particular matters.
14. Because each such decision involved a company 50% owned
by Pearson, Pearson had a financial interest in those particular
matters. Pearson was, of course, aware of those financial
interests at the time he so participated.
15. Therefore, by participating in the purchasing and
payment decisions as described above, Pearson repeatedly
participated in particular matters as a BWC member in which to
his knowledge he had a financial interest, thereby violating
16. Section 17 prohibits a municipal employee from
receiving compensation from or acting as agent for anyone other
than his municipality in relation to a particular matter in which
the municipality has a direct and substantial interest.
17. The District had a direct and substantial interest in
each of the large scale watermain projects (Wayside Avenue in
Hickory Lane) described above.
18. As already discussed above, the decisions by the BWC to
place the Wayside Avenue and Hickory Lane watermain projects
before the District meetings were particular matters.
19. Pearson acted in relation to those particular matters
by discussing with the District superintendent the work in
20. Pearson acted as Pearson Landscaping's agent in doing
so. Part of his compensation for 1992, as described above, was
derived from this work.
21. Therefore, Pearson violated s.17 by receiving
compensation from Pearson Landscaping and acting as Pearson
Landscaping's agent in relation to particular matters in which
the District had a direct and substantial interest, all as
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Pearson, 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 Pearson:
(1) that Pearson pay to the Commission the sum of one
thousand dollars ($1,000) as a civil penalty for the
violations of G.L. c. 268A, s.19;
(2) that Pearson pay to the Commission the sum of one
thousand dollars ($1,000) as a civil penalty for the
violations of G.L. c. 268A, s.17;
(3) that Pearson disgorge the economic benefit he
received by violating G.L. c. 268A, s.s. 17 and 19,
which was $1,700; and
(4) that Pearson 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.
 All but seven or eight of these are located in Newbury.
 Evelyn Noyes, chairperson of the BWC and a realtor,
observed that the only other space available was for $525 per
month. She said the Highfields Realty space was the best deal.
 None of the exceptions applies here.
 "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.1(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.1(j).
 This represents an approximation of Pearson's share of
profits from the $30,530.30 in bills he approved, and his salary
attributable to the Wayside Avenue and Hickory Lane projects.