Docket No. 646
In the Matter of Richard Seveney
October 24, 2001
This Disposition Agreement is entered into between the State
Ethics Commission and Richard Seveney pursuant to Section 5 of the
Commission's Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a
consented-to final order enforceable in Superior Court, pursuant to
G.L. c. 268B, s.40).
On August 8, 2001, 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 Seveney. The
Commission has concluded its inquiry and, on October 16, 200 1,
found reasonable cause to believe that Seveney violated G.L. c.
268A, s. 19.
The Commission and Seveney now agree to the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law:
Findings of Fact
Hiring Brother-in-Law as Audiovisual/Computer Technician
1. At all relevant times, Seveney was employed as the high
school principal for the Town of Ware. As such, Seveney was a
municipal employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, s. I
2. In spring 1998, the Ware School District sought to hire a
full-time audio-visual/computer technician at a starting salary of
$33,000 per year. The superintendent of schools was the ultimate
hiring authority for the position. A three-person screening
committee, which included Seveney, was charged with reviewing
applications, interviewing candidates, and recommending a candidate
for hire to the superintendent.
3. One of the applicants for the position was Seveney's
brother-in-law, Francis Mitus (Seveney's wife's brother).
4. Seveney did not attend Mitus' interview but he attended and
participated in the interviews of the two other candidates. Seveney
participated in the screening committee discussion of the other two
candidates, but did not make any comments about Mitus. The other
two committee members recommended Mitus for the position. Without
any further action by Seveney, that became the Committee's
5. In a May 27, 1998 letter to the superintendent, on behalf
of the selection committee, Seveney recommended that Mitus be
appointed to the audio-visual/ computer technician position. In his
letter Seveney wrote that "due to a conflict of interest" he
abstained from the Mitus interview and the committee's recommending
Mitus. In the concluding paragraph, Seveney wrote:
Mr. Mitus would bring to this position over twenty five years
of technical experience in both computers and audiovisual
equipment. His strong background and experience in training
both students and faculty in the Springfield School System is
another asset he would bring to the Ware School System.
6. The superintendent was aware that Mitus was Seveney's
7. The superintendent appointed Mitus to the position.
Hiring Daughter as Suspension Monitor
8. In or about January 2000, the school district sought to
hire an in-school suspension monitor for the remainder of the
1999-2000 school year. The position paid $25,000 per year, with the
salary to be pro-rated for the remainder of the school year.
9. Three individuals, including Seveney, served on the
screening committee. The committee received 17 applications and
interviewed six applicants, including Seveney's daughter, Amy Wnek.
10. Seveney did not attend Wnek's interview, but he attended
and participated in the interviews of the other candidates. Seveney
participated in the screening committee discussion of the other
candidates, but did not make any comments about his daughter. The
committee, without further participation by Seveney, decided to
11. On February 7, 2000, Seveney sent a letter to the
superintendent recommending that Wnek be appointed to the
suspension monitor position stating:
The [assistant principal] and [guidance counselor] interviewed
the six applicants with myself taking part in five of the
interviews. Their candidate of choice was Amy Wnek. I would
concur with this decision and recommend her for the position
of in-school suspension monitor.
12. The superintendent was aware that Wnek was Seveney's
13. The superintendent appointed Wnek to the position.
Conclusions of Law
14. 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 an immediate family member has a financial
interest. None of the exceptions contained in s. 19(b) apply in
15. The determinations as to whom to hire as the
audio-visual/computer technician and the suspension monitor were
16. Seveney participated as the high school principal in
those hiring determinations by reviewing applications and
conducting interviews and evaluations regarding the candidates
other than his brother-in-law and daughter, and by writing memos to
the superintendent recommending his brother-in-law be hired as the
audio-visual/ computer technician and his daughter be hired as the
monitor. (If Seveney had merely communicated the
committees' decisions, without elaboration, such ministerial acts
may not have been "participation." Here, however, in each letter he
added his own endorsement above and beyond conveying the simple
fact of the committees' decisions.)
17. Mitus, as an applicant for the audio-visual/ computer
technician position, and Wnek, as an applicant for the suspension
monitor position, each had a financial interest in their respective
appointments. Seveney knew of his brother-in-law's and his
daughter's financial interests at the time he participated in the
18. Accordingly, by participating in the hiring processes for
the audio-visual/computer technician and the suspension monitor, as
set forth above, Seveney participated in his official capacity in
particular matters in which he knew immediate family members had a
financial interest, thereby violating G.L. c. 268A, s.19 on both
19. Seveney cooperated with the Commission's investigation.
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by
Seveney, 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 Seveney:
(1) that Seveney pay to the Commission the sum of $1,000 as a
civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A as stated above;
(2) that Seveney 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
 "Immediate family" means the employee and his spouse, and
their parents, children, brothers and sisters.
 Section 19(b)(1) provides an exemption when
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.
While the superintendent was aware of the family relationship
between Seveney and the applicants, no written disclosures or
determinations were made nor did the superintendent know of the
extent of Seveney's participation in the hiring processes.
 "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. GL. c. 268A, '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. GL. c. 268A, 1(k).
 Abstaining from a family member's interview is not enough
where the other applicants are competitors for the same position.
 The Commission has previously resolved violations through
public disposition agreements where public officials were involved
in hirings affecting immediate family members even where the public
officials have limited their involvement to reviewing applications
and conducting interviews of only the candidates other than their
family member. See Larkin, 1990 SEC 490 (MBTA manager involved in
interviewing process violated s.6 even though he did not interview
End of Decision