July 29, 2010

Disposition Agreement


The State Ethics Commission and Curtis Plante ("Plante") 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 January 15, 2010, 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, by Plante. On April 16, 2010, the Commission concluded its inquiry and found reasonable cause to believe that Plante violated G.L. c. 268A.

The Commission and Plante now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:


Public Safety Building Project Subcontract

Findings of Fact

1. At all relevant times, Plante was an elected member of the Town of Bolton (the "Town") Board of Selectmen ("BOS"). BOS members are "special municipal employees" because the Town has a population of 10,000 or less. [1]


2. Plante is vice president and treasurer of Bradford Site Development Corporation ("Bradford"), a construction firm. Plante receives a weekly salary from Bradford.


3. In early 2008, the Town contemplated constructing a new public safety building (the "Building"). The BOS appointed a building committee (the "Committee") to finalize the design and budget and to select a general contractor. Plante was not a member of the Committee, but he provided input on the design and budget.


4. In early fall 2008, Plante, on behalf of Bradford, filed bids with several general contractors to perform site development work for the Building. One of the general contractors was Salem-based Groom Construction.


5. At the BOS meeting on December 4, 2008, the BOS discussed and voted to accept the Committee's recommendation to contract with Groom Construction as the general contractor for the construction of the Building. Prior to the discussion and vote, Plante recused himself and left the room, citing "a possible conflict of interest." After the vote, the BOS, on behalf of the Town, entered into a contract with Groom Construction under which Groom Construction would be the general contractor for the Building (the "Contract").


6. The BOS subsequently approved, with Plante abstaining, the warrant articles authorizing payments on the Contract.


7. On February 2, 2009, Plante, on behalf of Bradford, signed a $700,000 contract (the "Subcontract") with Groom Construction to perform the site development work for the Building.


8. The Subcontract was a substantial source of revenue for Bradford. A significant portion of Plante's salaried compensation was derived from the Subcontract.

Conclusions of Law

9. As a BOS member in a town with a population of 10,000 or less, Plante was at all times relevant to this matter a special municipal employee as defined in G.L. c. 268A, § 1.

Section 20

10. Section 20 prohibits a municipal employee from having a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in a contract made by his municipality, in which the municipality is an interested party, and of which financial interest he knows or has reason to know.


11. The Contract was made by the Town. The Town was an interested party in the Contract.


12. Plante had an indirect financial interest in the Contract because Bradford had the Subcontract, and a significant portion of Plante's salaried compensation was derived from the Subcontract.


13. Plante had knowledge of this financial interest at or shortly after the time the Subcontract was executed.


14. Therefore, Plante violated § 20 by having an indirect financial interest in a contract made by his municipality, in which the municipality was an interested party, and of which financial interest he knew or had reason to know. [2]



Section 17(a)

15. Section 17(a) prohibits a municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties, from requesting or receiving compensation from anyone other than the same municipality in relation to a particular matter in which that municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.


16. A special municipal employee is subject to § 17(a) only in relation to a particular matter (a) in which he has at any time participated as a municipal employee, or (b) which is or within one year has been a subject of his official responsibility, or (c) which is pending in the municipal agency in which he is serving.


17. The Contract was a particular matter.


18. The Contract was a subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member, as the BOS signed the Contract on behalf of the Town on December 4, 2008.


19. The Town was a party to the Contract.


20. The compensation Plante requested on February 2, 2009, and subsequently received from Bradford for performing work on the Subcontract, was in relation to the Contract.


21. Plante's request for compensation for the work to be performed on the Subcontract was not provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties.


22. The compensation was in relation to a particular matter, the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member.


23. Therefore, by, as a special municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties, requesting compensation from Bradford in relation to the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of his official responsibility, Plante violated § 17(a).


The Change Order

Findings of Fact

24. During excavation work for the Building, Bradford encountered boulders, the removal of which was not part of the Subcontract. On February 18, 2009, Plante, on behalf of Bradford, appeared before the Committee to explain the situation and request a change order. At the same meeting, the Committee subsequently voted to recommend the change order, which increased the Subcontract by $48,444.

25. The BOS subsequently approved, with Plante abstaining, the warrant article with the change order, thereby increasing the Subcontract by $48,444.


Section 17(a)

26. The Contract was a particular matter.


27. The Contract was a subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member, as the BOS signed the Contract on behalf of the Town on December 4, 2008.


28. The Town was a party to the Contract.


29. Plante appeared before the Committee on February 18, 2009, on behalf of Bradford to explain and request the $48,444 change order. The compensation Plante received as a salaried employee from Bradford for appearing before the Committee as Bradford's representative to explain and request the change order was in relation to the Contract.


30. Plante's receipt of compensation for appearing before the Committee as Bradford's representative to explain and request the change order was not provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties.


31. The compensation was in relation to a particular matter, the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member.


32. Therefore, by, as a special municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties, receiving compensation from Bradford for appearing before the Committee as Bradford's representative to explain and request the change order, which was in relation to the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of his official responsibility, Plante violated § 17(a).

Section 17(c)


33. Section 17(c) prohibits a municipal employee from, otherwise than in the proper discharge of his official duties, acting as agent for anyone other than the same municipality in connection with a particular matter in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.


34. A special municipal employee is subject to § 17(c) only in relation to a particular matter (a) in which he has at any time participated as a municipal employee, or (b) which is or within one year has been a subject of his official responsibility, or (c) which is pending in the municipal agency in which he is serving.


35. The Contract was a particular matter.


36. The Contract was a subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member, as the BOS signed the Contract on behalf of the Town on December 4, 2008.


37. The Town was a party to the Contract.


38. Plante appeared before the Committee on February 18, 2009, as Bradford's representative to explain and request the $48,444 change order. Thus, Plante acted as agent for Bradford for the change order, which was in connection with the Contract.


39. Plante's actions as agent for Bradford were not in the proper discharge of his official duties.


40. Plante's actions as agent were in connection with a particular matter, the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member.


41. Therefore, by, as a special municipal employee, acting as agent for Bradford to explain and request the change order, otherwise than in the proper discharge of his official BOS duties, in connection with the Contract, which within one year had been the subject of his official responsibility, Plante violated § 17(c).

Bradford's Complaint to BOS

Findings of Fact


42. On August 15, 2009, Plante drafted and sent a letter on Bradford stationery to the Bolton town administrator complaining about a town employee's conduct with respect to Bradford's work on the Subcontract (the "Complaint"). After the town administrator interviewed numerous witnesses and interested parties, the BOS met in executive session on September 3, 2009, and on September 17, 2009, to discuss the Complaint. Plante, in his capacity as an officer of Bradford, spoke at both executive sessions regarding the Complaint.


43. At the October 21, 2009 BOS meeting, Plante again appeared as an officer of Bradford and participated as such in the discussion of the Complaint.


44. The BOS voted on October 21, 2009, to dismiss the Complaint.


Conclusions of Law

Section 17(a)


45. The BOS's decision on how to address the Complaint (the "Decision") was a particular matter in which the Town had a direct and substantial interest.


46. The Decision was a subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member, as the matter was before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009.


47. Plante represented Bradford before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009, concerning the Complaint. The compensation Plante received as a salaried employee from Bradford for appearing before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009, was in relation to the Decision.


48. Plante's receipt of compensation in relation to the Decision was not provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties.


49. The compensation was in relation to a particular matter, the Decision, which within one year had been the subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member.


50. Therefore, by, as a special municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties, receiving compensation from Bradford for appearing before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009, in relation to the Decision, which was the subject of his official responsibility as a BOS member, Plante violated § 17(a).

Section 17(c)


51. The Decision was a particular matter in which the Town had a direct and substantial interest.


52. Plante represented Bradford before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009, concerning the Decision. Thus, Plante acted as agent for Bradford in connection with the Decision.


53. Plante's actions as agent for Bradford were not in the proper discharge of his official duties.


54. The Decision was a subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member, as the matter was before the BOS on September 3, 2009, September 17, 2009, and October 21, 2009.


55. Plante's actions as agent were in connection with a particular matter, the Decision, which within one year had been the subject of Plante's official responsibility as a BOS member.


56. Therefore, by, as a special municipal employee, acting as agent for Bradford concerning the Complaint, otherwise than in the proper discharge of his official BOS duties, in connection with the Decision, which within one year had been the subject of his official responsibility, Plante violated § 17(c).

In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by Plante, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further enforcement proceedings, based on the following terms and conditions agreed to by Plante:

(1) that Plante pay to the Commission the sum of $10,000 as a civil penalty for repeatedly violating G.L. c. 268A, §§ 17(a), 17(c) and 20; and


(2) that Plante 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.

STATE ETHICS COMMISSION

__ //signed// 7/1/10 __ //signed// _______ 7/29/10_
Curtis Plante Date Karen L. Nober Date
Executive Director

I, Curtis Plante, have personally read the above Disposition Agreement. I understand that it is a public document and that by signing it, I will have agreed to all of the terms and conditions therein, including payment of $10,000 to the State Ethics Commission.

__ //signed// 7/1/10
Curtis Plante Date



[1] A selectman in a town that has a population of 10,000 or fewer is considered a "special municipal employee" for the purposes of the conflict law. See § 1(n).

[2] As a special municipal employee, Plante could have sought an exemption from § 20 by filing a statement with the town clerk fully disclosing his financial interest in the contract and by having the BOS, without Plante's participation, approve the exemption. See § 20(d). He did not do so.