MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING
July 16, 2010
One Ashburton Place, Room 619
Boston, MA 02108
Chairman Charles B. Swartwood, III called the meeting to order at 12:00 noon. Also in attendance were Commissioners Jeanne M. Kempthorne, David L. Veator and Paula Finley Mangum. Commissioner Patrick J. King arrived at 1:38 p.m.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES
On the motion of Commissioner Kempthorne, seconded by Commissioner Veator, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes for the June 18, 2010 meeting.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT
Executive Director Karen L. Nober reported that the FY 2011 budget has been finalized. The Commission has been level-funded ($1,731,122), with no cuts. We are now working with Administration and Finance on the FY 2011 budget implementation plan and the FY 2012 budget request.
Ms. Nober stated that staff evaluations have been completed and that the process and form worked well. We will be looking at possible changes to the process and form for next year.
IT Specialist/Special Investigator Position
Ms. Nober stated six candidates were brought in for second round interviews. All were strong candidates with solid IT experience. We have requested writing samples from the candidates to assist us in evaluating which of the candidates can also do investigative work.
Ms. Nober explained that the agency does not have a practice of requiring candidates to complete an employment application. She is developing an application and has spoken to staff at the Attorney General's Office. They have agreed to conduct background checks on selected candidates who will complete an application and sign a release.
Ethics Reform Law - Special Commission on Office of Public Accountability
Ms. Nober stated that the special commission had its first meeting yesterday. The deadline for the commission to report to the legislature is July 31, 2010. The commission discussed what could be accomplished in two weeks and decided to send a letter to the House Clerk and Senate Clerk explaining that the Ethics Reform Bill was passed last year, and agencies have been busy implementing the new requirements, and have not had the opportunity to focus on the special commission or the specific matters on which the special commission is to comment.
The question considered by the special commission was whether to send the letter as the final report, or whether to request an extension of the final report deadline so that agencies can spend time gathering information to see what impacts the legislation has had.
Ms. Nober followed up on a question raised at the last Commission meeting concerning the volume of SFI related calls received by the agency during the most recent filing season. Ms. Nober stated that the bulk of the calls handled by Financial Control Analyst David Mesquita were requests for technical assistance, primarily where callers needed help logging on to the system. We will look at whether there is something we should be doing to address this issue.
Ms. Nober reported that the Legal Committee had its first meeting, and discussed the Political Activity Advisory. The committee decided to divide the advisory into sections for review. A starting point for a first draft will involve focusing on the types of public officials who are subject to the conflict law, i.e., elected, appointed and election officials.
Ms. Nober stated that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 10, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. There will not be an August meeting.
PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS
Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti provided his reports of public education division activities for June, 2010 and for FY 2010. The Commission had no questions.
LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS
Proposed Hearing Dates- Draft Regulations
General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented 4 proposed public hearing dates: September 21, 2010; September 23, 2010; September 28, 2010; and September 30, 2010 to discuss the draft regulations. Ms. Roney recommended that one hearing be conducted in Boston, and one in western Massachusetts. The Commissioners discussed the proposed dates and stated that the dates, with the exception of September 30, 2010, were acceptable.
Open Meeting Law- New Statutory Requirements
Ms. Roney presented information on the changes to the open meeting law. The information is included in the packet along with a form for Commissioners to sign certifying that they have read and understand the open meeting law requirements. Ms. Roney requested that Commissioners return the signed form to her at the next Commission meeting. Ms. Roney reminded Commissioners about the rules regarding communications among Commissioners through email, that emails between Commissioners should be non-substantive, and should only involve scheduling matters in order to ensure that no deliberations occur through email.
Legal Division Metrics
Ms. Roney presented the Legal Division metrics for June 2010. The division handled 67 staff letters and email requests, 477 phone calls, and 9 municipal counsel opinions. There are 4 opinion requests older than 30 days, and 27 pending requests for advice.
The Commission had no questions.
Ms. Roney presented a calendar of hearing dates and pre-hearing conferences in pending Commission adjudicatory proceedings, and a monthly status report of adjudicatory proceedings.
The Commission had no questions.
A report in the packet updated the following litigation matters:
- John F. Scott v. Commonwealth. Scott filed a Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's October 8, 2009 decision finding that he violated §3(a); has not yet briefed it. We withdrew our motion to dismiss because Scott retained an attorney who agreed to file a brief by May 15, 2010, but no brief has yet been forthcoming. We will renew the motion if no brief is received in the next few weeks.
- Lincoln Smith v. Commonwealth. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's August 8, 2008 decision finding Smith had violated § 23(b)(2). Judge Cratsley denied Smith's motion for reconsideration of his decision upholding the Commission's decision. Smith has filed a notice of appeal.
- Maureen Brennan v. Commonwealth. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's March 4, 2009 decision finding Brennan had violated §§ 19 and 23(b)(3). Judge Cratsley heard argument on February 5, 2010, David A. Wilson appearing for the Commission. On July 7, 2010, Judge Cratsley issued a decision affirming the Commission's decision.
- Maglione v. Adamson and Giannino. Action for slander and related claims by the subject of an Ethics Commission proceeding against two witnesses who testified against him. Plaintiff's deposition of our investigator, Brian McWilliams, on the limited grounds permitted under Judge Cratsley's June 15, 2009 order granting in part our motion to quash, has been scheduled for July 22, 2010.
- Thomas Jefferson v. Commonwealth. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's April 28, 2010 decision finding that he violated §§ 23(b)(2) and (3).
Ms. Roney noted that the Commission would enter into or continue deliberations in the following matters during executive session:
In Re James Ruberto, Docket No. 08-0014 and In Re Daniel Duquette, Docket No. 08-0015; and
In Re Robert G. Cole, Docket No. 10-0003.
Open Meeting Law- Periodic Review of Executive Session Meeting Minutes
Ms. Roney requested that the Chairman delegate to the Executive Director the authority to periodically review executive session meeting minutes for compliance with the open meeting law. Chairman Swartwood delegated the authority to the Executive Director. No vote was needed.
At 12:21 p.m., on the motion of Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Mangum, the Commission voted 4-0 to enter into executive session to discuss matters subject to the provisions of G.L. c. 30A, section 21 subparagraph (a)(7) and G.L. c. 268B, sections 3 and 4. These matters will include preliminary inquiry reports and recommendations, closing memoranda, disposition agreements, public and private education letters, informal written opinions and deliberations on adjudicatory matters.
VOTE: Chairman Swartwood yes
Commissioner Kempthorne yes
Commissioner Veator yes
Commissioner Mangum yes
Chairman Swartwood stated that the Commission would not return to public session following the executive session.
Public Education and Communications Division Chief