MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

February 18, 2011

One Ashburton Place, Room 619

Boston, MA 02108

PUBLIC SESSION

 

MEETING CONVENED

Chairman Charles B. Swartwood called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. Also in attendance were Commissioners David L. Veator, Patrick J. King, Paula Finley Mangum and Martin F. Murphy.

 

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Veator, seconded by Commissioner King, the Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Mangum abstaining because she was not present for the January meeting, to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes for the January 21, 2011 meeting.

 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT

Executive Director Karen L. Nober was absent from the meeting due to illness. General Counsel Deirdre Roney provided Ms. Nober's report to the Commission.

 

Budget

Ms. Roney stated that the Governor's budget was released on January 26, 2011. It called for a 2% reduction for the Commission, as well as all constitutional offices. The Commission has submitted its budget request to the Legislature, seeking approximately $1,000 less than the FY 2011 appropriation for the Commission.

 

Ms. Nober and Director of Budget and Administration Michael Memmolo will attend the Joint Committee on Ways and Means budget hearing in Brockton on February 25 th, and Ms. Nober will testify in support of the Commission's budget.

 

Meeting with Legislators

Ms. Roney stated that she and Ms. Nober met with the full Senate last week and explained changes that have occurred with the law over the past two years. They discussed the advisory on general vs. special legislation and the new regulations, and listened to legislator concerns, including whether their disclosures under the gift regulations should have to be made in advance of conduct. Ms. Roney stated that these concerns will be added to the list of matters to be reviewed when deciding whether to amend the regulations.

 

Ms. Roney and Ms. Nober will be meeting with members of the House in about three weeks to similarly review matters and listen to concerns.

 

Job Recommendations Advisory

Ms. Roney stated that Ms. Nober is requesting that they be allowed to share the draft advisory on Recommendations for Employment by Public Employees with stakeholders to receive input before requesting formal Commission approval of the advisory.

 

External Relations and Technology Committee

Ms. Roney reported that a meeting of the External Relations and Technology Committee, chaired by Commissioner King, has been scheduled for noon on Friday, April 15, 2011, after the Commission meeting. Chairman Swartwood and Ms. Nober serve on all committees, but all members of the Commission are invited to attend and participate in the committee meeting. Changes to the online training program and development of the municipal liaison program will be discussed.

 

Rescheduling the June Commission Meeting

Ms. Roney stated that the June Commission meeting will fall on a holiday, Bunker Hill Day, and the office and building will probably be closed. The meeting was rescheduled to Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

 

Next Meeting

Ms. Roney stated that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 18, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti provided his report of public education division activities for January, 2011. He amended his report to include that the 2009 Rulings have been issued. He provided the January website visitor numbers, which resembled November numbers, with 8,156 visitors viewing 100,407 pages. This was a decrease from the number of website visitors in December. Mr. Giannotti also corrected the number of newly elected state and county officials who are new to state or county government from 62 to 71. They have all been notified and requested to comply with both provisions of the conflict of interest law education requirements.

 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

 

Legal Division Metrics

Ms. Roney presented the Legal Division metrics for January 2011. The division handled 39 staff letters and email requests for written advice; 276 telephone or walk-in contacts in which oral advice was provided; and reviewed 4 municipal counsel opinions. Two opinion requests for written advice are older than 30 days, both from January 2011. Fifteen requests for written advice are pending.

 

The Commission had no questions

 

Revised Draft Political Activity Advisory

Legal Division Deputy Chief David Wilson presented a revised draft of the Political Activity advisory. The three separate advisories were combined into one, footnotes were eliminated, and examples were inserted to clarify the advisory. After discussion by the Commission, the draft will be further revised and presented for review by the Commission at the March meeting.

 

Draft Advisory on Recommendations for Employment by Public Employees

Ms. Roney presented a draft advisory for the Commission's review. She stated that the federal rules with respect to job recommendations by Senators and Congressmen do not address follow up calls, but oral contacts are allowed. The Commission authorized staff to share the draft with stakeholders to receive input. A revised draft will be presented for review by the Commission at the March meeting.

 

Legislative Proposal Concerning SFI Online Filing and Availability

Ms. Roney presented an analysis of draft legislation requiring that SFIs be posted online within three days of receipt by the Commission. The Commission discussed the legislation and, by consensus, opposed it in its present form. The Commission also directed staff to work on revising the current SFI form to make it shorter and require less redaction of protected information.

 

Litigation Matters

Ms. Roney provided an update on the following litigation matters:

 

  • John F. Scott v. Commonwealth. Docket No. NOCV2009-01819. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's October 8, 2009 decision finding that Scott violated §3(a). Judge Brady denied plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and upheld the Commission's decision on December 16, 2010. We are awaiting a decision by Scott on whether he will attempt a further appeal.

 

  • Lincoln Smith v. Commonwealth. Docket No. SUCV2008-04111-C. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's August 18, 2008 decision finding Smith violated
    § 23(b)(2). Judge Cratsley denied Smith's motion for reconsideration of his decision upholding the Commission's decision. Smith filed a notice of appeal. The Appeals Court, on October 6, 2010, treated Smith's motion for an extension of time to find new counsel as a motion for a stay, and stayed the matter until November 15, 2010, requiring him to file a status report on whether he has found new counsel by that time. He has not done so. Ms. Roney reported that the matter has been dismissed by the court, and Smith has 14 days to appeal the court's decision

 

  • Thomas Jefferson v. SEC. Docket No. SUCV2010-02009-C. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's April 28, 2010 decision finding that Jefferson violated §§ 23(b)(2) and (3). The record has been filed. Jefferson's motion to include in the record evidence not before Commission was recently denied. We have received Jefferson's motion for judgment on the pleadings and are preparing a response, which is due to be filed on February 4, 2011, with argument scheduled for March 4, 2011.

 

  • Theresa Lord Piatelli v. SEC. Docket No. SUCV2010-02123-B. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's April 26, 2010 decision finding that Piatelli violated §§ 17 and 23(b)(2). The record was filed January 5, 2011. Piatelli's motion for judgment on the pleadings will be due 30 days thereafter absent any requests for an extension.

 

  • Ware Report on Probation Department. The SJC granted our motion to modify the impoundment order to allow us to be given the confidential exhibits filed with the Report. However, this does not extend to the full transcripts of interviews currently in Mr. Ware's possession, or the other materials that are the background for the report but that were not transmitted to the Court. Our request for access to everything in Mr. Ware's possession, in particular the complete interview transcripts, was approved. Ms. Roney stated that she expects to receive the full interview reports within a couple of days.

 

The Commission had no questions.

 

ENFORCEMENT DIVISION

 

Enforcement Division Chief Stephen P. Fauteux presented Enforcement Division metrics for the second quarter of FY 2011.

 

  • Complaints pending in intake: There were 301 complaints pending in intake as of December 31, 2010.

  • Follow- ups completed in Intake: Intake completed 1045 follow-ups through the second quarter of FY11, compared to our five-year average of 860.

  • Complaint Timelines in Intake: As of December 31, 2010, the average time between when a complaint was received and when it was zeroed was 4.1 months compared to our five-year average of 2.5 months. As of December 31, 2010, the average time between when a complaint was received in Intake and when a complaint was assigned to a team was 4.6 months compared to our five-year average of 2.9 months.

  • Productivity: Investigative case productivity (total of cases closed in screening, preliminary inquiries authorized, preliminary inquiry reports voted by the Commission) was 49 compared to our five-year average of 54.

  • Time to complete screenings and preliminary inquiries: The average time it takes to complete a screening and a preliminary inquiry is slightly above our five-year averages (for screenings, 10.0 months versus the five-year average of 8.7 months; for inquiries, 15.6 months versus the five-year average of 13.8 months).

  • Average Age of Pending Screenings/PIs: The average age of our pending screenings and preliminary inquiries is down to 8.1 months, a significant reduction from our 5-year average of 11.0 months.

  • Pending Investigations: The total number of screenings and preliminary inquiries pending as of December 31, 2010, was 53 compared to the prior five-year average of 60. This is a manageable number and reflects our decision to try to handle fewer cases faster, without any loss in productivity.

 

The Commission had no questions.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

At 10:15 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Veator, the Commission voted 5-0 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. Chairman Swartwood stated that these matters will include preliminary inquiry reports and recommendations, summons authorization requests, closing memoranda, disposition agreements, public and private education letters and advisory opinions.

 

VOTE: 

Chairman Swartwood          yes
Commissioner Veator          yes
Commissioner King             yes
Commission Mangum          yes
Commissioner Murphy         yes

 

Chairman Swartwood stated that the Commission would not reconvene in public session following the executive session.

 

LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED FOR THIS MEETING

 

  1. Agenda for Meeting of February 18, 2011.

  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for January 21, 2011, Public Session and Executive Session.

  3. Memorandum of David Giannotti, dated February 10, 2011, concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for January 2011.

  4. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated February 10, 2011 setting forth Legal Division matters for meeting.

  5. Draft Advisory 11-1: Political Activity of Public Employees.

  6. Draft Advisory 11-2: Recommendations for Employment by Elected Officials.

  7. Memorandum of Karen Nober and Deirdre Roney, dated February 8, 2011, regarding Proposed Legislation amending Statements of Financial Interests ("SFI") provisions of G.L. c. 268B.

  8. Calendar of Hearing Dates and Pre-Hearing Conferences in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.

  9. Memorandum of Stephen P. Fauteux, dated February 10, 2011, presenting Enforcement Division metrics as of December 31, 2010.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

David Giannotti
Public Education and Communications
Division Chief