MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

April 15, 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, Paula Finley Mangum and Martin F. Murphy. Commissioner Patrick J. King was absent.

 

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Mangum, seconded by Commissioner Veator, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes for the March 18, 2011 meeting.


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT

Budget

Executive Director Karen L. Nober reported to the Commission that the House of Representatives released its budget earlier this week and proposed funding the Commission at the same level as the Governor's budget. Ms. Nober said that if the budget number is approved, it will leave the Commission with approximately $72,000 to fund operations, which will require cuts in almost all discretionary spending, such as travel for public education seminars.

 

Pending Legislation

Representative Peter Kocot has filed a budget amendment to add an additional $300,000 to the Commission's budget. Ms. Nober said that Representative Kocot had also previously filed a bill on behalf of the Commission to exempt Commission staff from the state's classification system. That bill is pending with the Joint Committee on Regulatory Oversight, which Representative Kocot co-chairs. Representative Kocot has also filed this bill as an amendment to the budget.

 

Transparency

Ms. Nober informed the Commission that a reporter is planning to write a story about disclosures filed by public employees to comply with the conflict of interest law, and about the difficulty he has encountered in obtaining disclosures from public agencies. Ms. Nober explained that the conflict law requires disclosures by state employees to be filed with their appointing authority and, in some cases, with the Commission. Ms. Nober requested that the Commission revisit its position on whether the Commission should post information on the website listing disclosures filed with the Commission. Ms. Nober and General Counsel Deirdre Roney explained how state employees file disclosures with the Commission or their appointing authority to comply with sections 6, 7 and 23 of the conflict law and disclosures filed to comply with our regulatory exemptions. After discussion by the Commission, the Chair directed the Legal Division to prepare a memorandum on the matter for review and action by the Commission at the May meeting.

 

SFI Matters

Ms. Nober reminded the Commission that the filing deadline for Statements of Financial Interests is May 2, 2011. She reported that approximately 1,400 SFIs have been filed so far, of the approximately 4,500 to 5,000 required to be filed.

 

External Relations and Technology Committee

Ms. Nober stated that the External Relations and Technology Committee, chaired by Commissioner King, met on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Ms. Nober identified the Commission staff working on the programs and briefly discussed the proposed online training and municipal liaison training programs.

 

Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee

Ms. Nober requested that the Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee, chaired by Commissioner Mangum, schedule a meeting for June. Ms. Nober will inform the Commissioners of the Committee meeting date once it is scheduled.

 

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober stated that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 20, 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 March, 2011. Mr. Giannotti provided an update on the development of new online training and liaison training programs.

 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Legal Division Metrics

General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for March 2011.

 

Written advice. In March 2011, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 43 written requests for advisory opinions.

For comparison: 2008 monthly average (pre Ethics Reform): 31
2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform): 52

 

Oral advice. During this same period, Legal Division attorneys provided legal advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis to 519 persons.

For comparison: 2008 monthly average (pre Ethics Reform): 280
2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform): 450

 

Review of municipal letters. The Legal Division reviewed 7 letters issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.

For comparison: 2008 monthly average (pre Ethics Reform): 6
2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform): 8

 

Backlog. The Legal Division has 3 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old, 2 from January 2011 and 1 from March 2011. There are a total of 16 pending requests for written advice.

 

The Commission had no questions.

 

Public Employee Political Activity

Ms. Roney reported that the Public Employee Political Activity Advisory has been posted on the Commission's website, and that in several recent instances, Ms. Roney was able to refer callers to the advisory for the specific information needed by the callers.

 

Litigation Matters

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

 

A. Lincoln Smith v. Commonwealth. SUCV2008-04111-C. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's August 18, 2008 decision finding Smith violated § 23(b)(2). On March 15, 2011, the Appeals Court dismissed the case for failure to prosecute Smith's appeal from Judge Cratsley's April 30, 2010 decision upholding the Commission's decision. The Legal Division will notify Mr. Smith concerning payment of the civil penalty.

 

B. Thomas Jefferson v. SEC, SUCV2010-02009-C. Chapter 30A appeal from the Commission's April 28, 2010 decision finding that Jefferson violated §§ 23(b)(2) and (3). The case was argued March 4, 2011 before Judge Cratsley, who reserved decision.

 

C. Theresa Lord Piatelli v. SEC, 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 with the court on January 5, 2011. The Court granted Piatelli's motion for an extension of time to move for judgment on the pleadings. Her motion is due on June 21, 2011.



Adjudicatory Matters

Ms. Roney presented the calendar of hearing dates and pre-hearing conferences in pending Commission adjudicatory proceedings. The Commission had no questions.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 9:33 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Veator, 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. 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

                    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 April 15, 2011.

  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for March 18, 2011, Public Session and Executive Session.

  3. Memorandum of David Giannotti, dated April 8, 2011, concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for March 2011.

  4. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated April 7, 2011 setting forth Legal Division matters for meeting.

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

 


Respectfully submitted,

 

David Giannotti
Public Education and Communications
Division Chief