MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

May 20, 2011

One Ashburton Place, Room 619

Boston, MA 02108

PUBLIC SESSION

 

MEETING CONVENED

Chairman Charles B. Swartwood, III 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 Murphy, the Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner King abstaining, to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes for the April 15, 2011 meeting.

 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT

Budget

Executive Director Karen L. Nober reported to the Commission that both the House and the Senate approved an additional $100,000 for the Commission's FY 12 budget. She stated that after payment of fixed expenses, the additional amount will result in a net increase from FY 11 to FY 12 of $16,000. Ms. Nober noted that the budget still requires approval by the Governor. Ms. Nober reported that as part of the budget process, the House approved an amendment filed by Representative Peter Kocot on behalf of the Commission to exempt Commission staff from the state's classification system. The Senate did not originally include the classification amendment in its budget bill, but Senator Brian Joyce filed it as an amendment, which was then approved.

Chairman Swartwood thanked Ms. Nober for all her work on the Commission's budget, including the $100,000 increase, which he said was due to her efforts. Ms. Nober recognized and thanked CFO-Director of Budget and Administration Michael Memmolo for all his hard work on the budget, which included developing and providing budget numbers and providing input and feedback on strategy.

 

SFI Matters

Ms. Nober reported to the Commission that of the approximately 4,500 appointed employees required to file a Statement of Financial Interests by May 2, 2011, approximately 540 did not. Those 540 individuals were sent notices advising them of the 10 day grace period to file. As of May 19, 2011, 16 current employees and 40 former employees have not filed. As to the 16 current employees, notices were sent to their agency heads informing them that those employees may not work or be paid until they file. Ms. Nober reminded the Commission about its vote last year to establish a more precise penalty schedule for late filing. She indicated that in cases where an individual has filed late, he will be sent a letter stating the amount of the penalty owed instead of the prior practice of sending a disposition agreement. If the filer sends the Commission a check for the amount owed, the matter will be resolved. The Commission agreed with this approach.

Ms. Nober thanked Financial Analyst David Mesquita for his hard work tracking the various matters involved with the Statement of Financial Interests process. She also recognized and thanked Administrative Assistants Theresa Meli Omodei and Mary Murphy for their assistance as well as Information Technology Specialist Tony Webb who resolved technical issues.


Court Reform Legislation

Ms. Nober informed the Commission that the House bill and Senate bill involving court reform legislation have two sections relevant to the Commission concerning letters of recommendation. Although both bills require the applicant to disclose the names of relatives who are state employees, each bill defines the relatives that must be identified differently. Both bills do not allow a state employee to consider a written recommendation until the final stage of the hiring process and require that the written recommendations for the person hired become public records. Ms. Nober said that the main difference is that the House bill does not allow oral recommendations from anyone while the Senate bill does not address that issue. She made some suggestions to the House that would allow for a normal reference check process, which provision was added. After discussion, the Commission agreed that it did not want to comment substantively on or endorse either bill, but did want Commission staff to continue to provide assistance on any technical issues.
 

Draft Advisory on Job Recommendations

Ms. Nober reported she has just started having discussions about the draft advisory on job recommendations. A suggestion has been made to expand the scope of the draft advisory to include appointed officials. Ms. Nober said that it also may need to be adjusted based on what happens with the court reform legislation.
 

Disclosures

Ms. Nober informed the Commission that the recent story by a reporter concerning disclosures filed by public employees to comply with the conflict of interest law involved a concern about the travel regulations that allow a private party to pay for a public employee's travel. The concern is that paying for the travel allows a private party to buy access to a public employee. Ms. Nober noted that the balancing factor for such travel is that it must serve a legitimate public purpose and the public employee has to file a disclosure. She has not heard anything further regarding the story.


Regulations

Ms. Nober informed the Commission that its new regulations have been in effect for close to six months. She stated that in June or July 2011, the staff will provide the Commission with a list of possible fixes and changes to the regulations.
 

Performance Evaluations

Ms. Nober reported to the Commission that the process of staff performance evaluations has begun. The forms, which are the same ones used last year with a few minor changes, have already been distributed. At the request of Chairman Swartwood and with the Commission's approval, Commissioner Mangum will coordinate the process for Ms. Nober's performance evaluation.
 

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober stated that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
 

Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee

Ms. Nober informed the Commission that the Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee, chaired by Commissioner Mangum, will meet on Thursday, June 16, 2011 at noon. All Commissioners are welcome to attend. Items for discussion at that meeting include the flex time policy, the telecommuting policy, revisions to the Family Medical and Leave Act policy in the Commission's Personnel Manual, and some other items.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION MATTERS

Ms. Nober stated that the Commission has been provided with Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti's report of public education division activities for April 2011. The Commission had no questions.

 

ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS

Enforcement Division Chief Stephen P. Fauteux reported on Enforcement metrics as of March 31, 2011, which are discussed in his memorandum to the Commission. He said that the metrics are generally consistent with prior ¾ year averages. Mr. Fauteux noted that the average age of Enforcement's pending screenings and preliminary inquiries has gone from 10 months to 8 months. The Commission had no questions.

 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Disclosures

General Counsel Deirdre Roney discussed the memorandum on disclosures provided to the Commission. She stated that the only disclosures filed with the Commission are certain disclosures made by state and county employees and disclosures made by state and county elected officials who have no appointing authority. She said that listing those disclosures on the Commission's website would be consistent with the Commission's former policy of publishing that information and the statutory requirement that disclosures be public. In addition, Ms. Roney noted that it would make it easier for individuals looking to review disclosures. She provided the Commission with sample disclosures to review. After discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Commissioner Murphy, seconded by Commissioner Mangum, the Commission voted 3-2 to adopt the policy recommended in Ms. Roney's memorandum that the Commission's website include a monthly list of the public disclosures that have been filed with the Commission (i.e., the name of the person making the disclosure, the agency they work for, the relevant section of the statute, and the month filed). Ms. Roney said she will provide the Commission with examples of the disclosure list at its June meeting for their review before we start posting this information on the Commission website.

 

Legal Division Metrics

Ms. Roney updated the Commission on the Legal Division metrics for April 2011, which are in her memorandum. She reported that the Legal Division's backlog of pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old is now down to 3. She also noted that the volume of telephone calls remains high. 
The Commission had no questions.
 

Adjudicatory Matters

Ms. Roney presented the calendar of hearing dates and pre-hearing conferences in pending Commission adjudicatory proceedings. She noted that the date of the June Commission meeting is incorrectly listed as Friday, June 17, 2011 instead of Thursday, June 16, 2011.

 

Litigation Matters

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

 

A. 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). Ms. Roney reported that the Commission prevailed in this matter in the Superior Court. She noted that Staff Counsel Amy Bressler Nee did a very nice job on the brief and the oral argument, which included some challenging issues. Ms. Roney said she will send a copy of the decision to all the Commissioners. Mr. Jefferson has 60 days to file an appeal. Ms. Roney said that Wormser, who is now living in California, wants to pay his civil penalty over a 4 year period, which she believes is too long.

 

B. 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.

 

SFI Matters

Ms. Nober reminded the Commission that she intends to list on the website the names and amounts paid by individuals who filed their Statement of Financial Interests late. She said that filers were notified in the materials they received that the Commission may make this information public.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 9:47 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, § 21, subparagraph (a)(7) and G.L. c. 268B, §§ 3 and 4. Chairman Swartwood stated that these matters will include preliminary inquiry recommendations and reports, 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 May 20, 2011.

  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for April 15, 2011, Public Session and Executive Session.

 

  1. Memorandum of Karen L. Nober to the Commission dated May 12, 2011 concerning court reform legislation.

 

  1. Memorandum of David Giannotti to the Commission, dated May 12, 2011, concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for April 2011.

 

  1. Memorandum of Stephen P. Fauteux to the Commission, dated May 2, 2011, concerning Enforcement metrics as of March 31, 2011.

 

  1. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated May 12, 2011, setting forth Legal Division matters for meeting.

 

  1. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated May 11, 2011, regarding disclosures filed with the Commission with attached State Ethics Commission bulletin.

 

  1. Frank Gorke disclosure under G.L. c. 268A, § 6, dated March 11, 2011.

 

  1. Julianne Pokela disclosure under G.L. c. 268A, § 7(d) dated March 2, 2011.

 

  1. Tom Sannicandro disclosure under G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3) and 930 CMR 5.05 dated March 1, 2011.

 

  1. Deval Patrick disclosure under G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3) dated September 28, 2009.

 

  1. Valencia Hadley disclosure under 930 CMR 6.07 dated January 30, 2011.

 

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

 

Respectfully submitted,
 

Lauren E. Duca
Senior Staff Counsel, Legal Division