MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

July 15, 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 King, seconded by Commissioner Murphy, the Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Mangum abstaining, to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes for the June 16, 2011 meeting. 
 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Budget

Executive Director Karen L. Nober informed the Commission that the FY 2012 state budget has been approved, and the Commission’s budget number has not changed.  While the Commission’s budget is higher than FY 2011, the net increase, 
factoring salary step increases and other increases to fixed costs, is approximately $16,000.  Also approved was an outside section to the budget exempting Commission employees from the state classification system.  Ms. Nober explained that the 
change allows the Commission to have greater control over hiring and promoting staff, consistent with its role as an independent agency, and with how the law applies to other independent agencies and constitutional offices.  
 

Personnel

Ms. Nober said that personnel evaluations are ongoing and she hopes to complete them this month.  She will forward information to Commissioners Mangum and Veator concerning her own evaluation by the Commission.

Ms. Nober reported that, during the budget process, she informed the Legislature that the Commission only has a half-time receptionist, and therefore a rationale for increased funding for the Commission is to provide full-time coverage at the reception area.  

Ms. Nober said that this is the only hiring matter she plans to undertake for FY 2012.
 

Salary Increase for Staff not Covered by Union Contracts

Ms. Nober recommended that the Commission approve a modest salary increase of 1.5% for the Commission’s employees, not including her, who are not subject to a collective bargaining agreement, effective on or about July 1, 2011.  Ms. Nober explained that approximately half of the Commission’s employees receive the benefits of the NAGE Unit 6 collective bargaining agreements.  Under those agreements, those employees received a 1% raise last July, a 3% raise this July, and they will receive a 3% raise next July.  
Last year the Commission approved a 2.5% increase for employees not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and so this year, her recommendation is for a 1.5% increase.  Ms. Nober noted that the Governor has approved raises of up to 3% for executive 
branch managers, since they have not received a raise since 2007.

After discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Commissioner King, seconded by Commissioner Veator, the Commission voted 5-0 to approve a 1.5% salary increase for staff not covered by union contracts, excluding the Executive Director, effective on or about July 1, 2011.


SFI Matters

Ms. Nober reported that as of Tuesday, July 12, 2011, all current public employees required to file SFIs for 2010 have done so, and 9 former public employees have yet to file.  Several former state representatives still have not filed, but there was a notice issue, and so they are not technically late filers at this time.


Personnel Policy Changes

Ms. Nober presented proposed changes to the Commission’s Flex Time, Part-Time Work and Family and Medical Leave Act policies, as well as proposed new policies for Telecommuting and a Compressed Work Week.  These drafts were recently presented to and considered by the Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee of the Commission.  After discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Commissioner Mangum, seconded by Commissioner Veator, 
the Commission voted 5-0 to approved the proposed policy changes and new policies presented by Ms. Nober.
 

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober stated that the Enforcement Committee, chaired by Commissioner Murphy, is scheduled to meet at 11:00 a.m. today.  The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 16, 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 June, 2011 and for FY 2011.  Mr. Giannotti also updated the Commission on the designation of municipal liaisons and the liaison training program. 


LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Memorandum of Municipal Population Changes

General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented a memorandum on the effect the changes in municipal populations recorded during the 2010 population census will have on certain municipalities under the conflict of interest law.  
Ms. Roney explained the changes that will affect special municipal employees in municipalities whose populations either increased or decreased from 3,500; 10,000; and 35,000.  Ms. Roney explained that the affected municipalities 
will be contacted to explain the changes.  Ms. Roney will also present a proposed regulation to address when the changes will take effect.
 

No action by the Commission was required.

Regulations

Ms. Roney presented draft amendments to 930 CMR 1.01, 1.02(8), 3.01(8), 5.00 and 6.00 for the Commission’s review.  After discussion, the Commission, by consensus, approved the proposed draft amendments with the following changes:


New regulation 930 CMR 6.24: Exemption to Continue Certain Exemptions Affected by Municipal Population Changes Until Next Municipal Election. 

The Commission, by consensus, changed the draft regulation to allow selectmen to complete their current term, as opposed to having to comply at the next town election, and to increase to 120 days, from 90 days, the time 
appointed municipal employees can continue to use the prior exemption.


New regulation 930 CMR 5.07: No Violation: Gifts Worth Less Than $50.

The Commission, by consensus, changed the draft regulation to retain the disclosure requirement for gifts worth less than $50.

After discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Commissioner Veator, seconded by Commissioner Murphy, the Commission voted 5-0 to approve the draft or amended regulations:  930 CMR 1.01, 1.02(8), 3.01(8), 5.00 and 6.00, as presented to the Commission on July 15, 2011, and as revised by the Commission at that meeting; and to direct staff to take steps required by the Administrative Procedures Act, G.L. c. 30A, and related regulations and procedures for the adoption of those regulations.

 

Unpaid Penalty Collection Procedures

Ms. Roney and CFO/Director of Budget and Administration Michael Memmolo presented procedures the agency plans to use to collect overdue civil penalties.  Mr. Memmolo stated that anyone seeking to pay a civil penalty with a payment plan 
will have to complete a financial statement and pay at least 20% of the penalty up front, with the entire amount due within a year.  A standard interest rate will be assessed on unpaid amounts.  Mr. Memmolo is also working with the Comptroller’s 
Office to use their intercept program, which will also utilize invoices, statements and 30/60/90 day past due notices.  Mr. Memmolo is awaiting clarification from the Comptroller’s office whether the intercept could attach retirement or workers comp payments.
 

No action by the Commission was required.

 

FY 2011 Report

Ms. Roney provided a report on Legal Division activities for FY 2011.  The Commission had no questions.

 

Legal Division Metrics

I.      General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for FY 2011. 
  • Written advice.  In FY 2011, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 440 written requests for advisory opinions.

For comparison:    FY 2008 (pre Ethics Reform):  362

                              FY 2010 (post Ethics Reform): 684

 

  • Oral advice.  In FY 2011, Legal Division attorneys provided legal advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis to 4956 persons.

For comparison:    FY 2008 (pre Ethics Reform):  3739

                              FY 2010 (post Ethics Reform):  5144

 

  • Review of municipal letters.  In FY 2011, the Legal Division reviewed 77 letters issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.

For comparison:    FY 2008 (pre Ethics Reform):  85

                              FY 2010 (post Ethics Reform):  68

 

  • Backlog.  Monthly average backlog (requested written opinions more than 30 days old) was less than 7 in FY 2011, down from less than 9 in FY 2010.

 

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

               

  • Written advice.  In June 2011, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 22 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 483 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.  As of today, the Legal Division has 5 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old, i.e., received before June 7, 2011.  Three of those requests were received in May 2011, and two were received in June 2011. 
    A total of 24 requests for written advice are pending.

The Commission had no questions.

 

Litigation Matters                                                           

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

  1.  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).  In a Memorandum and Order dated April 19, 2011,
    Judge Cratsley upheld the Commission’s decision.  Jefferson has paid the fine and will not pursue further appeal.

  2. 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).  We received Piatelli’s motion for judgment on
    the pleadings on June 21, 2011, and our response is due August 23, 2011.

 

The Commission had no questions.

 

Adjudicatory Matters

Ms. Roney presented the calendar of hearing dates and pre-hearing conferences in pending Commission adjudicatory proceedings.  

The Commission had no questions.

 

Designation of Hearing Officers

Ms. Roney requested that the Commission appoint two hearing officers in the event Orders to Show Cause are filed between the July and September Commission meetings.  

Commissioners Mangum and Murphy were appointed to serve as hearing officers.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

At 10:46 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner King, 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      

                       Commissioner 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 Commission Meeting of July 15, 2011.

  2. Agenda for Enforcement Committee Meeting of July 15, 2011.

  3. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for June 16, 2011 Public Session and Executive Session.

  4. Memorandum of Karen L. Nober, Deirdre Roney and Michael Memmolo to the Commission, dated July 8, 2011, regarding Flex Time, Telecommuting, Compressed Work Week, Part-Time Work and Family and Medical Leave Polices,
    with Attachments and draft policies.

  5. Memorandum of David Giannotti to the Commission, dated July 8, 2011, concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for June 2011.

  6. Memorandum of David Giannotti to the Commission, dated July 8, 2011, concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for Fiscal Year 2011.

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

  8. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated July 6, 2011, concerning the effect of changes in town populations on municipal conflict of interest law exemptions.

  9. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney and Bart Galvin to the Commission, dated July 6, 2011, concerning proposed changes to regulations and draft regulations.

  10. Memorandum of Deirdre Roney to the Commission, dated July 6, 2011, concerning Legal Division activities for Fiscal Year 2011.

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

Respectfully submitted,  

        
David Giannotti
Public Education and Communications
Division Chief