MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

December 20, 2012

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 Paula Finley Mangum, William J. Trach and Regina L. Quinlan.  Commissioner Martin F. Murphy was absent.

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Mangum, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes from the November 20, 2012 meeting.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Budget Update

Executive Director Karen L. Nober reported that due to an estimated $540 million shortfall from state budget revenue forecasts, the Governor is looking at mid-year budget reductions.  He has filed legislation to implement a 1% budget cut for all state agencies.  She said it looks like the legislature will consider the bill in January.  Ms. Nober said that, as a practical matter, the Commission will be asked give back 1% of our budget even if the bill is not approved.  The Commission can absorb a 1% reduction this fiscal year because funding was in place for the Public Education and Communications Division Deputy Chief position since July 1, 2012, but the position was not filled until late October.  Ms. Nober said that the budget situation could impact the Commission’s budget next year.

Meeting with New Legislators

Ms. Nober stated that she attended meetings with newly elected legislators to provide them with conflict of interest law information.  She met with the three new state senators in early December.  On December 12, 2012, she attended the academy for new legislators held at UMass-Amherst and presented information on the conflict of interest law to the newly elected state representatives.  Ms. Nober said that she expects that training sessions for all legislators will likely occur in early 2013.

Online Training Update

Ms. Nober explained that the Commission’s new Conflict of Interest Online Training Programs have been launched, and she welcomed feedback from the Commissioners.  Ms. Nober announced the postponement of a scheduled kick-off event for the program, citing scheduling conflicts among invitees.

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober stated that the January Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 18, 2013, at 9:00 a.m.  Beginning with the January meeting, the Commission will return to its regular schedule of meeting on the third Friday of every month.

Event for Judge King

Ms. Nober announced that an after-work event for Judge King, whose term on the Commission recently expired, would be held after work on December 20th.

PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his report of Public Education Division activities for November 2012.  Mr. Giannotti stated that the new online training programs for state/county and municipal employees launched on December 10, 2012.  In advance of the launch, email notices were sent to all state and county agencies and all municipalities, regional school districts, educational collaboratives and independent municipal agencies providing links to the new programs and instructions to provide to employees.  The Commission’s website was updated with this information as well.  Once the programs were made available, we received feedback from public employees and were able to identify three issues that users needed to be aware of prior to beginning the programs.  We then sent out supplemental email notices to all public agencies and updated our website instructions to highlight this information.  The issues involved the ability to print or electronically save the completion certificate and the ability to access the final set of course assessment questions.  

Mr. Giannotti said that many users also completed the survey questionnaire that is available at the end of each program.  He said that the feedback received in the surveys has been mostly positive, with some complaining about the length of the program or about one of the technical issues identified above that affected their ability to complete the program.  Others questioned the relevance of the program to their public employment despite the level of instruction and number of examples provided in each program.

Chairman Swartwood commended Mr. Giannotti for his extensive work in launching the new programs.

The Commission had no questions. 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Legal Division Metrics

General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for November 2012.

  • Written advice. In November 2012, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 34 written requests for opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.

For comparison:          2008 monthly average (pre Ethics Reform):               31 
                                   2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform):             52
                                   November 2011 (same month last year):                    44 
                                   October 2012 (last month):                                         31

  • Oral advice. During this same period, Legal Division attorneys provided legal advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis to 304 state, county and municipal officials.

For comparison:          2008 monthly average (pre Ethics Reform)                 280
                                   2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform)               450
                                   November 2011 (same month last year)                     390
                                   October 2012 (last month)                                         385     

  • 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 
                                   November 2011 (same month last year)                    3
                                   October 2012 (last month)                                        10

  • Backlog. As of today, there is 1 pending request for written advice more than 30 days old, received October 10, 2012.  There are a total of 14 pending requests for written advice.

The Commission had no questions.

Legal Division Special Projects

Ms. Roney provided the Commission with a list of special projects currently being worked on by the members of the Legal Division.  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.

Ms. Roney requested that a hearing officer be assigned In Re Darryl Clark, Docket No.12-0017.  Chairman Swartwood assigned Commissioner Quinlan as the hearing officer.  The legal adviser is Legal Division Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca.

Litigation Matters

Ms. Roney provided an update on the Commission’s only pending litigation matter, Theresa Lord Piatelli v. SEC, 2012-P-0612.  She said that the matter is fully briefed, and the Appeals Court has notified the Commission that argument is likely to be scheduled for February 2013. 

Ms. Roney stated that the Commission’s amicus brief in Leder v. Rigby, SJC-11224, was filed on October 12, 2012. The case may be scheduled for argument on February 4, 5, or 7, 2013.  However, Ms. Roney said that arguments may be rescheduled to a later date.

The Commission had no questions.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 9:16 a.m., on the motion of  Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Quinlan, the Commission voted 4-0 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 investigatory matters, cases deferred, preliminary inquiry recommendations and reports, summons authorization requests, disposition agreements, closing memoranda, public and private education letters and advisory opinions.

            VOTE:       Chairman Swartwood                              yes
                              Vice-Chairman Mangum                          yes
                              Commissioner Trach                                yes
                              Commissioner Quinlan                             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 the Commission Meeting of December 20, 2012.

2.         Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for November 20, 2012 Public and Executive Session.

3.         Memorandum dated December 13, 2012 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for November 2012.

4.         Memorandum dated December 13, 2012 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the meeting.

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

 

Respectfully submitted,

                                                                   

Marisa Donelan
Public Education and Communications
Division Deputy Chief