MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING

November 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 8:00 a.m.  Also in attendance were Commissioners Paula Finley Mangum, Martin F. Murphy, William J. Trach and Regina L. Quinlan.

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Trach, seconded by Commissioner Mangum, the Commission voted 3-0, with Chairman Swartwood and Commissioner Quinlan abstaining because they were not present at the Commission’s October 26, 2012 meeting, to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes from the October 26, 2012 meeting.

NEW COMMISSION MEMBER

Chairman Swartwood welcomed Commissioner Quinlan to her first meeting as a member of the Commission and extended his best wishes.

ELECTION OF VICE-CHAIR

Chairman Swartwood stated that with the expiration of Commissioner King’s term, a new vice-chair would need to be selected by the Commission.  After discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Commissioner Murphy, seconded by Commissioner Quinlan, the Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Mangum abstaining, to appoint Commissioner Mangum as the Vice-Chair.

COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS

Chairman Swartwood discussed the various committees chaired by Commission members. He asked if any Commissioners wished to change their committee assignment before assigning a committee to Commissioner Quinlan. No requests to change assignment were made. Chairman Swartwood stated that Commissioner Quinlan would serve as chairman of the External Relations and Technology Committee.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Executive Director Karen L. Nober welcomed Commissioner Quinlan to the Commission. 

Budget Update

Ms. Nober reported that, as of October, the state has experienced a tax revenue shortfall of about $250 million from what had been projected for the first quarter of FY 2013.  This has resulted in a hiring freeze for executive branch agencies.  In addition, there is a much discussion about the possibility of mid-year budget cuts.  Ms. Nober stated that the Governor could unilaterally impose a mid-year cut on executive branch agencies, but not on the Commission because it is an independent state agency.  However, the overall budget situation could affect the Commission’s budget for FY 2014.

COGEL Conference

Ms. Nober stated that the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) annual conference will take place in December in Columbus, Ohio.  Public Education and Communications Division Deputy Chief Marisa Donelan and Financial Disclosure Administrator and Analyst Rob Milt will be attending the conference this year.  The conference provides an opportunity to network with staff from ethics commissions from across the United States.

Visiting Chinese Delegation

Ms. Nober stated that a delegation of Chinese government officials visited the Commission offices in November to learn about the financial disclosure process. Ms. Nober thanked General Counsel Deirdre Roney, Legal Division Deputy Chief David Wilson, Legal Division Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca and Enforcement Division Deputy Chief Karen Gray for meeting with the delegation and presenting information about the financial disclosure law and SFI procedures.

Information Sharing

Ms. Nober stated that the strict confidentiality requirements of c. 268A restrict the Commission’s ability to share information with agencies that are not law enforcement agencies.  While the Commission can share information about cases with the Attorney General and the United States Attorney’s office, we cannot share information with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance or the Inspector General.  We proposed legislation to allow for information sharing in the ethics reform legislation, but it did not appear in the final draft of the bill.  Inspector General Glenn Cunha has inquired about pursuing an amendment to our statute to allow the Commission to share information with his agency.  Currently, the Inspector General will share information with the Commission pursuant to a memorandum of understanding.  Ms. Nober stated that she would like to meet with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and the Inspector General to explore the possibility of drafting and proposing amendments to the three statutes administered by the agencies to allow for information sharing. 

In response to a question from Commissioner Murphy, Ms. Nober stated that, although limited, there are instances where the agencies are investigating the same matters, and sharing information would allow the agencies to coordinate efforts to avoid a duplication of resources.  Commissioner Trach asked whether there was any concern additional sharing would have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to come forward with information.  Ms. Nober said she did not believe it would, but she would have to consider the matter further.  Ms. Nober stated that she would like information sharing to be discretionary, so that each agency could decide if it wanted to share information in any particular case.

By consensus, the Commissioners approved of Ms. Nober meeting with the other agencies to discuss areas of possible cooperation.

Online Training Launch

Ms. Nober announced that the new conflict of interest law online training programs will be available beginning on December 10th.  She stated that she was considering public launch events; one on December 19th or 20th for legislators, stakeholders and public integrity task force members, and a later event  on December 27th for any interested members of the media.  By consensus, the Commissioners agreed to the proposed approach to launch the new programs.

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober said that the December Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. Commissioner Murphy said he most likely will be unable to attend because of a previously scheduled deposition.

Event for Judge King

Ms. Nober announced that an after-work event for Judge King, whose term on the Commission has expired, is scheduled for December 20, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.  

PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his report of Public Education Division activities for October 2012.  Mr. Giannotti stated that the new online training programs will launch on Monday, December 10, 2012.  Emails will be sent to all state and county agencies and all municipalities within the next few days notifying them about the new programs, including a reminder to distribute summaries of the conflict of interest law to all employees, an annual requirement under ethics reform.

The Commission had no questions.

SFI UPDATE

Legal Division Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca presented her report of SFI activities since the last Commission meeting.  Ms. Duca said that designation lists will be sent out to state agencies on November 21, 2012, and that the agencies will have 60 days to revise and submit their list.  A staff working group has broken into two groups; one to review possible changes to the electronic filing application, and one to review possible changes to the SFI form and instruction manual.  We plan to contract with a consultant in January to assist with the rollover and work on any changes to the electronic filing application.

Commissioner Murphy asked when completed SFI forms are due to the Commission, and Ms. Duca informed him his would be due May 1, 2013.

ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS

Enforcement Division Chief Stephen Fauteux presented the first quarter metrics report on Enforcement Division activities to the Commission. Chairman Swartwood inquired whether the division is falling behind, and Mr. Fauteux responded that the division is a little behind, but not dramatically so.

The Commission had no further questions.

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

New Informational Materials

General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented School Teacher FAQs and FAQs for Gaming Licensees drafted by the Legal Division and issued in October 2012.  Ms. Roney stated that the Teacher FAQs reflect the most common questions presented to the Legal Division by teachers, and the Gaming Licensee FAQs was drafted at the request of the Gaming Commission to make available to license applicants.

Chairman Swartwood asked whether the term “significant” when considering the value of teacher gifts could be confusing given the use of the term “substantial.”  Ms. Roney said she will clarify the wording of the document.

Commissioner Mangum commended the Legal Division for their work in drafting the documents.   

Legal Division Metrics

Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for October 2012. 

  • Written advice.  In October 2012, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 31 written requests for advisory 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

                                          October 2011 (same month last year):              21

                                          September 2012 (last month):                           29

  • Oral advice.  During this same period, Legal Division attorneys provided legal advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis to 385 state, county and municipal officials.

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

                                          2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform):  450

                                          October 2011 (same month last year):            367

                                          September 2012 (last month):                         339

  • Review of municipal letters.  The Legal Division reviewed 10 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

                                          October 2011 (same month last year):            10

                                          September 2012 (last month):                           4

  • Backlog.  As of today, there are have 8 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old, 1 from August 2012, 5 from September 2012, and 3 from October 2012.  There are a total of 20 pending requests for written advice.

The Commission had no questions.

Legal Division Special Projects

Ms. Roney provided the Commission with a list of the special projects currently being worked on by the members of the Legal Division.  She noted that the draft exemptions for employees of regional municipal entities and educational collaboratives are being handled by the entire Legal Division.  The conflict law was not written with those entities in mind, and the law is complicated in terms of how it applies to teachers within those agencies holding second municipal jobs.

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.

Litigation Matters

Ms. Roney provided an update on the Commission’s only pending litigation matter, Theresa Lord Piatelli v. SEC, SUCV2010-02123-B.  The Commission filed its respondent’s brief with the Appeals Court on October 17, 2012.  Ms. Roney said that the Commission’s motion for leave to file a non-conforming brief was allowed on October 19, 2012.  The motion was needed because the brief was in Times New Roman font instead of the required Courier font.

Ms. Roney stated that the Commission’s amicus brief in Leder v. Rigby, SJC-11224, was filed on October 12, 2012.  The case is currently scheduled for argument on January 7, 8, or 10, 2013.

The Commission had no questions.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 8:33 a.m., on the motion of  Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Trach, 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 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 Murphy                        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 November 20, 2012.
  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for October 26, 2012 Public Session and Executive Session.
  3. Memorandum dated November 13, 2012 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for October 2012.
  4. Memorandum dated November 16, 2012 from Enforcement Division Chief Stephen Fauteux presenting Enforcement Division FY 2013 first quarter metrics.
  5. Memorandum dated November 13, 2012 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the meeting. 
  6. Public School Teacher FAQs and Gaming License Applicants FAQs.
  7. Calendar of Hearing Dates and Pre-Hearing Conferences in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Marisa Donelan,
Public Education and Communications
Division Deputy Chief