MINUTES OF THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION MEETING
January 18, 2013
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, Martin F. Murphy, William J. Trach and Regina L. Quinlan.

Chairman Swartwood noted that Legal Division Staff Counsel Amy Nee would be allowed to participate via conference call in the public session portion of the meeting, but not the executive session.

 

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Trach, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the public session and executive session minutes from the December 20, 2012 meeting.  Commissioner Murphy abstained because he was not present at the December meeting.

 

JUNE MEETING

Chairman Swartwood noted that he has a scheduling conflict for the June Commission meeting.  By consensus, the June meeting was rescheduled from June 21, 2013 to 9:00 a.m. on June 28, 2013.

 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Budget Update

Executive Director Karen L. Nober reported that she and Chief Financial Officer Michael Memmolo met with the Senate Ways & Means Budget Analyst for the Commission during the second week in January.  Last month, they met with the Commission’s budget analyst from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.  Ms. Nober said that Governor Patrick is scheduled to release his FY 2014 budget next week.  Ms. Nober added that, if necessary, the Commission will be able to cut 1 percent from the FY 2013 budget, because the Public Education and Communications Division Deputy Chief position was funded beginning in July, but went unfilled for several months.  The Governor’s bill requiring such a cut is pending in the Legislature.  Ms. Nober also noted that 16 staff members are subject to the NAGE collective bargaining agreement, pursuant to that agreement, staff received 1.5% pay increases in July 2012 and January 2013, and will receive two more 1.5% increases in July 2013 and January 2014, respectively. 

Ms. Nober said a plan is in place to remove the high density file storage system in the Legal Division in order to reconfigure office space.  In response to a question from the Commission, Ms. Nober said that the records currently stored there will be moved to the Commonwealth’s archives in Dorchester or destroyed if allowed under the Secretary of State’s records retention policies.

General Counsel Deirdre Roney noted that the state records retention policies govern different types of records and how long they have to be retained by the agency, but the general guideline is for records to be retained for 6 years.

 

Personnel

Ms. Nober stated that Receptionist Nubia Villarroel is out on maternity leave until July, after giving birth to a healthy baby boy.  The Commission contracted with a temporary staffing agency, and Jasmine Young will be working as a temporary, part-time receptionist until Ms. Villarroel’s return.  Ms. Nober said that Ms. Young is a recent Howard University graduate.  She has adapted well to her duties, and her hiring has prevented the need to redirect other Commission staff to cover the receptionist duties.

Ms. Nober stated that in July 2011, several personnel policies dealing with employee work hours and time-keeping were written or revised to provide staff with flexibility in their work schedules while ensuring that the needs of the agency were being met.  The policies appear to be working well.  Ms. Nober said that the Commission’s personnel manual was last revised in 2005.  She will be looking to schedule a meeting of the Audit, Finance and Human Resources committee, chaired by Commissioner Mangum, to review proposed changes to the personnel manual. 

 

Internal Controls

Ms. Nober stated that the State Comptroller’s Office has requested that the Commission update its Internal Controls Plan, which has not been updated since 2007.  Ms. Nober said she is completing the updates and will submit them to the Comptroller’s Office next week.  She will include the plan for discussion at the upcoming Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee meeting.

 

Advisory on Making and Receiving Job Recommendations

Ms. Nober said that the Commission would be reviewing the draft Advisory on Making and Receiving Job Recommendations.  She commended Ms. Roney for her work on the advisory and noted that she was pleased with the process.  She said that feedback was received from counsel from the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Governor’s Legal Office.  Various drafts were reviewed by the Commission and the Commission’s Legal Committee.  A number of changes were made to the advisory based on the input received. 

 

Next Meeting

Ms. Nober said that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 15, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Draft Advisory 13-1: Making and Receiving Recommendations for Employment

General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented Draft Advisory 13-1: Making and Receiving Recommendations for Employment.  Ms. Roney explained the process through which the advisory was developed and revised.  Ms. Roney noted that the advisory was revised to clearly state that oral recommendations are not prohibited, but that any pressure accompanying an oral recommendation is prohibited.  In addition, a person making a recommendation to an agency who has other dealings with the agency must avoid acting in a manner that can be construed as pressure.  Following discussion by the Commission, on a motion from Commissioner Murphy, seconded by Commissioner Trach, the Commission voted 5-0 to approve the advisory as presented.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION MATTERS

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his report of Public Education Division activities for December 2012.  Mr. Giannotti stated that public employees are generally able to complete the new online training programs without difficulty.  A high number of calls and emails concerned issues that are discussed in the instructions posted on the website, and which were also emailed to all public agencies with a request that they be shared with employees.  The volume of calls and emails has diminished in the weeks following the rollout of the programs. 

The Commission had no questions.

 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

New Interns

Ms. Roney introduced new intern Nathan Ulrich, a second-year student at the New England School of Law, and noted that Wes Davis, who was not present at the meeting, will also be a new intern.  The Commission welcomed Mr. Ulrich, and extended its best wishes.

 

Use of Email for Service of Formal Notices of SFI Lateness

Ms. Roney presented a memorandum on Formal Notices of Lateness for SFI filers who do not file their SFIs by the deadline, which addressed the issue of whether e-mail satisfies the statutory requirement that the Commission send a written notice of lateness to late SFI filers.  Ms. Roney thanked Commissioner Quinlan for raising the issue.  After reviewing the current procedures, they will continue to send notices by email as a first step.  If a follow-up notice becomes necessary, it will be sent by regular mail. 

No action by the Commission was required.

 

Legal Division Metrics

Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for December 2012:

  • Written advice.  In December 2012, the Legal Division answered by letter or email 30 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

                                    December 2011 (same month last year):         28

                                    November 2012 (last month):                         34

  • Oral advice.  During this same period, Legal Division attorneys provided legal advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis to 308 persons.

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

                                    2010 monthly average (post Ethics Reform): 450

                                    December 2011 (same month last year):         363

                                    November 2012 (last month):                         304

  • Review of municipal letters.  The Legal Division reviewed 5 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

                                    December 2011 (same month last year):         8

                                    November 2012 (last month):                         7

  • Backlog.  As of today, there are 4 pending requests for written advice more than 30 days old, the oldest was received on November 19, 2012.  There are a total of 17 pending requests for written advice.

 

Legal Division Special Projects

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

 

Litigation Matters

Ms. Roney provided an update on the only pending litigation matter, Theresa Lord Piatelli v. SEC, 2012-P-0612, which is scheduled for argument in the Appeals Court on February 7, 2013, at 9:30 a.m., before Justices Cypher, Kantrowitz and Fecteau.  Amy Bressler Nee will argue for the Commission.

Ms. Roney stated the Commission’s amicus brief in Leder v. Rigby, SJC-11224, was filed on October 12, 2012.  The case has been scheduled for argument in the Supreme Judicial Court on February 7, 2013, at 9:00 a.m.

The Commission had no questions.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 9:47 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Swartwood, seconded by Commissioner Quinlan, 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 investigatory matters, cases deferred, 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 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 January 18, 2013.
  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for December 20, 2012 Public and Executive Session.
  3. Memorandum dated January 11, 2013 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for December 2012.
  4. Memorandum dated January 11, 2013 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.
  6. Memorandum dated January 10, 2013 from Deirdre Roney to the Commission concerning Draft Advisory 13-1: Making and Receiving Recommendations for Employment and including the draft advisory.
  7. Memorandum dated January 11, 2013 from Deirdre Roney concerning SFI Formal Notices of Lateness.
  8. Calendar of Hearing Dates and Pre-Hearing Conferences in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.

 

Respectfully Submitted,
 

Marisa Donelan
Public Education and Communications
Division Deputy Chief