For Immediate Release - June 05, 2005

Lowell City Councilor Chanrithy Uong Fined $6,000

Ordered to Relinquish his Housemaster position at Lowell High School

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission issued a Decision and Order concluding the adjudicatory hearing of Lowell City Councilor Chanrithy Uong by finding that Uong violated M.G.L. c. 268A, the state's conflict of interest law. Uong was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $6,000 and to cease and desist violating the law by relinquishing his Lowell High School (LHS) housemaster position within 30 days.

According to the Decision and Order, the Commission found that Uong violated § 20 by, while serving as a city councilor and a LHS guidance counselor, accepting appointment to the housemaster position. Section 20 of the conflict of interest law generally prohibits a municipal official from having a financial interest in a contract made by a municipal agency of the same city or town. An exemption to this section of the law allowed Uong to continue to hold the position of guidance counselor at LHS after his election in 1999 to the city council. The exemption, however, prohibits a municipal employee who is elected to the city council from being eligible for appointment or re-appointment to a new position while he serves on the city council or for six months thereafter.

In April 2001, the Commission issued an opinion advising Uong that he could not relinquish his position as guidance counselor and accept a new position as an assistant principal or a principal while continuing to serve as a city councilor. Following the issuance of the opinion, Uong was advised that he could seek a legislative change or appeal the decision to the superior court. Uong did not pursue these options.

In March 2002, Uong applied for an LHS housemaster position. Uong won appointment and, in August 2002, began serving as housemaster with a starting salary of $81,033, an increase of about $21,000 over his guidance counselor salary. LHS does not have principals or assistant principals; the housemaster position is the high school equivalent of the position of assistant principal at the middle and elementary schools.

"The conflict of interest law restricts municipal employees from actually having or appearing to have an 'inside track' to appointments to paid municipal jobs," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "In particular, as the Commission stated in its 2001 opinion, it bars city councilors from being appointed to paid positions that they did not hold before they became councilors."

Uong has 30 days to appeal the Commission's Decision in Superior Court.