Whitman Construction Consultant James Byrne Fined for Offering Ski Trip to Public Official
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission issued a Disposition Agreement in which James Byrne, president and co-owner of Whitman-based Construction Monitoring Services, Inc. (CMS), admitted violating the conflict of interest law by offering a ski trip to an Old Rochester Regional School District employee to influence the employee's reports regarding CMS. Byrne paid a $2,000 civil penalty.
According to the Disposition Agreement, CMS planned a ski outing in winter 2002 for its employees that included weekend accommodations, lift tickets and ski lessons. Byrne offered to pay for Steven Shiraka, facilities and grounds manager of the school district, and his family to go on the ski weekend. The cost of the weekend was approximately $500. As facilities and grounds manager, Shiraka was responsible for overseeing CMS work. He had also made at least two negative reports to the superintendent regarding CMS' performance on a project to expand the junior-senior high school of the district. In offering the ski trip, Byrne intended to influence Shiraka as to the tenor and substance of Shiraka's future reports as to CMS' job performance. Shiraka rejected the offer.
Section 3 of the conflict of interest law prohibits anyone from offering anything of substantial value to any public employee for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by the public employee or act within his official responsibility.
"Offering gifts to a public employee in an attempt to influence how they perform their job erodes the public's confidence in the integrity of the decision-making process," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "Inevitably questions will be raised, particularly when the gift is of substantial value, whether the donor of the gift received greater access in the halls of government. Fortunately, in this case, the offer was properly rejected."