Former Boston Inspectional Services Department Commissioner Kevin Joyce Pays $5,000 Penalty
For Firing Assistant Who Refused to Manipulate Bids
According to a Disposition Agreement released, during fall 2000, ISD selected Tekinsight.com, Inc. to update the mayorsfoodcourt website operated by ISD. TekInsight assigned its employee Melissa Fetzer, a friend of Joyce, to work on the project. ISD staff believed the update would be funded under a $9 million contract between the Boston City Purchasing Department and TekInsight to provide computer consulting services to various Boston departments and agencies. In December 2000, after Joyce learned that the update would not be funded under the $9 million contract, he directed Principal Administrative Assistant Julie Fothergill to obtain two quotes higher than $7,900, the amount sought by TekInsight for the update, in order to secure payment for Fetzer and/or TekInsight. In January 2001, after Fothergill did not obtain the quotes Joyce requested, Joyce transferred her to the ISD Legal Division where she was assigned an office with no phone or computer. Later in January, Fothergill notified Joyce through her attorneys that she intended to file a civil suit against Joyce and the City for the demotion. In February 2001, Joyce transferred her out of the ISD Legal Division into the Planning & Zoning Division. In May 2001, Joyce terminated Fothergill.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from knowingly or with reason to know using or attempting to use his position to obtain for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value which is not available to similarly situated individuals. By demoting and terminating Fothergill for disobeying his orders to commit illegal actions, rather than on the merits of her work performance, Joyce used his ISD position to obtain an unwarranted privilege.
The City of Boston paid Fothergill $240,000 to settle her wrongful termination suit in September 2003. Joyce resigned as ISD Commissioner in April 2004 following the release of a report from the Boston Finance Committee finding Joyce responsible for Fothergill's wrongful termination, costing the City over $400,000, as well as numerous administrative failures in contract and personnel matters.
"The power to demote or terminate an employee is one of the prerogatives of management," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "It is, however, an abuse of that power to punish a subordinate for refusing to commit illegal actions in an attempt to help a friend."