Former Stoneham Town Moderator Michael H. Rotondi Pays $2,000 Penalty
Rotondi admits orchestrating $5 pay raise to gain pension eligibility
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement in which former Stoneham Town Moderator Michael H. Rotondi admitted violating G.L. c. 268A, the state's conflict of interest law, and agreed to pay a $2,000 fine for participating in a matter in which he had a financial interest.
According to the Disposition Agreement, in April 2003, Rotondi, who earned $200 annually as town moderator, sought enrollment in the town pension system. Enrollment in the town pension system would have significant financial benefits for Rotondi including potential health insurance and pension benefits. The town retirement board informed him that he did not qualify because he did not earn more than $200. Rotondi told the town retirement board that the state Public Retirement Administration Commission's counsel told him he was entitled to enroll regardless of the amount of compensation he received. The board declined to change its ruling. Rotondi then asked the Town Administrator to change a Town Meeting warrant so as to authorize a transfer of $5 from the town moderator's operational account to the salary account and changed the article on the May 5, 2003 Town Meeting warrant to increase Rotondi's salary from $200 to $205.
Rotondi presided over the Town Meeting as moderator. When Town Meeting members questioned the $5 salary increase, Rotondi stated from the podium that the increase was a clerical accounting matter; he did not explain the reasoning behind and the effects of the increase. The article passed. At a July 28, 2003 Town Meeting convened by members who felt misled by Rotondi's statements, the raise was rescinded. On July 29, 2003, the town retirement board denied Rotondi's request to be enrolled.
By participating in these matters, Rotondi violated G.L. c. 268A, § 19. Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from officially participating in matters in which he has a financial interest.
"When public officials preside over matters that could result in significant personal benefit, public trust in government is eroded," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "With few exceptions, elected officials must abstain from acting in such matters."
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