Rockland Finance Committee Member John DeWald Fined $2,000 for Promoting Friend's Private Interest
DeWald, an attorney, violated G.L. c. 268A, §§ 17(c) and 23(b)(2) when he contacted Rockland tax title attorney Laura Powers at the request of attorney Sandy Lederman. Lederman, who is a friend of DeWald, represented Ken Crosby whose eight-acre parcel was taken through default foreclosure by the town. According to the Disposition Agreement, in a phone call in January 2005, DeWald introduced himself as the chairman of the Finance Committee and tried to convince Powers to settle the case for back taxes and attorney fees. Powers, who felt pressured by DeWald's call, declined to do so, stating that the town wanted to keep the land.
Section 17(c) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from acting as an attorney for anyone other than the town in connection with a particular matter in which the town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. Section 23(b)(2) prohibits a municipal employee from using or attempting to use his position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
"Public officials owe undivided loyalty to the town they serve," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "When the town has an interest in a matter, public officials may not use their influence to promote the private interests of their friends."