For Immediate Release - March 21, 2006

Salem City Councilor Michael Bencal Fined $2,000

For Improperly Soliciting Campaign Contributions in Exchange for Favorable Treatment

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission fined Salem City Councilor Michael Bencal $2,000 for violating the state's conflict of interest law, M.G.L. c. 268A, by improperly soliciting campaign contributions for the mayoral campaign of Salem City Councilor Kevin Harvey.

According to the Disposition Agreement, Bencal contacted Salem Parking Director James Hacker in March 2004. Bencal told Hacker that Harvey, if he became mayor, would reappoint Hacker as parking director if Hacker raised $4,000 for Harvey's mayoral campaign. In Salem, the mayor appoints the parking director subject to City Council approval. After Hacker said he was unable to meet with Bencal and Harvey the following weekend, Bencal said he would arrange a meeting and call Hacker back. Harvey did not win the election.

Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public 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. By soliciting $4,000 in contributions for Harvey's mayoral campaign from Hacker where Bencal had the ability to impact Hacker's position as parking director then and in the future, Bencal used his city councilor position to get an unwarranted privilege, i.e., soliciting contributions in exchange for favorable treatment for Hacker concerning his parking director position.

"High-ranking public officials have the power to hire and fire city employees," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "That power may not be used to coerce city employees to contribute to political campaigns to guarantee keeping their jobs after an election."