For Immediate Release - July 27, 2006

Former Dunstable Selectman Robert Nelson Fined $2,000

For Violating Conflict of Interest Law by E-Mailing Recommendations about an Affordable Housing Project to Fellow Selectmen

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission fined former Dunstable Selectman Robert Nelson $2,000 for violating the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by participating as a selectman in an affordable housing project on land he was selling to the developer.

According to the Disposition Agreement, Nelson had a purchase and sales agreement with Dracut-based developer Frank Gorman to sell to Gorman 3.5 acres of land in Dunstable on which Gorman planned to construct a 30-unit affordable housing apartment building under G.L. c. 40B, the state's low and moderate income housing law. The sale was contingent on Gorman obtaining a permit for the project. Nelson abstained at selectmen's meetings but participated in discussing the project with other town officials via email.

Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from officially participating in matters in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest. By recommending that the town's affordable housing quotas not include accessory apartments, that the fire department's involvement was not necessary as part of the selectmen's review and that the Zoning Board of Appeals, rather than selectmen, had responsibility to review the proposal to ensure adherence to state and federal codes as well as by suggesting a specific attorney with 40B experience represent the town's interests concerning the project, Nelson participated in matters in which he had a financial interest.

"Participation that is prohibited by the conflict of interest law includes not only the final vote but also recommendations or advice leading up to that vote," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "Public officials who have a conflict of interest should abstain from all action, not just the action that takes place at public meetings