For Immediate Release - November 01, 2006

Somerville Police Officer Scott Trant Allegedly Violated Conflict of Interest Law

By Offering to Purchase Property from a Property-Owner Seeking Police Assistance

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission's Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause alleging that Somerville Police Officer Scott Trant violated the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A by attempting to purchase property from a person seeking police assistance in connection with the property. A public hearing will be scheduled within 90 days.

According to the Order to Show Cause, on February 9, 2005, an Everett woman visited the Somerville Police Department and sought assistance from Trant, who was on duty, regarding her ex-husband. The woman told Trant about her ex-husband's behavior and questionable mental state. The ex-husband was living in an illegal apartment in the basement of a dilapidated property that had been cited for code violations. The property, located at 21 Vernon Street in Somerville, was owned in trust by the woman and her two children. The woman had agreed to have her ex-husband removed from the property and to correct any code violations as part of a January 2004 agreement with the Somerville Inspectional Services Division (ISD). She reported to Trant that she had considered selling the property and had rejected an offer of $100,000. Trant offered to purchase the house, which was assessed at $438,700, for approximately $200,000.

On February 9 and 10, 2005, Trant attempted to phone ISD to gain more information about the city's action involving the house; contacted the psychiatric unit of Cambridge Hospital for "information about getting someone committed;" went to 21 Vernon Street to conduct a "welfare check;" and reported to Cambridge Hospital on the ex-husband's condition. On February 11, 2006, the ex-husband was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility. On February 14, 2005, Trant discussed the ex-husband with caseworkers at Cambridge Hospital and the Department of Mental Health.

On February 23, 2005, Trant again offered by phone to purchase the house for $200,000. He had an attorney draw up a standard purchase-and-sale agreement and gave the agreement to the woman. After the Somerville Police Department began investigating Trant's conduct regarding this matter, he increased his offer to $300,000.

Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from officially participating in matters in which to his knowledge he, his immediate family or a business in which he is serving as a director has a financial interest. 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. Section 23(b)(3) of the conflict law prohibits a public official from knowingly or with reason to know acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy the public employee's favor in the performance of his official duties.

The Commission has the authority to impose civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.
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