For Immediate Release - November 28, 2007

Commission Fines Former North Reading Highway Department Employee James Murray $750 and Former Water Department Employee Diego Nicolo $1,000

For Improper Moonlighting

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission fined former North Reading Highway Department employee James Murray $750 for violating the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by receiving compensation for private work installing and testing water lines and former Water Department employee Diego Nicolo $1,000 for violating the law by also receiving compensation for the same private work as well as using his official position to obtain private work.

According to two Disposition Agreements, Murray and Nicolo started a business called "D. Nicolo J. Murray Water Pipe Testing." On three occasions, Nicolo and Murray were paid by North Reading residents or businesses to perform water pressure tests that either one or both of them performed. In addition, on one occasion, Nicolo and Murray installed a water line and a hydrant. Nicolo's supervisor inspected all of the work performed by Nicolo and Murray.

Section 17(a) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a public employee from receiving compensation from anyone other than the town in relation to a particular matter in which the town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. By receiving private compensation for testing and installing water lines in North Reading, work in which the town through its inspections had an interest, Murray and Nicolo violated § 17(a).

In addition, Nicolo also violated § 23(b)(2) by, on town time and in his official uniform, telling a contractor that he could perform a water pressure test, but not on town time. Section 23(b)(2) prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals.

The Disposition Agreements state that Nicolo sought and received permission to perform private water tests in North Reading from his supervisor, but that neither Nicolo nor Murray sought advice about how performing and being paid to perform this work might violate the conflict of interest law.

"Town employees owe undivided loyalty to their town," said spokesperson Carol Carson. "Town employees may not do private work for private compensation in relation to matters in which the town has an interest."