For Immediate Release - December 19, 2007

Commission Authorizes Public Education Letter To UMass-Lowell Pollster Louis DiNatale

The Ethics Commission found reasonable cause to believe that University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMass-Lowell) Executive Director of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Economic and Civic Opinion (CECO) Louis DiNatale violated the code of conduct section of M.G.L. c. 268A, the state's conflict of interest law, by consulting for private clients on matters related to and/or overlapping with UMass-Lowell polls. The Commission concluded its review of this matter with the issuance of a Public Education Letter.

According to the letter released today, DiNatale conducted polls for UMass-Lowell, some of which involved political issues and campaigns. In his private capacity, DiNatale also conducted polls as a paid political consultant. In 2005, DiNatale, as a private political pollster, conducted a political poll for Christy Mihos, who was contemplating running for governor, on September 25-29, 2005. Around the same time, DiNatale conducted a poll for the University on September 19-27, 2005 that included four questions concerning Mihos. DiNatale did not disclose to his appointing authority regarding the private polling work he performed for Mihos, although his appointing authority was generally aware that DiNatale engaged in private polling work.

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.

Section 23 addresses situations "where an appearance arises that the integrity of a public official's action might be undermined by a private relationship or interest," according to the letter issued by Acting Executive Director David A. Wilson. "It is essential that public employees' objectivity, both in fact and in appearance, be maintained so that public confidence in their official actions can be assured."

The Commission issues a Public Education Letter to provide public notice and education about conduct that the Commission has not previously addressed and has concluded violates the conflict law.