For Immediate Release - November 05, 2007

Commission Alleges Former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello Violated the Conflict of Interest Law

By Approving a Change to Sick Leave Buyback Policy

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission's Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause alleging that former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Amorello violated §§ 6, 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3) of the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by approving a change to the MTA sick leave buyback policy on July 26, 2006, the day the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Governor Mitt Romney could proceed with a hearing scheduled for the next day to remove Amorello as the MTA chairman. A public hearing will be scheduled within 90 days.

According to the Order to Show Cause, from 1996 until Amorello allegedly approved the change, the sick leave buyback policy provided that non-union employees would receive 20% of the cash value of their accrued sick time upon retirement (not resignation or termination). Sometime in early 2006, Amorello directed Human Resources Director Norman Chalupka to investigate increasing the policy for non-union employees. In early July 2006, the MTA policy was changed from 20% upon retirement to 100% upon leaving the MTA for any reason. On July 26, Chalupka informed Amorello of the increase to 100%. Amorello instructed Chalupka to make the policy similar to that of other authorities like the MassPort Authority. Later that same day, Chalupka informed Amorello that he had changed the policy from 100% to 50%. Amorello allegedly approved the change. The new policy further provided that the remaining 50% of accrued sick time cash value could be used to pay medical insurance premiums once the MTA employee retired. Three of the MTA employees affected by the policy change, in addition to Amorello, were Amorello's close senior staff who took advantage of the new policy.

The next day, July 27, Amorello signed a termination agreement with the MTA that provided him with all of the benefits that were in effect as of July 26. Amorello's buyback benefit value is approximately $75,000. Under the 50%/50% policy, he was eligible to take 50% of the $75,000 on February 15, 2007, the last day of his MTA service according to the termination agreement and, when he retires, he can use the other 50% towards paying his health insurance premiums.

Section 6 prohibits a state employee from officially participating in matters in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest. The Enforcement Division alleges that Amorello violated § 6 by participating in decisions involving the sick leave buyback policy that affected his 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. The Enforcement Division alleges that Amorello violated § 23(b)(2) by securing for himself and his senior staff the increased sick leave buyback. 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 Enforcement Division alleges that Amorello violated § 23(b)(3) by approving the change in the buyback policy.