Allegations Dismissed that Abington Treasurer/Collector Paul Donlan Violated Conflict of Interest Law
The Commission had charged that Donlan had violated G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). 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 parties recently discovered evidence indicating that the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) mistakenly permitted Connolly to file a claim despite the fact that, under state law, elected employees are ineligible to receive unemployment compensation. In view of this newly discovered evidence, the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss the charges that Donlan violated G.L. c. 268A § 23(b)(2).
The motion to dismiss concluded that the facts support the conclusion that Donlan created the appearance of a conflict of interest in violation of G.L. c. 268A § 23(b)(3) by participating in approving Connolly's unemployment claim, given their previous relationship, but that this appearance of a conflict of interest alone was not sufficient to warrant a fine. The Commission allowed the joint motion, dismissing the charges against Donlan.
"The Enforcement Division is responsible for prosecuting violations of the law vigorously and fairly," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "When new evidence was discovered, the Enforcement Division took the right step by filing a motion to have the case dismissed in order to ensure that Mr. Donlan was treated justly."