For Immediate Release - March 27, 2007

Nantucket County Sheriff Richard Bretschneider Fined $1,500

For Offering to Purchase Property from a Person on Whom He was Serving an Eviction Notice

The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission fined Nantucket County Sheriff Richard Bretschneider $1,500 for violating the state's conflict of interest law, M.G.L. c. 268A, by offering to purchase an interest in property from a person on whom he was serving an eviction notice.

According to the Disposition Agreement, in May 2005, Bretschneider in his official sheriff's uniform drove his Sheriff's Department vehicle to the residence of a woman he had approached on numerous previous occasions seeking to purchase her interest in a residential property she owned with nine other cousins. Bretschneider served her with a 14-day Notice to Quit the residence she was renting. Bretschneider suggested she sell her interest in the property to him, saying, "This might be a good time to sell." The woman refused.

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) 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. By using his position to attempt to purchase property from someone with whom he was conducting official business as a sheriff, Bretschneider violated these sections of the law.

"Public employees, particularly law enforcement officers, have the power to exploit," said Executive Director Peter Sturges. "Using that power to pursue personal interests decreases the trust the public has the right to have in all public employees."