Former Methuen Mayor Sharon Pollard Fined $4,000
For Funneling $200K in Mitigation Funds to Non-Profit She Co-Founded
According to the Disposition Agreement, in 2004, Brooks Pharmacy agreed to give Methuen $650,000 to mitigate traffic problems created by a new store on Howe Street. Pollard instructed Brooks Pharmacy to pay $450,000 to the city and $200,000 to the Festival of Trees. When the City Council formally accepted the $450,000 payment from Brooks Pharmacy in September 2004, Pollard did not disclose the $200,000 payment she arranged for the Festival of Trees. In spring 2005, Pollard appeared before the City Council to answer questions that had arisen about the $200,000 payment. In June 2005, the Festival of Trees returned the $200,000 it had received to the City. Pollard testified that she believed that the City had already addressed traffic issues in the area and that the funds should go to a variety of civic projects, including wall restoration.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use her position to secure for herself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. By instructing Brooks Pharmacy to give $200,000 to the Festival of Trees, Pollard used her position to secure for the Festival of Trees an unwarranted privilege. 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 her official duties. By acting as mayor on a matter in which a private organization she co-founded had a substantial financial interest, Pollard violated this section of the law. The Disposition Agreement notes that "the appearance of impropriety was exacerbated by Pollard not notifying the City Council of the $200,000 payment or obtaining the City Council's consent of the payment" to the Festival of Trees.