For Immediate Release - November 04, 2008

Matter Involving Former Brockton Police Officer Charles Lincoln Terminated

Lincoln was charged with falsely calling in sick to one public job to work at another public job

The Ethics Commission issued an Order terminating public proceedings against former Brockton Police Officer Charles Lincoln. In its Order, the Commission concluded that Lincoln's alleged conduct - falsely calling in sick to one public job so that he could work at another public job - did not amount to a use of his official position in violation of G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law.

The Commission's Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause (OTSC) on March 15, 2007, alleging that Lincoln repeatedly violated § 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law, which prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. The OTSC alleged that Lincoln was a Brockton police officer from 1972 until January 2004, and also the full-time Plymouth County Sheriff's Department Director of Security at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility between January 2001 and January 2004. It further alleged that: on 155 occasions, Lincoln called in sick to work to one of his two public jobs in order to work at the other public job; during the three years that Lincoln was employed simultaneously by both departments, he used a total of approximately 251 sick leave days, 222 from Brockton and 29 from Plymouth County, claiming he was sick, injured or caring for ill members of his family; on 148 of the days Lincoln called in sick in Brockton, he worked a full shift in Plymouth; and on seven of the days he called in sick in Plymouth, he worked a full shift in Brockton.

On August 1, 2008, the Commission ordered the parties in this matter to submit briefs on the question of whether, by engaging in the conduct alleged in the OTSC, a municipal or county employee uses or attempts to use his official position within the meaning of § 23(b)(2). After reviewing the briefs, the Commission determined that the conduct alleged in the OTSC did not amount to a use of official position and issued an Order terminating the adjudicatory proceeding.

According to the Order, "[o]rdinary time and attendance fraud, absent any additional aspects, does not amount to a use of official position in violation of the conflict of interest law. Such matters are best dealt with by employers through disciplinary or other employment-related action, not as violations of the conflict of interest law."

"Public employees violate section 23(b)(2) when they abuse or misuse the powers of their positions to obtain an unwarranted benefit for themselves or others. As the Commission stated in its Order, '[g]eneric public employee dishonesty, standing alone, does not amount to a use or attempted use of official position in violation of § 23(b)(2). More is required' for such conduct to amount to a violation of the conflict of interest law," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober.

Decision and Order