Berkshire Dukes Baseball Team Owner Daniel Duquette Allegedly Offered, and Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto Allegedly Accepted, 2004 World Series Tickets in Violation of the Conflict of Interest Law
According to the Orders to Show Cause, between November 2004 and April 2005, Duquette and Ruberto negotiated licensing and concession agreements for the Berkshire Dukes to play at Wahconah Park. Duquette first contacted Ruberto in September 2004 to inquire about the Dukes playing in Pittsfield. On or about October 22, 2004, Duquette called Ruberto and asked if he wanted to buy two tickets to the second game of the World Series at the face value of $190 per ticket. Ruberto accepted the offer, and gave Duquette a check for $380 for the two tickets. Game 2 of the World Series was played on October 24, 2004, at Fenway Park between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
The Enforcement Division alleges that there was enormous demand for 2004 World Series tickets. They were not available to the general public at face value, and were selling on "craigslist", "eBay" and "aceticket.com" websites for several times their face value at between $600 to $2,000 per ticket. According to the Orders to Show Cause, Duquette admitted that he sold the tickets to Ruberto because he wanted Ruberto to support the Berkshire Dukes playing at Wahconah Park.
Section 3(a) of the Conflict of Interest Law prohibits anyone, otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty from, directly or indirectly, giving or offering anything of substantial value to any municipal employee for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such employee. "Substantial value" has been interpreted by the courts and the Commission to mean anything with a value of $50 or more. In addition, the Commission has addressed the issue of special access to tickets in Commission Advisory 04-01, when it stated that conflict of interest concerns are raised where public officials are . . . "provided special access to purchase tickets even if at face value to events for which the same access is not available to the general public." In offering World Series tickets to Ruberto, Duquette intended to influence Ruberto as to their future negotiations regarding the licensing and concession agreements. By selling the World Series tickets to Ruberto at face value, where the general public could only obtain such tickets at prices more than $50 over face value, Duquette provided something of substantial value to Ruberto for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor. Therefore, according to the Order to Show Cause, Duquette violated G.L. c. 268A, § 3(a).
Section 3(b) of the Conflict of Interest Law prohibits a municipal employee, otherwise than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty from, directly or indirectly, accepting anything of substantial value for himself for or because of any official act or act within his official responsibility performed, or to be performed, by such municipal employee. In accepting World Series tickets from Duquette, which were offered by Duquette to influence Ruberto as to their future negotiations regarding the licensing and concession agreements, Ruberto accepted an item of substantial value from Duquette for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor. This opportunity was not otherwise provided by law for the proper discharge of official duties. Therefore, according to the Order to Show Cause, Ruberto violated G.L. c. 268A, § 3(b) by purchasing the tickets at face value.