For Immediate Release - May 16, 2008

Commission Dismisses Case Against Former Barnstable County Sheriff's Office Assistant Deputy Superintendent Richard Bonavita Based on Statute of Limitations

The Ethics Commission issued a Decision and Order dismissing its case alleging violations of the conflict of interest law by former Barnstable County Sheriff's Office Assistant Deputy Superintendent of Operations Richard Bonavita. The Commission's Decision and Order was based on the Enforcement Division's failure to file its Order to Show Cause within the three year statute of limitations period set forth in the Commission's regulations. In dismissing the case, the Commission did not make any determination as to whether Bonavita violated the conflict of interest law, but, rather, based its Decision and Order solely on procedural requirements.

The Commission's regulation at 930 CMR 1.02(10) establishes a time limit in which the Commission's Enforcement Division may initiate an action based on the conflict law. It provides, "An order to show cause must be issued within three (3) years after a disinterested person learned of the violation."

On January 31, 2008, the Commission's Enforcement Division filed an Order to Show Cause alleging that Bonavita repeatedly violated sections 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3) of G.L. c. 268A, the state's conflict of interest law, by directing a Sheriff's Office mechanic to perform free automobile services for Bonavita and one of Bonavita's immediate family members. In an Answer filed on February 11, 2008, Bonavita denied the allegations and asserted that the Order to Show Cause had not been filed within the required three year period. Since the Commission learned of the matter involving Bonavita and the alleged automobile repairs on or before January 18, 2005, the deadline for the filing of the Order to Show Cause was January 18, 2008. The Enforcement Division's filing on January 31, 2008 was, therefore, time-barred. On March 28, 2008, a Joint Motion to Dismiss was filed by both parties on the grounds that the Order to Show Cause was filed beyond the applicable three year statute of limitations.

"The Enforcement Division brought the case based on the Commission's finding of reasonable cause to believe Mr. Bonavita violated the conflict law," said Executive Director Karen Nober. "The Order to Show Cause, however, was filed late, resulting in the Commission's dismissal of the case against Mr. Bonavita on procedural grounds. We have reviewed our internal procedures and are taking steps to ensure that this will not happen again."