Adjudicatory Proceeding Dismissed Involving Hopkinton Conservation Commission Member Jack Speranza
According to the Order, the adjudicatory proceeding was initiated on June 12, 2007, when the Commission's Enforcement Division alleged in an Order to Show Cause ("OTSC") that Speranza violated § 17 of G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law. The OTSC alleged that on October 5, 2006, Speranza asked the Commission's Legal Division for advice as to whether he could act as a private attorney on behalf of a group of town residents ("Petitioners") who wanted to file a suit against the town regarding the CPC's proposed purchase of a parcel for open space. Speranza was advised that G.L. c. 268A, § 17 prohibited him from so acting. Then, on October 12, 2006, Speranza, acting as a private attorney on behalf of the Petitioners, filed a court petition against the town and obtained a temporary restraining order. Subsequently, Speranza, acting as a private attorney on behalf of the Petitioners, signed a stipulation agreement regarding the restraining order, filed a memorandum in support of continuing the injunction, and signed and filed a stipulation of dismissal.
The Commission's Order states that on November 7, 2007, Speranza filed an affidavit with the Commission which provided new and detailed information about Speranza's concerns about the various appraisals of the parcel, that the proposed purchase might violate state law and that Speranza was acting to fulfill the obligations of his oath as a town employee. The affidavit also described the information he provided and the questions he posed when he called the Commission's Legal Division for advice.
The Commission states in the Order, "[b]ased on our review of Speranza's affidavit which provides a fuller factual presentation of the unusual underlying circumstances in this matter, we now find that, had such facts been known to us previously, we would not have found reasonable cause and authorized an adjudicatory proceeding. The facts supporting our finding include the following: Speranza's concerns about the appraisal process; his actions were taken in an effort to protect the public interest in ensuring the Town's compliance with the relevant statutory requirements rather than his own personal or private interests; the efforts Speranza made to comply with the conflict of interest law by seeking advice; the absence of any personal financial gain to him as a result of his representation of the petitioners; and Speranza's reporting of his actions to the Commission. These facts taken together in this unique situation warrant the exercise of our discretion to vacate our prior finding of reasonable cause and authorization of an adjudicatory proceeding. Accordingly, we hereby vacate the prior finding of reasonable cause and the authorization of adjudicatory proceedings."
"The Commission has the authority to find reasonable cause to believe that the conflict of interest law has been violated, and to authorize adjudicatory proceedings," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober. "The Commission, however, may in its discretion revisit those decisions when new information that would have affected an earlier decision becomes available. In this case, based on the unique and specific facts of this matter, including the fact that Mr. Speranza acted in an effort to protect the public interest and not for any personal gain, the Commission determined that terminating these proceedings at this time was the correct and fair course of action."