For Immediate Release - March 04, 2009

Former Marlborough Department Of Community Development Finance Assistant Maureen Brennan Fined For Violating the Conflict of Interest Law

The Ethics Commission issued a Decision and Order ("Decision") in the adjudicatory matter of former Marlborough Department of Community Development ("DCD") finance assistant Maureen Brennan ("Brennan"). The Commission determined that Brennan violated Sections 19 and 23(b)(3) of G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, as a result of her involvement in matters relating to a DCD housing rehabilitation loan to her fiancé, and then husband, Keith Wheeler ("Wheeler"). The Commission imposed a $5,000 civil penalty.

According to the Decision, in September 2002, Wheeler (who Brennan married on October 19, 2002) was approved to receive a DCD loan to rehabilitate a house he owned in Marlborough. Brennan did not participate in the DCD's decision to provide the rehabilitation loan to Wheeler. Thereafter, however, Brennan participated as a DCD employee in the following matters relating to the DCD loan for the rehabilitation work on Wheeler's house:

  • On September 26, 2002, Brennan signed and processed a DCD request for a $8,495 progress payment to a contractor for work on Wheeler's house;
  • On October 16, 2002, Brennan signed and processed a DCD request for a $9,909 progress payment to a contractor for work on Wheeler's house;
  • On March 17, 2003, Brennan signed and processed a DCD request for a $2,750 progress payment to a contractor for work on Wheeler's house in response to an invoice that indicated it was a change order; and
  • On June 7, 2004, Brennan drafted and submitted a "Single Case Waiver" request to the state Department of Housing and Community Development ("DHCD"), which provided the funds for the DCD rehabilitation loans, seeking approval to increase the limit on the amount of DCD rehabilitation assistance available to Wheeler from $25,000 to $29,664.95.

Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such in a particular matter in which she or a member or her immediate family has, to the employee's knowledge, a financial interest. According to the Decision, "Brennan violated §19 when she signed and processed the progress payment in March 2003 and again when she drafted and submitted to DHCD the Single Case Waiver request in June 2004."

Section 23(b)(3) provides that no municipal employee shall knowingly, or with reason to know, act in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy her favor in the performance of her official duties, or that she is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any person or party. According to the Decision, "Brennan violated § 23(b)(3) each of the three times in 2002 and 2003 that she processed progress payments for Wheeler's [h]ouse and also when she requested the Single Case Waiver for Wheeler's [h]ouse."

In the Decision, the Commission rejected an assertion by Brennan that the Enforcement Division failed to timely file its Order to Show Cause. The Commission also determined that Brennan did not violate the conflict of interest law in connection with her handling of a loan application filed by her cousin and his spouse.

"The conflict of interest law requires a public employee to abstain from matters affecting the financial interests of her spouse, and it requires a public employee to disclose to her appointing authority any private relationships that they may have with persons with matters that are before them," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober.

Decision and Order