Former Somerville Building Inspector Gene Covington Pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
According to the Agreement, contractor Joaquim Correia, Jr., ("Correia") owns JEJ General Contractor, Inc. ("JEJ"). Correia/JEJ performed several home improvement jobs at Covington's residence between 2005 and 2007, for which he was paid $14,300 by Covington's spouse. Covington's residence was owned by his mother-in-law. In 2006, Covington, as building inspector, conducted the final inspection on one of the roofing work jobs performed by Correia/JEJ at Covington's residence. In addition, the Agreement states that between 2007 and 2008, Covington engaged in the following conduct:
- on at least five occasions, in violation of ISD policy prohibiting inspectors from recommending contractors, Covington recommended Correia/JEJ to property owners, who then hired Correia for construction work;
- on six occasions, Covington approved building permit applications and issued permits for properties where Correia was listed as the contractor; and
- on four occasions, Covington inspected Correia's work.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he or an immediate family member has a financial interest. Covington violated section 19 by conducting the final inspection for the roofing work performed on his residence, which was owned by his mother-in-law, an immediate family member.
Section 23(b)(2) prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. By recommending Correia/JEJ to property owners, in violation of ISD policy, Covington repeatedly violated section 23(b)(2).
Section 23(b)(3) prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, acting 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 his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person. This section further provides that it shall be unreasonable to so conclude if such employee has disclosed in writing to his appointing authority the facts which would otherwise lead to such a conclusion. By approving building permit applications for, and issuing permits to, Correia/JEJ, and by inspecting Correia/JEJ's work, without disclosing his private dealings with Correia/JEJ to his appointing authority, Covington repeatedly violated section 23(b)(3).