For Immediate Release - September 16, 2010

Eastham Planning Board Member Michael Cole Assessed a $2,000 Civil Penalty for Violating the Conflict of Interest Law

Law Prohibits Town Employees from Representing Private Business Interests Before the Town

The State Ethics Commission ("Commission") approved a Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") in which Town of Eastham Planning Board ("Planning Board") member Michael Cole ("Cole") admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law. Pursuant to the Agreement, Cole paid a $2,000 civil penalty.

According to the Agreement, Cole is the owner of Cape Associates, a construction company located in the Town of Eastham. In 2005, on behalf of a Cape Associates client, Cole submitted a special permit application to the Planning Board to construct a dental office addition. At the May 11, 2005 Planning Board meeting, Cole stepped down from the board and then presented the application to the Planning Board. The Planning Board approved the special permit application. The client paid Cape Associates $56,950 for the construction of the addition.

Section 17(a) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of his official duties, from requesting or receiving compensation from anyone other than the municipality in relation to a particular matter in which that municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. According to the Agreement, Cole violated section 17(a) by receiving compensation from the dental office owner for work that required a permit from the Planning Board.

Section 17(c) prohibits a municipal employee from, other than in the proper discharge of his official duties, acting as agent for anyone other than the municipality in connection with a particular matter in which the same municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. According to the Agreement, Cole violated section 17(c) by submitting the application to the Planning Board and then presenting the application at a Planning Board meeting. By submitting and presenting the application to the Planning Board, Cole acted as agent for the owner of the dental office.

"The conflict law does not allow municipal board members to become involved in private business matters that involve their own board, even if they abstain from participating in their official capacity in such matters," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober.

Disposition Agreement