For Immediate Release - June 08, 2011

Ethics Commission Cites Agawam High School Guidance Counselor Alan Cohen for Conflict of Interest Law Violation

Bypassed school procedures to hire the Principal's son to a summer teaching position

The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") in which Agawam High School ("School") Guidance Counselor Alan Cohen ("Cohen") admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by hiring the School Principal's ("Principal") son to a summer teaching position without following the School's standard hiring procedures. Pursuant to the Agreement, Cohen paid a $1,000 civil penalty.

According to the Agreement, Cohen was responsible for hiring summer school staff. Cohen knew that the previous summer school physical education teacher was retiring. Cohen and the Principal (Cohen's supervisor) would often talk about their children with each other, and Cohen knew from those conversations that the Principal's son would soon be graduating from college with a degree in physical education. Cohen contacted the Principal's son, who expressed an interest in the four week, summer school physical education teaching position. The Principal's son then submitted his resume, transcripts and an application. The resume and application indicated the Principal's son did not have his college degree or teaching certification but that he anticipated receiving them on December 31, 2010, after he completed student teaching. Cohen hired the Principal's son without following the School's standard hiring procedures, which required that the position be posted internally and that a hiring committee be convened to review applications and interview candidates.

Section 23(b)(2)(ii) 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 failing to follow standard procedure when considering an employment application for the son of his supervisor, Cohen violated section 23(b)(2)(ii).

"Standard hiring procedures are intended to ensure that qualified applicants can fairly compete for public positions and that public agencies have the opportunity to hire the most qualified people," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober. "Public employees may not deviate from these procedures in order to improve their standing with their supervisors."

Disposition Agreement