Carver Selectman Michael O’Donnell Cited for Conflict of Interest Law Violation
Participated in Town Administrator contract discussions after being warned not to by the State Ethics Commission
The Ethics Commission (“Commission”) approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which Carver Board of Selectmen (“Board”) member Michael O’Donnell (“O’Donnell”) admitted to violating G. L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by participating in discussions and negotiations regarding the Town Administrator (“Administrator”) employment contract while the Administrator was negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the Carver Police Union (the “Union”). O’Donnell is also a police sergeant and a member of the Union. Pursuant to the Agreement, O’Donnell paid a $2,000 civil penalty for the violation.
According to the Agreement, at the February 22, 2011 and March 8, 2011 Board meetings, O’Donnell participated in discussions and negotiations concerning a new employment contract for the Administrator. During this time, the Administrator was involved in Union contract negotiations on behalf of the town. The Commission had previously advised O’Donnell in a June 2006 letter that the conflict of interest law prohibited him from participating as a Board member in the matters relating to the Administrator’s contract while the Administrator was involved in Union contract negotiations. The Commission explained that O’Donnell, as a Union member, had a financial interest in who would conduct the negotiations on the town’s behalf. In March 2011, after O’Donnell was provided with a copy of the June 2006 letter, he assured Commission Enforcement staff that he would not participate further in matters involving the Administrator employment contract. Nonetheless, on March 28, 2011, after receiving an email from the Board chair that Administrator contract negotiations would resume on March 29, 2011, O’Donnell forwarded the email to another Board member. In that email, O’Donnell told the Board member that if he attended the March 29, 2011 meeting, the Board would have a quorum and could vote on the Administrator’s employment contract. O’Donnell also stated in the email that town citizens “would not want me to support something as egregious as this during this recession.”
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 has a financial interest. According to the Agreement, O’Donnell violated section 19 by participating in discussions and negotiations relating to the Town Administrator employment contract at the February 22, 2011 and March 8, 2011 Board meetings, and by sending the March 28, 2011 email to another Board member advocating against the Administrator’s contract and advising him not to attend the upcoming Board meeting, all while O’Donnell was a member of the Union and the Administrator was involved in Union contract negotiations.
“Section 19 prohibits municipal employees from participating in matters in which they have a financial interest”, stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober. “‘Participation’ is defined broadly and includes conduct that occurs outside of a Board meeting.”
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