Ethics Commission Orders Lynn Board of Health Inspector Louis Picano to Pay a $35,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
Violations continued even after Ethics Commission warning
The adjudicatory hearing process was initiated by the Commission's Enforcement Division by the filing of an Order to Show Cause on August 24, 2010. According to the Decision, in September 1998, the Enforcement Division sent a private letter to Picano warning him that the conflict of interest law prohibited a BOH Inspector from also performing the duties of an appointed constable, unless the constable work was part of his BOH Inspector duties and he did not receive additional compensation for performing the constable duties. In that letter, Picano was also warned that he also would violate the conflict of interest law if he were to perform health inspections for property owners for whom he performed constable services.
The Decision states that Picano continued to perform constable duties even after receiving the 1998 warning letter. While constable duties were part of a BOH Inspector's duties at one time, this was no longer the case as of 2004. From 2006 through 2009, Picano performed constable services on at least 50 occasions for private property owners and property managers, for which he was paid. On at least 32 occasions during this same period, Picano performed inspections as a BOH Inspector on properties owned or managed by private parties for whom he had performed constable services.
Section 20 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly having a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in a contract made by a municipal agency of the same city. Section 23(b)(3) prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, acting in a manner that would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person could 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. The Decision states that Picano, "violated [section] 20 on at least fifty (50) occasions by receiving payments for constable services to private parties pursuant to his constable appointment contract made by the City while he was also serving as a BOH Inspector," and that he "violated [section] 23(b)(3) on at least thirty-two (32) occasions by performing BOH inspections of properties owned by private parties for whom he had performed constable services." Picano did not file a written disclosure with his appointing authority to dispel the appearance of a conflict of interest created by his conduct.
On December 20, 2010, the Commission concluded a related adjudicatory matter in which Lynn BOH Inspector Daniel Dean admitted to repeatedly violating sections 20 and 23(b)(3) of the conflict of interest law by serving as both a BOH Inspector and an appointed city constable, and for failing to disclose instances where he conducted inspections on properties owned by parties for whom he had performed private constable services. Dean paid a $5,000 civil penalty for the violations.
"Warning letters sent by the Commission's Enforcement Division are intended to assist public employees in complying with the conflict of interest law. Mr. Picano made a poor decision when he chose to ignore the guidance provided to him," stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober.
Decision and Order