For Immediate Release - June 22, 2011

Ethics Commission Issues Public Education Letter to Brockton Police Chief William Conlon

Allowed Police Union Officials to Use Paid City Time to Attend a Political Fundraiser

The State Ethics Commission issued a Public Education Letter ("PEL") to Brockton Police Chief William Conlon regarding Conlon's decision to allow two police union officials to attend a political fundraiser for Brockton Mayor James Harrington on paid city time. As explained in the PEL issued to Conlon, "collective bargaining agreements cannot explicitly or implicitly authorize conduct that violates the conflict of interest law."

According to the PEL, in June 2008, Conlon authorized two police officers, who were elected police union officials, to collect special detail pay to attend a political fundraiser for Mayor Harrington to conduct union business. Special detail pay allows elected police union officers to earn their regular pay while engaged in activities unrelated to their normal police duties. The collective bargaining agreement with the police union allows elected union officials, "time off for Union business if that need arises during the regularly scheduled work hours, subject, nevertheless to the sole discretion of the Chief of Police or the Chief's designee." Although the collective bargaining agreement does not define "Union business", Conlon defended his decision by stating that it was a past practice to interpret "Union business" as including attendance at political fundraisers. Conlon also stated that it was a past practice to allow union officials to engage in union activities without forgoing pay.

Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law 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 an unwarranted privilege or exemption which is of substantial value and which is not available to similarly situated individuals. The PEL states that, "[n]otwithstanding the collective bargaining agreement or any interpretation thereof, paying municipal employees to attend a political fundraiser is a use of public resources for a political and/or private purpose and, as such, is violation of G.L. c. 268A, section 23(b)(2)."

The Commission issues a PEL if it determines that the public interest would be best served by explaining how the conflict of interest law applies in a particular set of circumstances. By agreeing to the Commission's issuance of the PEL, Conlon does not admit to violating the conflict of interest law. The PEL is the final resolution of this matter, and the Commission will not take any formal action against Conlon.

Public Education Letter