Former Edgartown Dredge Advisory Committee Chairman Norman Rankow Pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violation
Directed town employees to dredge the area around his private clients’ dock without first obtaining required town, state and federal permits
The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which former Edgartown (“Town”) Dredge Advisory Committee (“Committee”) Chairman Norman Rankow admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by, as Committee Chairman, directing that Town employees use Town equipment to dredge the area around his private clients’ dock without first obtaining the required town, state and federal permits. Pursuant to the Agreement, Rankow paid a $5,000 civil penalty.
According to the Agreement, Rankow is president of Colonial Reproductions Inc., a general contractor based in the Town. Rankow, through Colonial Reproductions, had been building a summer home for private clients at a three-acre waterfront site in the Town. The clients separately retained an engineering firm for the dock design, dredging plans, and permitting work. It typically takes about a year to obtain the necessary permits. Dredging work requires permits from the Town Conservation Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Town has its own dredging equipment and crew. A Town bylaw allows for the dredging equipment and crew to be used on privately owned waterfront property in exchange for a donation to the Town’s dredge gift account. The Board of Selectmen must vote on whether to accept such a donation. After all required permits are obtained and a donation has been accepted by the Board of Selectmen, the Committee can approve the use of the Town equipment and crew.
The Agreement states that on January 6, 2012, Rankow’s clients applied to the Town Conservation Commission for a permit to dredge around their dock. On January 11, 2012, Rankow’s clients notified the Committee by letter of their intention to make a $5,000 contribution to the Town’s dredge gift account. As of January 13, 2012, none of the required permits had been issued for the dredging work, nor had the Committee approved the use of the Town’s dredge equipment and personnel to do the work. Nevertheless, on January 13, 2012, pursuant to Committee Chairman Rankow’s instructions, the dredge crew conducted the dredging work for Rankow’s clients. The Town paid the crew approximately $2,000 for the work. The Board of Selectmen voted at its February 3, 2012 meeting to accept the $5,000 donation to the dredge gift account from Rankow’s clients. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection subsequently fined the Town $8,160 for the unauthorized and unpermitted dredging. Rankow reimbursed the Town for this fine and for the Town’s legal fees incurred to date, and he resigned from the Dredge Committee on February 2, 2012.
Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of G.L. c. 268A 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 directing the Town dredge crew to conduct dredging work at his client’s dock area before the required permits were obtained, Rankow violated section 23(b)(2)(ii).
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