Ethics Commission Imposes $25,000 Civil Penalty on UMass-Boston Physics Professor Gang Sun for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
Hired his wife on numerous occasions to work as his research assistant and teaching assistant
The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which University of Massachusetts at Boston (“UMass-Boston”) Physics Professor Gang Sun (“Sun”) admitted to violating G. L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by hiring his wife on numerous occasions to work as his paid research assistant and paid teaching assistant at UMass-Boston. Pursuant to the Agreement, Sun paid a $25,000 civil penalty.
According to the Agreement, from 2003 to 2011, Sun repeatedly hired his wife, Fen-Yen Chang (“Chang”), to work for him under various UMass-Boston contracts as Sun’s research assistant and as his teaching assistant. Chang was paid a total of $455,000 for her work under those contracts. In 11 instances, Sun hired Chang as his research assistant to perform work that was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base. In 3 instances, Sun hired Chang as his teaching assistant to perform work that was directly funded by UMass-Boston. Sun served as the sole supervisor of his wife’s work. When Sun was hired by UMass-Boston in 1993, he signed a contract in which he agreed to comply with UMass-Boston’s Academic Personnel Policy, which prohibits faculty members from participating in the appointment or reappointment of any family member, including a spouse, unless a waiver is obtained from the President of UMass-Boston. Sun never obtained such a waiver.
Section 6 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a state employee from participating as such in a particular matter in which to his knowledge an immediate family member has a financial interest. The section further provides that a state employee whose duties would otherwise require him to participate in such a particular matter shall file a written disclosure with his appointing authority and with the State Ethics Commission describing the nature and circumstances of the particular matter and disclosing the financial interest. If, after filing the disclosure, the employee obtains authorization from his appointing authority to participate in the matter, then he may do so. Absent such authorization, he must abstain.
Sun never filed a disclosure with his appointing authority, the Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, prior to hiring his spouse. The Agreement states that, over the course of 8 years, Sun violated section 6 of the conflict law each time that he appointed his spouse to serve as his compensated research assistant or teaching assistant.
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