Enforcement Division Alleges Conflict of Interest Law Violations by Groveland Selectwoman Elizabeth Gorski
Allegedly used her position to try to get her police officer son restored to active duty
The State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause (“Order”) alleging that Groveland Board of Selectmen (“BOS”) member Elizabeth Gorski (“Gorski”) repeatedly violated G.L. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by using her BOS position to attempt to get her police officer son restored to active duty after the Groveland Police Chief placed him on paid administrative leave.
According to the Order, Groveland Police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz (the “Chief”) placed Gorski’s son on paid administrative leave on November 7, 2011. Gorski’s son was therefore ineligible to earn overtime pay or to work paid, private details. The Chief notified the BOS of his actions. Thereafter, on several occasions, Gorski both called and visited Groveland Deputy Chief Jeffrey Gillen (“Deputy Chief”) to discuss her son’s situation, indicating she wanted the Deputy Chief to have her son restored to active duty. On at least two of these occasions, Gorski also made reference to the Chief’s and the Deputy Chief’s employment contracts coming up for renewal by the BOS. In or about February 2012, Gorski’s son was taken off paid administrative leave and placed on sick leave, requiring him to use accrued sick time to continue being paid.
The Order also alleges that on several occasions Gorski spoke to other BOS members and expressed her displeasure regarding her son being placed on leave. She also allegedly approached the head of the police union, a police detective, while he was working a traffic detail and asked whether he and the union were doing everything they could regarding her son’s situation. The Order states that on March 14, 2012, during an executive session meeting of the BOS, in which the BOS met with the Chief to discuss his employment contract, Gorski again brought up the administrative action against her son and asked the Chief why he was ruining her son’s name, reputation and livelihood.
Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use her official position to secure for herself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. Section 17(c) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee, otherwise than in the proper discharge of official duties, from acting as agent for anyone other than the municipality in connection with a particular matter in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. Section 19 of the conflict of interest law, in relevant part, prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which, to her knowledge, her immediate family has a financial interest. Section 23(b)(3) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy her favor in the performance of her official duties, or that she is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person.
The Order alleges that Gorski: violated section 17(c) by acting on her son’s behalf in advocating to town employees to restore her son to active duty; violated section 19 by participating as a BOS member in decisions involving her son’s employment; violated section 23(b)(2)(ii) by using her position as a BOS member to attempt to obtain for her son the unwarranted privilege of being restored to active duty; and violated 23(b)(3) by acting in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that her son could improperly influence or unduly enjoy Gorski’s favor in the performance of her official duties, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The Commission will schedule the matter for a public hearing within 90 days.