Ethics Commission Issues Public Education Letter to East Bridgewater Special Police Officer Brian Connors
Had prohibited financial interests in contracts with the police department through his company, Flagship Security Systems, Inc.; also participated in preparing bid specifications for a contract he knew his company would bid on
The State Ethics Commission issued a public education letter (“PEL”) to East Bridgewater Police Department Special Police Officer Brian Connors (“Connors”) for entering into contracts with the East Bridgewater Police Department through his company, Flagship Security Systems, Inc. (“Flagship”), in violation of G. L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law. In 2003, the then police chief appointed Connors as a special police officer, an unpaid position. Although Connors was a special police officer, he had no shifts or assigned duties and did not wear a badge or a uniform. Nevertheless, as a result of his appointment to the position of special police officer, Connors became a “municipal employee” for purposes of the conflict of interest law.
According to the PEL, in 2007, Connors assisted the police department in applying for a federal Secure Our Schools grant to install security systems in schools and the police department. He also provided information that was later included in the bid specifications used to award the contract to install the security equipment. Thus, Connors was also a “municipal employee” for the purposes of the conflict of interest law because he provided assistance to the police department regarding the grant and the bid specifications.
From 2008-2011, Flagship invoices indicated that Flagship earned approximately $400,000 for security-related equipment and services it provided to the police department in connection with the grant. In 2009, Flagship billed the police department approximately $15,000 for renovations to the police department dispatch area.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which to his knowledge he, or a business organization in which he is serving as officer, director, trustee, partner or employee, has a financial interest. The PEL states that Connors violated § 19 by, as a municipal employee, providing information that was included in the bid specifications for the Secure Our Schools grant, while knowing that he intended to bid on that contract. If, prior to participating in the matter, Connors had filed a written disclosure with the police chief about his financial interest in the matter, and if he had received an advance written determination from the police chief that his financial interest was not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of his services which the municipality may expect from him, he could have participated in the matter without violating § 19. Connors did not seek or obtain such a determination.
Section 20 prohibits a municipal employee from having a financial interest in a contract made by a municipal agency of the same city or town, in which the city or town is an interested party of which financial interest he has knowledge or has reason to know. The PEL states that Connors violated section 20 by having a financial interest in the Flagship Security contracts with the police department as a shareholder and president of Flagship. Although there are several exemptions to section 20, Connors was not eligible for any of them.
As stated in the PEL, “Public officials and employees should understand that individuals who perform services for a municipal agency or who serve in appointed, unpaid municipal positions, including those with limited or ill-defined duties, are not exempt from the conflict of interest law.”
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, Connors 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 Connors.