Enforcement Division Alleges Conflict of Interest Law Violations by Southampton Fire Chief Stephen Hyde, Sr.
Hyde allegedly used his position to submit false claims for payments to his son; took home a fire department generator without authorization
The Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division today issued an Order to Show Cause (“OTSC”) alleging that Southampton Fire Department (“SFD”) Chief Stephen Hyde, Sr. (“Hyde”) violated G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by falsifying duty records to credit his son, an SFD call firefighter, for work his son did not perform, and submitting those false records to the Town of Southampton for payment. The OTSC also alleges that Hyde violated the conflict of interest law by using the SFD’s generator to power his home.
According to the OTSC, call firefighters in Southampton (the “Town”) are paid by the hour when they respond to an emergency or provide daytime station coverage. Their work activities are recorded on call sheets. As the SFD chief, Hyde’s duties included calculating and signing the SFD’s payroll based on the call sheets, and he regularly submitted bi-weekly SFD payrolls to the Town. Hyde’s son was appointed a call firefighter by the Town in 2007.
The OTSC alleges that 17 of the payrolls Hyde submitted to the Town from January to November 2011 included requests for payment of $50 or more for work his son did not perform. On nine occasions between April and August of 2011, Hyde allegedly checked his son’s name on call sheets for fire and ambulance calls to which his son had not responded, resulting in his son being paid approximately $225. Between January and November 2011, Hyde checked his son’s name on call sheets indicating that his son worked 346 hours of station duty, which his son did not work, resulting in his son being paid approximately $6,356.
The OTSC also alleges that in late 2009 or early 2010 Hyde took home the SFD’s new generator, which was worth at least $2,000, and used it to power his home and SFD equipment he had at his home. Hyde did not have authorization to use the generator at his home for any purpose, nor did he pay for the generator. Hyde did not return the generator to the Town until July 2012, when his fire chief contract expired.
Section 23(b)(4) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly, or with reason to know, presenting a false or fraudulent claim to his employer for any payment or benefit of substantial value. 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 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. The OTSC alleges that, by acting in his capacity as fire chief and submitting 17 false payrolls to the Town, each of which was a claim for a payment of $50 or more for work Hyde knew his son had not performed, Hyde violated section 23(b)(4). The OTSC further alleges that, by using his official position as fire chief to repeatedly credit his son for work his son did not perform, and by using his official position as fire chief to take the SFD’s $2,000 generator home for his private use, Hyde violated section 23(b)(2)(ii).
The Commission will schedule the matter for a public hearing within 90 days.