Palmer Redevelopment Authority Chairman Blake Lamothe Pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violation
Despite repeated warnings, participated as PRA chairman in matters affecting Union Station
The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement in which Palmer Redevelopment Authority (“PRA”) Chairman Blake Lamothe admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by participating as a PRA member in efforts to secure millions of dollars in state funding to revitalize Union Station, a train depot he owns. Pursuant to the Agreement, Lamothe paid a $5,000 civil penalty.
According to the Agreement, Lamothe has owned Union Station since 1987. Union Station, the only train station in Palmer, has not had passenger rail service in more than 40 years. In 1999 and again in 2002, the Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division sent confidential letters to Lamothe advising him that his ownership of Union Station and his efforts as a PRA member to rehabilitate the station and restore passenger rail service raised concerns under the conflict law because Lamothe had a financial interest in those matters. Lamothe in 2002 filed a written disclosure with the PRA and the town clerk acknowledging that he was “directly interested in the rehabilitation and development of Union Station and in restoring passenger rail service,” and that he would recuse himself from any PRA matter affecting the property. In 2004, Lamothe and his wife opened the Steaming Tender Restaurant inside Union Station.
In August 2012, Lamothe voted as PRA chairman to hire Larry Shaffer Associates Municipal Solutions, LLC to apply for a MassWorks infrastructure grant through the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to support the restoration of passenger rail service at Union Station. In September 2012, Lamothe voted on and signed a resolution authorizing Shaffer Associates to submit a grant application on behalf of the PRA, seeking approximately $3.5 million for improvements to Union Station and the immediate surrounding area, including parking, train platforms and restrooms. The application for funding was denied.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such in a particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he has a financial interest. Lamothe had a financial interest in the MassWorks grant application, because it would provide funding for improvements to his property and its surrounding area, which would increase the value of Union Station. By inviting Shaffer Associates to submit a proposal to complete the MassWorks application, voting to hire, and signing a contract with, Shaffer Associates, and authorizing the company to submit the grant application, Lamothe violated section 19.