Methuen City Councilor Joyce Campagnone Cited for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which Joyce Campagnone, a Methuen City Councilor who is also a full-time paid employee of the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (“GLSD”), admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by having a prohibited financial interest in a municipal contract. Pursuant to the Agreement, Campagnone paid a $1,000 civil penalty for the violation and made restitution to the City of Methuen in the amount of $4,000.
The Agreement states that Campagnone is a full-time paid employee at the GLSD, a regional municipal sanitary district that includes several cities and towns, including the City of Methuen. For purposes of the conflict of interest law, the GLSD is a municipal agency of the City of Methuen and of each of its other member municipalities. Therefore, by virtue of her employment with the GLSD, Campagnone is a municipal employee of Methuen (as well as of each of the other member municipalities). Campagnone was elected to the Methuen City Council in 2010. As a City Councilor, Campagnone is a municipal employee of Methuen. Councilors are paid a $400 monthly stipend.
Section 20 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from having a financial interest in a contract made by a municipal agency of the same city or town, unless the municipal employee qualifies for an exemption. Campagnone was a municipal employee, both as a GLSD employee and as a City Councilor. An exemption to section 20 allows a municipal employee to also serve as a member of the City Council, provided that she does not receive compensation for more than one office or position. Under this exemption, the municipal employee is allowed to choose which compensation she will receive.
On January 22, 2014, the Commission’s Enforcement Division notified Campagnone that she was prohibited by section 20 from receiving compensation as a full-time GLSD employee and from also receiving the monthly stipend from the City Council. Specifically, Campagnone was informed that, under the so-called “City Councilor’s exemption,” she could continue to hold both positions as long as she accepted compensation from only one position and complied with the exemption’s other restrictions. Although Campagnone was instructed in January 2014 to comply with the conflict of interest law within 30 days, she continued for the next ten months to receive her GLSD compensation as well as the monthly City Council stipends in the total amount of $4,000.
“The conflict of interest law generally places restrictions on municipal employees who hold multiple paid positions with the same city or town to prevent those employees from double-dipping as well as from having an ‘inside track’ to other public positions,” stated Executive Director Karen L. Nober. “While this part of the law can be confusing, once an employee is put on notice as to her non-compliance, she must promptly take corrective action.”