Ethics Commission Finds that Agawam Police Lieutenant Edward McGovern Violated the Conflict of Interest Law
McGovern gave preferential treatment to an Agawam Police Officer suspected of driving while intoxicated; ordered to pay a $7,500 civil penalty
The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) issued a Decision and Order (“Decision”) concluding the adjudicatory proceeding involving Agawam Police Department (“APD”) Lieutenant Edward McGovern by finding that McGovern violated G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by giving preferential treatment to a fellow Agawam police officer suspected of driving her personal vehicle the wrong way on a state highway in Agawam while intoxicated. Pursuant to the Decision, the Commission ordered McGovern to pay a $7,500 civil penalty. The adjudicatory proceeding was initiated by the Commission’s Enforcement Division filing an Order to Show Cause in July 2014.
According to the Decision, at approximately 9:15 pm on Friday, June 29, 2012, the West Springfield Police Department (“WSPD”) received an anonymous call reporting a wrong-way driver on Route 5 North. McGovern heard the report over his police-issued portable radio. A WSPD Patrolman and two APD Patrolmen were dispatched to the area to locate the vehicle. Minutes later the WSPD officer located a sport utility vehicle (“SUV”) on Route 5 North in Agawam near the Agawam/West Springfield town line. The SUV was stopped facing the wrong direction in the middle of the left travel lane, next to the guardrail separating the divided highway. The responding officers observed APD Officer Danielle Petrangelo sitting on the guardrail next to the passenger side of the SUV. The SUV was still running. The APD officers observed damage on the passenger side of the SUV consistent with striking a guardrail. At the time of the incident, Petrangelo was on administrative leave from the APD pending an internal affairs investigation. The responding APD officers contacted their supervisor, Sergeant Anthony Grasso. Grasso then called McGovern and told him that Petrangelo was involved in the incident, and that the APD officers at the scene needed assistance from a supervisor. McGovern agreed to go to the scene. The APD officers believed Petrangelo was intoxicated. For safety reasons, the officers moved the police vehicles from the highway travel lane to the breakdown lane, and they moved the SUV onto an access road directly off Route 5. McGovern arrived at the scene shortly after the vehicles were moved. As the highest ranking officer present, McGovern became the officer-in-charge when he arrived. When McGovern arrived at the scene, he observed that Petrangelo was incoherent, intoxicated, and drunk. He also observed that the police officers, Petrangelo, the police cruisers and the SUV were the only individuals and vehicles present at the scene. McGovern then spoke to the responding officers and asked them whether there were any charges pending against Petrangelo in West Springfield and whether there were any witnesses to the incident. The officers told McGovern that there were not any pending charges or witnesses. McGovern then asked the responding officers whether they had any evidence that Petrangelo had been operating the SUV. The officers all told McGovern that they did not. McGovern did not ask where the SUV was located when the officers arrived at the scene, or whether Petrangelo made any statements or admissions. The officers did not provide McGovern with additional information about the incident, and McGovern did not inquire further. McGovern then decided not to arrest Petrangelo or issue a citation to her. Instead, he ordered one APD officer to drive the SUV to the APD Station, and another APD officer to drive Petrangelo to her residence.
Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a public 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 not properly available to similarly situated individuals. According to the Decision, McGovern was the officer-in-charge at the scene, and as such, he was responsible for determining what occurred at the scene. Although the subordinate officers were not forthcoming with their observations, McGovern failed to conduct any meaningful investigation, and he chose to ignore all other evidence indicating that Petrangelo had operated the SUV on a public way. By failing to conduct a meaningful investigation, and by failing to arrest Petrangelo or issue a citation to her despite having sufficient evidence that she operated the vehicle, McGovern used his APD position to provide Petrangelo with preferential treatment, which amounted to an unwarranted benefit or privilege.
McGovern has 30 days within which to pay the civil penalty or file an appeal in the Superior Court.