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Decision

Decision In the Matter of Bill Owens

Date: 02/28/1984
Organization: State Ethics Commission
Docket Number: 235
  • Appearance for Petitioner: Sally C. Reid, Esq.
  • Respondent: Bill Owens
  • Commissioners: Diver, Ch.; McLaughlin, Brickman, Burns, Mulligan

I. Procedural History

Page 176

The Petitioner filed an Order to Show Cause on October 3, 1983 alleging that the Respondent, Bill Owens, had violated M.G.L. c. 268B, s.5[1] by failing to file his Statement of Financial Interests for 1982 (SFI) within ten days of receiving from the Commission a Formal Notice of Delinquency.   

Pursuant to notice, an adjudicatory hearing was conducted on January 10, 1984 before Commissioner David Brickman, a duly designated presiding officer. See, M.G.L. c. 268B, s.4(c). Oral argument was heard before the full Commission at its meeting on January 30, 1984. In rendering this Decision and Order, each participating member of the Commission has considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties.

II. Findings of Fact

1. The Respondent served as a state senator until the end of 1982, and was therefore a public official within the meaning of G.L. c. 268B, s.1(q).

2. As a public official through 1982, the Respondent was required to file an SFI for 1982 on or before May 31, 1983.   

3. The Respondent failed to file his 1982 SFI by May 31, 1983.   

4. On June 15,1983, the Respondent received a Formal Notice of  Delinquency (Notice) from the Commission requiring him to file his  SFI within ten days receipt of the Notice.   

5. The Respondent failed to file his 1982 SFI within ten day's of receipt of the Notice.   

6. The Commission authorized a preliminary inquiry on July 19, 1983 and the initiation of adjudicatory proceedings against the Respondent thereafter.   

7. The Respondent filed his 1982 SFI on August 17, 1983, thirty- seven working days after the expiration of the ten-day period contained in the Notice.

III. Decision

The elements necessary to establish a G.L. c. 268B, s .5 violation are:

(1) the subject was a public official or employee (as defined by the statute) during the year in question;

(2) the subject was notified in writing of his delinquency and the possible penalties for failure to file an SFI; and

(3) the subject did not file an SFI within ten days of receiving notice of delinquency.

The Respondent conceded at both the adjudicatory hearing and at oral argument before the full Commission that he had failed to file his 1982 SFI within ten days of receiving the Commission's Notice, and has offered no legal defenses. The Commission therefore concludes that the Respondent violated G.L. c. 268B, s.5.

IV. Sanction

Under G.L. c. 268B, s.4(d), the Commission may order an  individual who violates G. L. c. 268B to pay a civil penalty of not  more than $2,000 for each violation. In cases involving SFIs which are filed late, the Commission imposes a fine based on the number of days which elapse after the expiration of the ten-day period following the Commission's Notice. The schedule the Commission adopted on April 12,1983 calls for a daily fine of $10 per day for  the first ten working days and $20 per working day thereafter, or  a total of $640 in the instant case. However, the Commission recently adopted a $500 limitation on the civil penalty to be imposed on late filers. See, In the Matter of Vernon R. Thornton,   

Page 177   

1984 Ethics Commission _____. While the Commission does retain the  discretion to adjust a civil penalty in recognition of mitigating  circumstances, none of the factors warranting mitigation below the  $500 ceiling are present in this case.[2] Compare, In the Matter  of Delabarre F. Sullivan, 1983 Ethics Commission 128.

V. Order

On the basis of the foregoing, the Commission concludes that Bill Owens violated M.G.L. c. 268B, s.5. Pursuant to the authority granted it by M.G.L. c. 268B, s.4(d), the Commission orders Mr.  Owens to pay a civil penalty of five hundred dollars ($500.00).

[1] M.G.L. c. 268B. s.5 states in relevant part: 

(b) Every public official shall file a statement of financial
interests for the preceding calendar year with the Commission on or before the last Tuesday in May of each year that such public official holds such office and on or before May first of the year after such public official leaves office. 

(g) Failure of a reporting person to file a statement of financial interests within ten days after receiving notice as provided in clause (f) of section 3 of this chapter, or the filing of an incomplete statement of financial interests after receipt of such a notice, is a violation of this chapter and the commission may initiate appropriate proceedings pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of this chapter. 

[2] The Respondent raised a number of factors in an attempt to eliminate or reduce any civil penalty which might be imposed, including (1) he was traumatized over losing the election in November, 1982; (2) he had no willful intent not to file his SFl; (3) he was out of town frequently during the first half of 1983, and (4) there was some confusion as to which form had not been filed, and which of his two accountants handled such matters. The Commission concludes that none of these factors is sufficient to warrant mitigation.

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