|Organization:||State Ethics Commission|
Decision In the Matter of Gary P. Mater
This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Gary P. Mater pursuant to Section 5 of the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented to final Commission Order enforceable in the Superior Court pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, §4(j).
On November 21, 1988, the Commission initiated a Preliminary Inquiry, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, §4(a), into possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Law, G.L. c. 268A, involving Gary P. Mater, former Board of Health member for the Town of Hubbardston. The Commission has concluded that Preliminary Inquiry and, on December 21, 1989, found reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Mater violated G.L. c. 268A, §§19 and 20.
The parties now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Gary P. Mater was an elected member of the Hubbardston Board of Health from 1985 to 1988. As such, he was a municipal employee under the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, §1(g).
2. As a member of the Board of Health, Mr. Mater had official responsibility to perform septic system, housing, occupancy, well siting and food establishment inspections. Board of Health members received a $350 annual stipend for their services. Mr. Mater was not authorized to receive payment for performing inspections apart from the annual stipend paid to the Board of Health members.1
3. In 1987, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Health created a Board of Health Agent position. This position was created to relieve the Board of Health members from their duties to perform certain inspections and to secure an employee with specialized knowledge of engineering and sanitation. Neither Mr. Mater nor any of the other Board of Health members were trained in engineering or sanitation.
4. In August, 1987, Steven Aldrich, a registered sanitarian, was hired as the Hubbardston Board of Health Agent under a contract with the town. The contract provided that Steven Aldrich was to witness percolation tests, review sewage disposal system designs, perform final installation inspections of septic systems, and perform water well site inspections and flea market inspections. He was to be compensated for these services on a fee for service basis at a rate to be set by the Board of Health. Mr. Aldrich was also to perform housing inspections, nuisance complaint inspections, and attend Board of Health meetings twice a month. He was to be compensated for these services through an annual $6000 retainer fee. Mr. Aldrich’s contract expired on June 30, 1988.
5. After Steven Aldrich assumed the Board of Health Agent position, Mr. Mater continued to perform final septic system inspections, housing inspections, occupancy inspections, and well siting inspections in his official capacity as a member of the Board of Health. Unlike the Board of Health agent, Mr. Mater was not authorized to receive fees for these services.
6. Between October, 1987, and April, 1988, Mr. Mater engaged in a course of conduct whereby he obtained fees for the inspections he performed through Mr. Aldrich. Specifically, Mr. Mater appeared at Board of Health meetings and gave Mr. Aldrich an index card which identified the various inspections Mr. Mater had performed.2 Aldrich submitted bill for these inspections to the Board of Health. These bills were on Aldrich Engineering Company letterhead. Mr. Mater filled out and submitted vouchers (town forms for payment which accompanied the foregoing bills) to the Board of Health in the name of Steve Aldrich. Thus, the vouchers billed for various inspections purportedly done by Mr. Aldrich, including housing inspections, occupancy inspections, well siting inspections and final septic system inspections.3 Mr. Mater signed these vouchers with the other members of the Board of Health, thus authorizing the town accountant to approve payments to Mr. Aldrich. Mr. Aldrich, in turn, upon receiving payment from the town, paid the fees for these inspections to Mr. Mater. Mr. Mater approved approximately seven vouchers between October, 1987 and April, 1988, and received a minimum of $1,985 from Mr. Aldrich as a result of this practice.4
7. General Laws Chapter 268A, §20 prohibits a municipal employee from having a direct or indirect financial interest in contracts made by the municipality. By procuring inspection fees from Mr. Aldrich through the submission of vouchers which falsely identified Mr. Aldrich as the person who performed the inspections, Mr. Mater acquired a financial interest in Mr. Aldrich’s contract, thereby violating §20.
8. Except as otherwise permitted in that section, G.L. c. 268A, §19 prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such in any particular matter in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest.5
9. Each Board of Health decision to approve a voucher was a particular matter. Mr. Mater had a financial interest in the vouchers which identified Mr. Aldrich as the person performing inspections by virtue of his arrangement with Mr. Aldrich whereby Mr. Aldrich would receive monies from the town and pay them to Mr. Mater. Thus, Mr. Mater knew that by approving the vouchers which were submitted in Mr. Aldrich’s name, he was participating in particular matters in which he, Mr. Mater, had a financial interest; thereby violating §19.
10. The Commission is not aware of any evidence to suggest that Mr. Mater did not in fact render the services for which he submitted vouchers in Mr. Aldrich’s name.
11. Mr. Mater knew that the conflict of interest law prohibited this conduct, but engaged in it anyway. Mr. Mater, in effect, used the Board of Health Agent’s position as a “straw” to conceal his §§19 and 20 violations.
12. Based on the foregoing facts, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further Enforcement proceedings on the bases of the following terms agreed to by Mr. Mater:
1. that he pay to the Commission the amount of $5,000.00 as civil penalty for his violations of G.L. c. 268A §§19 and 20; and
2. that he waive all rights to contest the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions proposed under this Agreement in this or any related administrative or judicial proceeding in which the Commission is a party.