April 19, 2018 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
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Overview of April 19, 2018 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:07 a.m. Also in attendance were Vice Chairman David Mills, Commissioner Thomas J. Sartory, and Commissioner R. Marc Kantrowitz.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES
On the motion of Commissioner Sartory, seconded by Commissioner Kantrowitz, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the public and executive session minutes of the March 29, 2018 Commission meeting, and the minutes for the January 30, 2018 Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee meeting.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
[Commissioner Maria J. Krokidas joined the meeting at 9:08 a.m.]
Executive Director David A. Wilson presented his monthly report.
Mr. Wilson reported that the first round of interviews for the position of General Counsel/Legal Division Chief would begin April 20 and continue through April 30. The second round of interviews will likely occur during the first three weeks of May. Mr. Wilson said he would not likely have a finalist selected for the Commission’s approval in time for the May 17 Commission meeting. After discussion, the Commissioners decided to tentatively schedule a special meeting for May 31 for the purpose of approving the selection of a candidate. Mr. Wilson asked the Commissioners about the level of involvement they want in the selection process. Mr. Wilson stated that up to two Commissioners could participate in the process without raising Open Meeting Law issues. Chairman Dortch-Okara, Commissioner Sartory, and Commissioner Krokidas said they wished to receive a list of applicants who were being interviewed, and Mr. Wilson agreed to provide the list. Acting General Counsel Pauline Nguyen said that to comply with Open Meeting Law Requirements, the Commissioners could not, as a group, discuss the applicants except at a Commission meeting.
Mr. Wilson reported that the House Committee on Ways and Means released its FY2019 budget recommendation on April 14. The Committee’s budget recommendation includes the full amount of the Commission’s request, $2,239,280. Government Affairs Officer Robert Milt told the Commissioners that the House Ways and Means proposal included approximately $33,000 more in funding for the Commission than the Governor’s proposal. He said the House would likely debate the budget the week of April 23, and that the Senate would likely hold its budget debate in late May. He said a final budget will likely be passed by early July.
Further Office Improvements
Mr. Wilson described work that is being done to create two new work stations in the Commission’s office. IT Specialist Tony Webb discussed rewiring work that was done to create more usable space. The major portions of the work were done on a Saturday to minimize disruption to the staff.
COMPENSATION FOR MANAGERS AND OTHER STAFF NOT PAID ACCORDING TO NAGE UNIT 6 CBA
Mr. Wilson reminded the Commissioners that approximately half of the Commission’s staff is compensated according to the National Association of Government Employees or NAGE Unit 6 collective bargaining agreement, and the rest are paid as determined by the Executive Director and approved by the Commission. He informed the Commissioners that NAGE announced on April 11 a tentative agreement with the Commonwealth for a new three-year contract, which is subject to ratification by NAGE membership and funding approval by the Legislature. The new agreement calls for a 1% increase in pay retroactive to July 2017; an additional 1% increase retroactive to July 2017 if state tax revenues reach $27.072 billion by August 2018; a 2% across-the-board increase effective July 1, 2018; and a 2% across-the-board increase effective July 1, 2019.
To create equity in compensation levels among the staff, Mr. Wilson recommended the approval of pay raises for staff members, excluding the Executive Director, who are not paid according to the NAGE Unit 6 collective bargaining agreement. On the motion of Commissioner Krokidas and seconded by Chairman Dortch-Okara, the Commission voted 5-0 to approve an increase of up to 2.01 percent to be determined by the Executive Director, retroactive to July 1, 2017, in base salaries of currently serving Commission employees, excluding the Executive Director, who are not compensated according to the NAGE Bargaining Unit 6 collective bargaining agreement and who were employed by the Commission as of July 1, 2017.
PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT
Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his monthly Division Report.
Mr. Giannotti congratulated Commissioner Mills on his election as Vice Chairman at the March 29 meeting.
Mr. Giannotti told the Commissioners that he completed a series of seminars at the State Lottery, providing conflict of interest law training to nearly 400 Lottery employees over five seminars in Braintree and one in Worcester. He said he has conducted approximately 60 seminars in the current fiscal year and will be in contact with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the PRIM Board, and the Division of Insurance in the coming weeks regarding conflict of interest law seminars and trainings. He and the Commissioners discussed the challenges of increasing participation in the seminars among those who would most benefit from the training.
Mr. Giannotti also reported that he was awaiting a response from Mass.gov administrators regarding whether web analytics tools are accurately counting visits to the Commission’s new website since content was moved there from the old website.
LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS
Acting Legal Division Chief Lauren E. Duca reported on the activities of the Legal Division.
Legal Division Metrics for January and February 2018
Ms. Duca presented the following Legal Division metrics for March 2018.
- Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 79 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.
For comparison: March 2017 (same month last year): 49
February 2018 (previous month): 72
- Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 486 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.
For comparison: March 2017 (same month last year): 528
February 2018 (previous month): 471
- Review of municipal letters. Division staff reviewed 2 letters issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.
For comparison: March 2017 (same month last year): 7
February 2018 (previous month): 2
- Backlog. As of March 15, the Division has 0 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old. There are 23 pending requests for written advice.
Statements of Financial Interests (SFI)
Ms. Duca reported that the SFI Team worked with its vendor to resolve the issue of the failure of the SFI system to send the statutory Formal Notices of Lateness giving the filer a 10-day grace period to file. The problem has been resolved. The SFI Team is working to resolve
a new issue related to the failure of the SFI system to calculate the 10-day grace period and include it in the notices. The SFI Team distributed reminders about the upcoming May 2018 filing deadlines. The SFI Team has responded to an increasing number of inquiries from filers seeking technical and legal assistance.
Ms. Duca reviewed the Legal Division calendar and reported that a pre-hearing conference on the matter of In re MacGilvray, Docket No. 18-0001, has been scheduled for May 23 at 11:30 a.m.
Ms. Duca told the Commissioners that Orders to Show Cause had been issued In re Gloria Fox and In re James Jones. Commissioner Krokidas questioned how vigorously the Commission is obligated by statute to publicly pursue late-filings of Statements of Financial Interest involving former public employees. Ms. Duca explained several policies the Commission has adopted over the years to try to encourage required filers to file their statements on time. Mr. Wilson stated that people will not obey the law if the law is not enforced. Commissioner Kantrowitz was selected as the Presiding Officer In re Fox and In re Jones, and Staff Counsel Amy Bressler Nee will serve as Legal Advisor.
McGovern v. State Ethics Commission: Hampden Superior Court Civil Action No. 1679CV00082. Ms. Duca reported that Edward McGovern seeks judicial review pursuant to G.L. c. 30A of the Commission’s finding of violation against him. Argument of McGovern’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the Commission’s cross-motion, was held on April 3, 2018. Mr. Wilson, who attended the hearing, reported that Staff Counsel Norah K. Mallan did a great job arguing the case on behalf of the Commission.
Hansen v. State Ethics Commission: Norfolk Superior Court Civil Action No. 1782CV01384. Ms. Duca reported that Howard Hansen seeks judicial review pursuant to G.L. c. 30A of the Commission’s finding of violations against him. The appeal was served on the Commission on November 20, 2017. The Commission filed the record on February 15, 2018. Hansen had 30 days from the service of the record to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and as of April 19, 2018, he had not done so.
ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS
Enforcement Attorney Metrics
Ms. Brookman presented revised quarterly Enforcement Attorney Metrics for Fiscal Year 2018.
Investigations Unit Metrics Report
Investigation Director Paul Murray presented the quarterly Enforcement Intake Metrics for Fiscal Year 2018. He reported a reduction in backlogs across all categories.
At 10:26 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Commissioner Kantrowitz, the Commission voted 5-0 to enter into executive session to discuss matters subject to the provisions of G.L. c. 30A, § 21, subparagraph (a)(7), and § 18, and G.L. c. 268B, §§ 3 and 4, including investigatory matters, cases deferred, a preliminary inquiry report, a preliminary inquiry recommendation, a supplemental summons authorization request, and advisory opinions.
Chairman Dortch-Okara stated that the Commission would not reconvene in public session following the executive session.
VOTE: Chairman Dortch-Okara yes
Commissioner Mills yes
Commissioner Sartory yes
Commissioner Krokidas yes
Commissioner Kantrowitz yes
LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING
1. Agenda for the Commission Meeting of April 19, 2018.
2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the January 18, 2018 Public and Executive Sessions.
3. Minutes for the January 30, 2018 Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee meeting.
4. Memorandum dated April 10, 2018 from Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division report for the meeting.
5. Memorandum dated April 12, 2018 from Acting Legal Division Chief Lauren E. Duca to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the April 19, 2018 meeting.
6. Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.
7. Report of Enforcement Division Attorney Metrics.
8. Report of Enforcement Division Intake Metrics.
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