April 20, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Contact for April 20, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
State Ethics Commission
Overview of April 20, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. Also in attendance were Vice-Chairman Regina L. Quinlan, Commissioner David A. Mills, Commissioner Thomas J. Sartory, and Commissioner Maria J. Krokidas.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES
On the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Krokidas, the Commission voted 5-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the March 16, 2017 public and executive sessions.
On the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Krokidas, the Commission voted 5-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the April 5, 2017 public session, with the correction of a typographical error on page 3.
On the motion of Commissioner Mills, seconded by Chairman Dortch-Okara, the Commission voted 5-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the March 7, 2017 and March 16, 2017 Audit Finance and Human Resources Committee Meetings.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Executive Director David A. Wilson reported that part-time Receptionist Susan Moorhead started on April 3, 2017. Mr. Wilson welcomed Ms. Moorhead to the Commission.
Mr. Wilson reported that Tim Gravel has accepted the Investigator position and Mr. Gravel will commence his employment with the Commission on May 1, 2017.
Public Information Officer Position
Mr. Wilson reported that he and Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti are currently reviewing resumes for the Public Information Officer position.
Legal Division Attorney Position
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission received 122 applications for the Legal Division Assistant General Counsel position and the Legal Division is currently in the process of interviewing candidates. Mr. Wilson anticipates that this position will be filled by the end of June.
Ethics Task Force
Mr. Wilson reported that the next Task Force meeting has been scheduled for April 25 at 11:00 a.m. Mr. Wilson and General Counsel Deirdre Roney will attend this meeting. Mr. Wilson noted that the Commissioners were not formally invited to attend the Task Force meeting, but they would be welcome to attend. The Commissioners decided not to attend the April 25th Task Force Meeting.
Mr. Wilson reported that the office renovations are expected to begin in May and are scheduled to be completed by June 16, 2017. The total cost of the renovation work will be $125,000.
Mr. Wilson reported that a consultant, BerryDunn, has been selected to provide consulting services to the Commission to develop the contract and application specifications to replace the Commission’s case management system, ETHOS. Pursuant to the RFQ, the consulting work provided by BerryDunn will be completed by June 30, 2017. Mr. Wilson reported that he is in the process of finalizing the consulting contract with BerryDunn. Mr. Wilson commended Chief Financial Officer/Director of Budget and Administration Alice Wu, Financial Disclosure Administrator and Analyst/SFI Robert Milt, Senior Assistant General Counsel Pauline Nguyen, Information Technology Specialist Tony Webb, Enforcement Division Chief Monica Brookman, Mr. Giannotti, and Ms. Roney for their work in putting together the RFQ.
Online Training Programs Accessibility Project
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission’s online ethics training programs are not fully accessible for visually impaired individuals because the programs are not compatible with certain reading devices. Mr. Wilson noted that he is looking into the cost of making the training programs fully accessible. If it is technically and financially feasible in FY 2017, then a consultant will be retained to upgrade the training programs to make them fully accessible. Chairman Dortch-Okara asked how much it will cost to upgrade the training programs. Mr. Wilson noted that the cost will exceed $25,000.
Mr. Wilson reported that he, Ms. Wu, and Mr. Milt are continuing to work on the FY 2018 budget. The Commission has requested a budget of $2,152,651 (a 2.7% increase over FY 2017). The Governor has requested a budget for the Commission of $2,114,908 (a 1% increase). Mr. Wilson testified before the Joint Ways and Means Committee at its budget hearings at Worcester State University on March 20, 2017. Mr. Wilson thanked Mr. Milt for his assistance in preparing the budget testimony. On April 10, the House Ways and Means Committee recommended the Governor’s budget number for the Commission. Last week, Representative Peter Kocot, Chairman of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight submitted an amendment to increase the Commission’s budget by $100,000. Debate on the FY 2017 House budget will begin on April 24.
Next Commission Meeting
Mr. Wilson reported that the next Commission meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.
The Commissioners scheduled the remaining 2017 monthly Commission meetings for June 15, July 20, September 21, October 19, November 16 and December 21.
PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT
Mr. Giannotti presented the Public Education and Communication Division’s report. Mr. Giannotti reported that 90% of state elected officials have completed their online ethics training. Mr. Giannotti expressed his appreciation for the House and Senate Counsel who have helped to ensure that members of the General Court have completed the ethics training requirements.
Commissioner Krokidas questioned how municipal employees receive notice that they are required to comply with the online training requirements. Mr. Giannotti stated that he has notified Town Clerks, Town Counsels, Regional School Districts, charter schools, and municipal agency heads to inform them of the training requirements. Mr. Giannotti reported that generally public employees comply with training requirements when they are informed that it is required under the statute.
LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS
Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government
Ms. Roney reported that the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government (“Task Force”) has held five meetings since it began work in January 2017. Ms. Roney and Mr. Wilson have attended all of the Task Force meetings and have provided testimony at each meeting. Ms. Roney noted that Chairman Dortch-Okara and Vice-Chairman Quinlan attended the last Task Force meeting. Ms. Roney reported that the Commission previously provided the Task Force with some proposed statutory changes, but there are additional proposed statutory changes for the Commission to discuss.
Ms. Roney noted that while there are some areas of the conflict of interest law that are complicated, the law serves an important purpose in preventing the abuse of power, and any changes to the law must protect that purpose.
Ms. Roney reported that a copy of Draft Topics for Possible Further Task Force Consideration (hereinafter referred to as “Tab A”) was provided to the Commissioners. Ms. Roney stated that in addition to identifying potential amendments to the conflict of interest law, Tab A also identifies the values the law protects. Ms. Roney noted that any changes to the law should be part of a thoughtful process to ensure that important aspects of the law are not eliminated. Chairman Dortch-Okara commented that it is essential for the Commission to identify the values the conflict of interest law is trying to protect so that the Commission’s position regarding potential changes to the law is clear to members of the Task Force.
Following a discussion, on the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan seconded by Chairman Dortch-Okara, the Commission voted to authorize the Executive Director to share Tab A, as revised by the Commission at its April 20, 2017 meeting, with the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
SFI Status Report
Legal Division Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca reported that the CY 2016 filing system opened on March 24, 2017. The first filing deadline is May 1. Ms. Duca noted that 50% of the individuals required to file SFIs have done so. Ms. Duca reported that although there have been a few minor issues with the filing system; all major issues have been resolved. Ms. Duca reported that she is working with the vendor to obtain a support agreement to resolve any remaining issues with the online SFI system before the end of FY 2017.
Legal Division Metrics for March 2017
Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for March 2017.
- Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 49 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.
For comparison: March 2016 (same month last year): 28
February 2017 (previous month): 46
- Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 528 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.
For comparison: March 2016 (same month last year): 513
February 2017 (previous month): 380
- Review of municipal letters. Division staff reviewed 7 letter issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.
For comparison: March 2016 (same month last year): 7
February 2017 (previous month): 2
- Backlog. As of today, the Division has 0 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old. There are a total of 17 pending requests for written advice.
ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS
Investigations Unit Metrics Report
Investigations Director Paul Murray presented the monthly report of Investigations for Unit activities for March 2017.
Mr. Murray noted that an error he had previously brought to the Commission’s attention regarding the Enforcement Division Intake Metrics has been corrected. Mr. Murray reported that the intake backlog has decreased even though the Enforcement Division has had one less Investigator. Mr. Murray thanked the Investigators for their diligence in decreasing the backlog.
[At 10:21 a.m. the Commission took a brief break. At 10:28 a.m. the Commission reconvened.]
At 10:28 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Vice-Chairman Quinlan, 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 G.L. c. 268B, §§ 3 and 4. These matters will include investigatory matters, cases deferred, preliminary inquiry recommendations, a summons authorization request and a preliminary inquiry report.
VOTE: Chairman Dortch-Okara yes
Vice-Chairman Quinlan yes
Commissioner Mills yes
Commissioner Sartory yes
Commissioner Krokidas yes
Chairman Dortch-Okara stated that the Commission will reconvene in public session following the executive session.
At 11:11 a.m., the Commission resumed the meeting in public session. Present were Chairman Dortch-Okara, Commissioner Mills, Commissioner Sartory and Commissioner Krokidas.
COMMISSION STAFF COMPENSATION
Mr. Wilson reported that for historical reasons Commission staff compensation has been divided into two groups. Approximately half of the staff are paid in accordance with the NAGE UNIT 6 collective bargaining agreement salary chart. These staff members receive pay increases in accordance with the raises negotiated by the collective bargaining agreement. Twelve staff positions are not paid according to a collective bargaining agreement salary chart. The positions that are not paid according the collective bargaining agreement salary chart include: Executive Director, Deputy Division Chiefs, Chief Financial Officer, Assistant Division Counsel, and the part-time Receptionist.
Mr. Wilson reported that during the last ten years, employees who were subject to the collective bargaining agreement salary chart have had their salaries increase up to 78%. During this same time-period employees who were not subject to the collective bargaining agreement salary chart have had their salaries increase a maximum of 28%. There are some managers who are currently being paid less than the employees they supervise. Mr. Wilson recommended addressing this problem by increasing the salary for the following positions: (1) Public Education and Communications Division Chief, (2) Deputy Chief of Legal Division for SFI, (3) General Counsel, and (4) Senior Assistant General Counsel. Mr. Wilson noted that, after consulting with the CFO, he was recommending salary increases between 5% and 8.5% for each of these four positions, retroactive to July 1, 2016. Mr. Wilson noted that all of the individuals serving in these positions have performed excellently over the last year.
Chairman Dortch-Okara inquired as to why Mr. Wilson was only recommending raises for four positions. Mr. Wilson responded that his recommendation was to provide salary increases to employees who are not compensated according to the Unit 6 collective bargaining agreement salary chart and who have held a position with the Commission not paid according to the Unit 6 CBA salary chart for at least two years. The four positions he recommended salary increases for meet these criteria.
Commissioner Krokidas asked why some employees are part of the collective bargaining agreement while others are not. Mr. Wilson reported that based on an agreement between NAGE and the Commission, the Commission agreed that positions with certain titles would be paid in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement salary chart.
Commissioner Krokidas asked what role the Commission has in reviewing staff compensation. Mr. Wilson noted that pursuant to the Commission’s personnel manual, the Commission must approve salary increases.
Following a discussion by the Commission, on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Commissioner Mills, the Commission voted 4-0 to approve the award of salary increases, retroactive to July 1, 2016, for the four Commission employees who are currently not paid according to the NAGE Unit 6 Collective Bargaining Agreement salary chart and who have been continuously employed by the Commission for at least two years in a position or positions not compensated according to the Unit 6 Collective Bargaining Agreement salary chart, with the percentage of increase for each employee to be within the range of 5% to 8.5% of the employee’s current annualized compensation as determined by the Executive Director in his discretion, and subject to the Executive Director’s final determination that the Commission’s current and anticipated FY 2018 budgets can accommodate the salary increases.
Chairman Dortch-Okara noted that Commissioner Quinlan was unable to be present for the discussion and vote concerning employee compensation, however, Commissioner Quinlan previously advised Chairman Dortch-Okara that she was in favor of this motion.
At 11:39 a.m., on the motion of Commissioner Krokidas, seconded by Commissioner Mills the Commission voted 4-0 to adjourn.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING
- Agenda for the Commission Meeting of April 20, 2017.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the March 16, 2017 Public Session.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the March 16, 2017 Executive Session.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the April 5, 2017 Public Session.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee Meeting for the March 7, 2017 Public Session.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee Meeting for the March 16, 2017 Public Session.
- Memorandum dated April 13, 2017 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division report for the meeting.
- Memorandum dated April 14, 2017 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the meeting.
- Tab A: Topics for Possible Further Task Force Consideration – DRAFT
- Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.
- Report of Enforcement Division Investigations Unit metrics.
- Copy of the testimony the Executive Director provided during the March 20, 2017 House Ways and Means budget hearing.
Norah K. Mallam