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April 5, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

10:00 a.m.

Address

1 Ashburton Place, 6th floor, Room 619, Boston, MA 02108

Contact for April 5, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

State Ethics Commission

Address

One Ashburton Place, Room 619, Boston, MA 02476

Fax

Legal Division fax number (617) 723-5851
Enforcement Division fax number (617) 723-4086

Overview of April 5, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

PUBLIC SESSION

 

MEETING CONVENED

Chairman Barbara Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 10:13 a.m.  Also in attendance were Vice-Chairman Quinlan, Commissioner David A. Mills, Commissioner Thomas J. Sartory, and Commissioner Maria J. Krokidas. 

FOLLOW UP TO MARCH 21, 2017 MEETING OF ETHICS TASK FORCE

Mr. Wilson reported that, at the March 21, 2017 meeting of the legislative Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government (“Task Force”), Task Force member and House Counsel James Kennedy requested that the Commission provide to the Task Force the materials that were before the Commission for consideration at its meeting on January 25, 2017.  Mr. Wilson noted that these materials are public records and he intends to provide them to the Task Force as requested.  

Mr. Wilson reported that the Task Force requested that the Commission provide any additional recommendations for changes to G.L. c. 268A and 268B at the next Task force meeting on April 25, 2017.     

Executive Director’s Recommended Additional Changes to G.L. c. 268A

Mr. Wilson requested that the Commission consider three additional amendments to G.L. c. 268A to recommend to the Task Force:  (1) amend the statutory definition of “special” municipal employees to require municipalities to provide updated information about positions they have designated as “special” to the Commission annually; (2) amend § 7 to delete an out-of-date statutory reference; and (3) amend §§ 17 and 20 to address problems specific to employees of regional municipal entities.  Mr. Wilson noted that these proposed items have been included in Tab A of the Commission’s packet.    

Mr. Wilson reported that requiring municipalities to provide updated information to the Commission about positions they have designated as “special” would help to eliminate confusion for both the Commission and municipalities.  General Counsel Deirdre Roney noted that municipalities are currently not required to notify the Commission of positions that have been designated as “special.”  Ms. Roney also reported that in order to make the reporting requirement less burdensome for municipalities, we plan to use a software program, such as Google Docs, to enable municipalities to input their designation data.

Commissioner Sartory recommended eliminating the requirement that municipalities report positions they have designated as “special” to the Commission on an annual basis, and instead require them to report it to the Commission within a reasonable time from the date of designation.  The Commissioners agreed with this recommendation. 

The Commissioners agreed it would make sense to amend § 7 to delete an out-of-date statutory reference.

With respect to the proposal to amend §§ 17 and 20 to address problems specific to employees of regional municipal entities, Ms. Roney noted that the proposed revision would lessen the restrictions that apply to employees of regional municipal entities who hold second positions in municipalities that are also members of the regional entity.

On the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Mills, the Commission voted to authorize the Executive Director to share Tab A, if and as revised by the Commission at its April 5, 2017 meeting, with the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.

VOTE:  Chairman Dortch-Okara      yes      
              Vice-Chairman Quinlan       yes     
              Commissioner Mills             yes                  
              Commissioner Sartory         yes     
              Commissioner Krokidas      yes      

Topics for Possible Further Discussion

Mr. Wilson reported that Tab B of the Commission’s packet included a list of ten topics which represent potential issues that Commission staff have identified as to particular sections of the law, but where the staff has not yet reached consensus as to how best to address those issues.  Mr. Wilson noted that some of these sections of the law have been discussed at Task Force meetings. 

Mr. Wilson noted that the topics listed in Tab B would benefit from further examination.  Mr. Wilson requested that one or two Commissioners meet with staff prior to the April 20, 2017 Commission meeting to further discuss these topics with the goal of identifying for each section of the law: (a) what problems we see, and (b) what values we would like to protect.  Mr. Wilson proposed that at the April 20, 2017 Commission meeting, the full Commission consider whether to recommend to the Task Force that it give further consideration to those areas, and offer to assist the Task Force with any such efforts.     

Ms. Roney stated that the Commission would like to provide the Task Force with input regarding sections of the law where we have identified that there is an issue and also provide them with the value that the law is trying to protect.  Ms. Roney noted that, by way of example, the law prohibits state legislators from representing private clients before other state agencies.  The value of this prohibition is that it prevents people who hold powerful positions from being able to use their position on behalf of private clients.  However, that same prohibition prohibits a Department of Environmental Protection employee from volunteering to help a friend with a child support issue at the Department of Revenue.  Ms. Roney noted that it is more difficult to see the value of that prohibition. 

Chairman Dortch-Okara noted it is important for the Commission to put on record the areas of the law that, in its view, should not be changed, versus the areas of the law where the Commission would like to see changes.  

Vice-Chairman Quinlan noted that she appreciated the invitation to attend the Task Force meeting and she found it helpful to attend the meeting.

The Commission agreed that Commissioner Krokidas and Commissioner Sartory would meet with the staff prior to the April 20th Commission meeting to discuss the topics listed in Tab B.  

Commissioner Krokidas asked whether it would be confusing to provide the Task Force with the materials included in Tab D of the Commission’s packet.  Ms. Roney recommended providing the Tab D materials to the Task Force with a cover letter explaining that these draft documents were discussed several months ago and no agreement was reached with respect to these documents.  

The Commission reviewed the topics in Tab B to determine whether all of the items should remain on the list for further discussion by Commissioners Sartory and Krokidas and the staff.

Following a discussion, the Commission decided that items listed in Tab B, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, and the second part of 10 should remain on the list of topics for further discussion.  The Commission agreed that item number 5 should be removed, and this item should be included as part of item number 4.  The Commission decided to remove items numbers 6 and 7 from the list.  The Commissioners decided to remove from the list the first part of number 10, which addresses eliminating the identification requirement for SFI requestors, but to include on the list the second part of number 10, which addresses the Commission’s authority to redact any legally protected confidential information on SFIs.

On the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Sartory, the Commission voted to direct the staff to pursue further consideration of the topics listed in Tab B, as directed by the Commission at its April 5, 2017 meeting.

VOTE:  Chairman Dortch-Okara     yes                        
              Vice-Chairman Quinlan      yes                       
              Commissioner Mills            yes                                   
              Commissioner Sartory        yes        
              Commissioner Krokidas     yes                        

Mr. Wilson noted that there was a typographical error in line two of his memorandum to the Commission dated March 31, 2017.  The February 28, 2017 date provided in line two of the memorandum should read March 21, 2017.

ADJOURN MEETING

At 11:38 a.m., on the motion of Commissioner Krokidas, seconded by Vice-Chairman Quinlan the Commission voted 5-0 to adjourn.

VOTE:  Chairman Dortch-Okara     yes                        
              Vice-Chairman Quinlan      yes                       
              Commissioner Mills            yes                                   
              Commissioner Sartory        yes            
              Commissioner Krokidas     yes                        

LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING

  1. Meeting Notice and Agenda for the April 5, 2017 Commission Meeting.
  2. Memorandum to the Commission from Executive Director David A. Wilson dated March 31, 2017, regarding further assistance to Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
  3. Tab A: Executive Director recommended additional changes.
  4. Tab B:  Topics for Possible Further Discussion.
  5. Tab C:  The Current Language of the G.L. c. 268A sections referred to in Tab B in the order set out in Tab B.
  6. Tab D:  Proposals drafted by Commission staff only – not yet approved or voted on by Commission - Potential changes to c. 268A and 268B Items for further discussion.

Respectfully submitted,

Norah K. Mallam            
Staff Attorney

Additional Resources for April 5, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

Contact for April 5, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

Address

One Ashburton Place, Room 619, Boston, MA 02476

Fax

Legal Division fax number (617) 723-5851
Enforcement Division fax number (617) 723-4086

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