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January 18, 2018 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

Thursday, January 18, 2018
9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Address

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

Contact for January 18, 2018 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 January 18, 2018 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

MEETING CONVENED

Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:03 a.m.  Also in attendance were Commissioner David A. Mills, Commissioner Thomas J. Sartory, and Commissioner Maria J. Krokidas. 

Chairman Dortch-Okara reported that Commissioner Quinlan had resigned effective December 31, 2017.

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Commissioner Krokidas, seconded by Commissioner Sartory, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the December 21, 2017 public and executive sessions with the correction of a typographical error in the Public Session minutes regarding the date of the next meeting.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Former General Counsel Deirdre Roney

Executive Director David A. Wilson reported that an event honoring former General Counsel Deirdre Roney will be held at 2:30 p.m. today at the Gardner Auditorium.  Mr. Wilson reported that Senator Creem, who represents the District where Ms. Roney lived, and who was a Co-Chair of the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government, will read the text of a Senate Adjournment in honor of Ms. Roney.  

Commissioner Quinlan Farewell Event 

The Commission agreed to keep January 30, February 6 and February 13, 2018 available as potential dates to schedule a farewell event to thank Commissioner Quinlan for her service to the Commission. 

Appointment of a New Commissioner 

Mr. Wilson reported that Secretary Galvin has been advised that he is due to appoint a new Commissioner.  The Commission directed Mr. Wilson to draft a letter to Secretary Galvin on behalf of the Commissioners to inform Secretary Galvin that Vice Chairman Quinlan has resigned and he is due to appoint a new Commissioner.

Election of New Vice Chair

Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission will need to elect a new Vice Chairman.  This election will take place at the February Commission meeting.

New Public Information and Communications Officer  

Mr. Wilson reported that Gerard Tuoti has accepted the Public Information and Communications Officer position.  Mr. Tuoti will start on January 22, 2018.  Mr. Tuoti previously served as a Regional Newsbank Editor for GateHouse Media New England.

Appointment of Acting General Counsel and Acting Legal Division Chief 

Mr. Wilson reported that he has appointed Lauren Duca to serve as Acting Legal Division Chief and Pauline Nguyen to serve as Acting General Counsel.  Mr. Wilson noted that in addition to serving in these Acting capacities, Ms. Duca and Ms. Nguyen would continue to perform the duties of their permanent positions.  Mr. Wilson thanked Ms. Duca and Ms. Nguyen for accepting the Acting positions.

Chairman Dortch-Okara requested that Mr. Wilson provide the Commissioners with the list of duties for the Acting General Counsel and Acting Legal Division Chief positions.

Commissioner Krokidas asked whether it is possible to track the sections of the conflict of interest law that the Commission receives the most inquiries about.  Ms. Duca responded that this type of tracking is difficult to do with the current case management system, but she anticipates that when a new case management system is in place that this type of tracking will be possible. 

General Counsel/Legal Division Chief Hiring 

Mr. Wilson reported that he plans to post an advertisement for the General Counsel/Legal Division Chief position by the end of this month.  Mr. Wilson noted that pursuant to the Personnel Manual the General Counsel/Legal Division Chief position is appointed by the Executive Director, subject to the Commission’s prior approval.  Mr. Wilson recommended that the Audit, Finance and Human Resources Committee meet to discuss the details of the Commission’s participation in the hiring process for the General Counsel/Legal Division Chief position. 

Chairman Dortch-Okara recommended that Mr. Wilson consider posting the position in a variety of venues, including various Bar Associations, to ensure that the Commission receives a diverse pool of applicants.

Ethos Replacement 

Government Affairs Officer Robert Milt reported on the case management replacement project. Mr. Milt reported that he is planning to attend a demonstration at the Attorney General’s Office, where he will learn about an application that the AGO is currently using for case management.  This application is called On Base.  If On Base, is a good fit for the Commission’s needs, then the next step will be to apply for bond funding.  The deadline to apply for bond funding is February 12, 2018.   

Budget 

Mr. Milt reported that the Governor’s FY 2019 budget is due to be released by January 24.  The Commission has requested a total budget of 2.1 million dollars.  This request includes a $145,000 increase over the Commission’s FY 2018 budget.  Mr. Milt noted that the Commission requested these additional funds to cover maintenance costs and funding for an additional Enforcement Attorney position.  Mr. Milt also reported that Mr. Wilson will testify at a Budget Hearing, which is likely to be scheduled for mid-March.

Timesheets 

Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission has adopted a new process for recording employee time and attendance.  Pursuant to the new system, employees record their time and attendance in an Excel spreadsheet.  This system allows for increased employee privacy and provides more accurate tracking of employee time and attendance.  Mr. Wilson thanked CFO Alice Wu for her work in developing the Excel based time sheet.   

Chairman Dortch-Okara asked how the current system differs from the prior system.  Mr. Wilson reported that previously employees marked their time in/out of the office on a form in the reception area.  In the new system, employees record their time on a personal spreadsheet that is accessible only by them, their manager, the CFO and the Executive Director.  Mr. Wilson noted that previously when employees left the office for lunch they did not specify the time they took for lunch.  In the current system, employees are required to record the time they take out of the office for lunch or other errands.  Mr. Wilson stated that the new system provides employees with more privacy. 

Commissioners Krokidas and Mills noted that given the level of professionalism of the staff and their work product, they had difficulty understanding the need to so precisely track employees’ work time.  However, Commissioners Krokidas and Mills also stated that they understood why this type of time tracking is necessary for employees of a state agency.

Further Office Improvements 

Mr. Wilson reported that he is beginning discussions with DCAMM concerning the possibility of constructing one or more cubicles in the office.

Chairman Dortch-Okara asked whether Mr. Wilson anticipates that the Commission will have a surplus of funds at the end of FY 2018.   Mr. Wilson responded that there is enough money to construct a few cubicles, but not sufficient funds for any major construction projects. 

Next Meeting

The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his monthly Division Report.  Mr. Giannotti reported that he has received many requests to conduct seminars over the next few months.   

Mr. Giannotti reported that the content from the old website has been converted into the new format and he is now implementing the legacy re-directs and working on quality assurance issues.  Mr. Giannotti stated that he hopes to complete the website work within the next few months.

Mr. Giannotti reported that a new compliance cycle for the conflict of interest law education components has started.  This year, all state, county and municipal employees are required to receive a copy of the Summary of the Conflict of Interest Law.  Mr. Giannotti stated that he is now is in the process of updating the distribution list for newly elected state and county employees.  After he has completed updating the distribution lists, he will send the newly elected state and county employees the Summary of the Conflict of Interest Law via email.

Chairman Dortch-Okara asked what duties are going to be assigned to the new Public Information and Communications Officer.  Mr. Giannotti reported that the Public Information and Communications Officer, Gerard Tuouti, will be responsible for managing the website and strategic communications.  Mr. Giannotti noted that the Commission would like to be more proactive in communicating the Commission’s mission to the public. 

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS  

Acting Legal Division Chief Lauren Duca reported on the activities of the Legal Division.   

Legal Division Metrics for December 2017 

Ms. Duca presented the following Legal Division metrics for December 2017. 

  • Written advice.  The Legal Division answered by letter or email 65 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.  

          For comparison:  December 2016 (same month last year):  18
                                      November 2017 (previous month):            52 

  • Oral advice.  The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 368 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.

          For comparison:  December 2016 (same month last year):  293
                                      November 2017 (previous month):            369

  • Review of municipal letters.  Division staff reviewed 1 letter issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.

          For comparison:  December 2016 (same month last year):     1
                                      November 2017 (previous month):               2

  • Backlog.  As of today, the Division has 6 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old.  There are a total of 21 pending requests for written advice.

Statements of Financial Interests (SFI)

Ms. Duca reported that state agency Liaisons were required to submit their CY 2017 Designation Lists by January 16.  Ms. Duca noted that the SFI system cannot be opened until all of the Agency Designation Lists have been received.  Ms. Duca reported that all of the Designation Lists should be received by January 19, and she anticipates that the SFI system will be open to Filers by February 6.  Ms. Duca noted that she is currently reviewing the SFI forms and exploring options to obtain support from the SFI system vendor, in the event any glitches arise during the filing season.

Litigation Matters

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 a violation against him.  The argument for McGovern’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the Commission’s cross-motion was previously scheduled for argument January 24, 2018, however, it has been re-scheduled for March 21, 2018.

Hansen v. State Ethics Commission:  On November 2, 2017, Hansen filed a pro se appeal of the Commission’s Decision and Order, which the Commission issued on October 4, 2017.  The appeal was served on the Commission on November 20, 2017.  The record is due to be filed with the Superior Court by February 16, 2018.

ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS

Enforcement Division Intern

Enforcement Division Chief Monica Brookman reported that an Intern from Northeastern University will be joining the Enforcement Division.  The Intern will be supervised by Investigations Director Paul Murray and Special Investigator Katelyn Farago. 

Investigations Unit Metrics Report

Mr. Murray reported that the Enforcement Division has added additional information to the Enforcement Division Intake Metrics.  Mr. Murray also noted that the Enforcement Division has made progress reducing the backlog of complaints that are older than one year.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 10:18 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Commissioner Sartory the Commission voted 4-0 to enter into executive session to discuss matters subject to the provisions of G.L. c. 30A, § 21, subparagraphs (a)(3) and (a)(7), and § 18, and G.L. c. 268B, §§ 3 and 4.  These matters will include investigatory matters, cases deferred, a summons authorization request, and advisory opinions.  Chairman Dortch-Okara also stated that the Commission would discuss litigation strategy for a matter pending before the Appeals Court during executive session, because an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the Commission.

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      

LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING

1.     Agenda for the Commission Meeting of January 18, 2018.

2.     Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the December 21, 2017 Public and Executive Sessions.

3.     Memorandum dated January 11, 2018 from Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division report for the meeting.

4.     Memorandum dated January 12, 2018 from Senior Assistant General Counsel, Pauline Nguyen to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the January 12, 2018 meeting.

5.     Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.

6.     Report of Enforcement Division Metrics.

Respectfully submitted,

Norah K. Mallam
Staff Attorney                  

Contact for January 18, 2018 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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