January 19, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Contact for January 19, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
State Ethics Commission
Overview of January 19, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Chairman Barbara Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:04 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 Chairman Dortch-Okara seconded by Vice-Chairman Quinlan, the Commission voted 5-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the December 15, 2016 public and executive sessions.
ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Acting Executive Director David A. Wilson announced that Enforcement Division Investigator Paul Murray has been promoted to the position of Investigations Director. Mr. Murray assumed his new duties on December 27, 2016. Mr. Wilson congratulated Mr. Murray on his promotion and said that he looks forward to working with Paul in his new role.
Mr. Wilson reported that he is in the process of posting an Investigator position to fill the position that was left vacant as a result of Mr. Murray’s promotion.
Mr. Wilson reported that Tracy Morong will be joining the Commission as Assistant Enforcement Counsel on January 23, 2017.
Mr. Wilson reported that he is in the process of assessing the Commission’s need for a Receptionist-Clerk position, and determining the duties for this position. Mr. Wilson anticipates posting an advertisement for this position in the near future.
Mr. Wilson reported that he is working with Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti on drafting the job description for an additional position in the public education division. Mr. Wilson noted that this position has been vacant for over a year.
Mr. Wilson hopes the Commission will be fully staffed by the end of the fiscal year.
Ethics Task Force
Mr. Wilson reported that the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government (“Task Force”) held its first meeting on January 17, 2017. Mr. Wilson and General Counsel Deirdre Roney appeared before the Task Force. Mr. Wilson provided the Task Force with an overview of the Commission, its staff, and its work. Mr. Wilson also informed the Task Force that the Commission is in the process of reviewing the statutes under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction and expressed the Commission’s interest in assisting the Task Force. Mr. Wilson reported that the Task Force will hold public meetings every other Wednesday until mid-March. Mr. Wilson reported that the Task Force was very welcoming to the Commission and invited him to attend their meetings.
Commissioner Krokidas asked whether Mr. Wilson was able to ascertain the specific issues the Task Force is focused on. Mr. Wilson stated that although the specific issues the Task Force will focus on are not yet clear, the House Speaker expressed that the Task Force is committed to undertaking a serious examination the conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws. Mr. Wilson also noted that the Task Force has indicated a willingness to hear from the public, and receive public input.
Mr. Wilson reported that the gift sections of the conflict of interest law and the regulations related to gifts will be reviewed at next Task Force meeting on February 1.
MassIT and Ethos
Mr. Wilson reported that he is exploring funding options to plan for the replacement of the Commission’s case management system, Ethos, and he is also exploring options to fund the replacement of a system to replace Ethos. Mr. Wilson stated that he is in the process of determining whether the Commission is eligible to apply for “Wave 4 project” funding from MassIT. “Wave 4” funding may be available for projects that are not yet “ready to go,” but are seeking funds to get to a “ready to start stage.”
Mr. Wilson reported that he met with DCAMM to discuss the feasibility and cost of possible modest office improvements. DCAMM quoted a cost of $50,000 to construct a conference room. Mr. Wilson has asked DCAMM to look into whether it would be possible to complete this project at a lower cost. Mr. Wilson also explored with DCAMM the possibility of the Commission’s involvement in a master office space planning program and potentially storing the Commission’s server in a secure, water proof, climate-controlled room located on the seventh floor of One Ashburton Place. Mr. Wilson will obtain additional information from DCAMM about these programs soon.
Financial Disclosure Administrator/Analyst Robert Milt reported that the Commission is seeking an appropriation of $2,152,651 for FY 2018. This is an increase of 2.80% (or $58,682), which is slightly below the 3.74% (or $62,252) year-to-year average increase for the period of FY 2006 to FY 2016. It is estimated that 93% (or $2,000,000) of the Commission’s spending will be for personnel expenses in FY 2018. Mr. Milt reported that he has had productive discussions with the Commission’s Administration and Finance (A&F) Analyst and Ways and Means Analyst. Mr. Milt reported that the Commission will provide the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means with its FY 2018 Budget request by February 1, 2017.
Mr. Milt reported that the Commission is on track to spend 79% (or $1,600,000) of its budget for FY 2017. This lower level of spending is due to staff vacancies. These vacancies are in the process of being filled. Mr. Milt reported that the Commission has communicated the reason for the decreased spending for FY 2017 to A&F.
PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT
Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented the division’s report. Mr. Giannotti reported that he is scheduled to participate in Suffolk University’s Legislative Staff seminar program next week. He is also scheduled to present a conflict of interest law seminar at the Mass Municipal Association’s annual meeting and to present a seminar to the PRIM Board members and staff.
Mr. Giannotti reported that he is in the process of notifying municipalities that the new conflict of interest law educational compliance cycle has started. Mr. Giannotti is waiting to notify state and county agencies that the new mandatory education compliance cycle has begun until the state Human Resource Division advises him that an issue with the online educational tracking system, PACE, has been resolved, which he anticipates will happen within the next few weeks.
LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS
Possible Amendments to c. 268A and c. 268B to Suggest to Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government
General Counsel Deirdre Roney presented a memorandum listing potential changes to c. 268A and c. 268B. Ms. Roney stated that both the Legal Committee and the staff had reviewed and discussed this list and agreed that the proposed potential changes would improve the law. Ms. Roney reported that the Legal Committee was continuing to discuss a separate list of potential changes to c. 268A and 268B, which the Legal Committee agrees requires further discussion and work. After reviewing and discussing the list of potential changes to c. 268A and c. 268B, the Commission agreed to hold additional meetings on January 24 and 25, 2017 to further discuss the list of potential changes to c. 268A and c. 268B. The Commission decided to wait until the January 24 and 25 meetings to decide whether to authorize Acting Executive Director to present the list of potential changes to the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
SFI Status Report
Ms. Roney provided a brief update of the online SFI system. The Commission had no questions.
Legal Division Metrics for December 2016
Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for December 2016. The Commission had no questions.
- Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 18 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.
For comparison: December 2015 (same month last year): 42
November 2016 (previous month): 30
- Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 293 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.
For comparison: December 2015 (same month last year): 387
November 2016 (previous month): 332
- 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 2015 (same month last year): 5
November 2016 (previous month): 2
- Backlog. As of today, the Division has 10 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old. There are a total of 27 pending requests for written advice.
Ms. Roney presented the calendar of hearing dates in pending Commission adjudicatory proceedings. The Commission had no questions.
Ms. Roney noted regarding McGovern v. State Ethics Commission: Hampden Superior Court Civil Action No. 1679CV00082. Edward McGovern seeks judicial review pursuant to G.L. c. 30A of the Commission’s finding of violation against him. We are waiting for McGovern to move for judgment on the pleadings. We were recently in telephone contact with McGovern’s attorney, who indicated that he expects to file soon. If he does not, we will move to dismiss for failure to prosecute.
Ms. Roney reported that an impounded litigation matter is likely to be heard in the Appeals Court in February 2017.
ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS
Investigations Unit Metrics Report
Investigations Director Paul Murray presented the monthly report of Investigations for Unit activities for December 2016. The Commission had no questions.
UPDATE ON EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HIRING PROCESS
[At 11:58 a.m. Mr. Wilson recused himself and left the room.]
Ms. Roney reported that interviews with two finalists for the Executive Director position have been scheduled to take place on January 24, 2017. The two finalists have been asked to complete employment applications. Ms. Roney noted that a third candidate withdrew his application. Commissioner Sartory noted that there had been a fourth candidate, but the selection committee had decided that individual should not advance to the next stage of the process. Following a brief discussion, the Commission decided that the selection committee would complete reference checks for the finalists following the January 24 interviews.
At 12:02 p.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, a preliminary inquiry report, preliminary inquiry recommendations and summons authorization requests and advisory opinions.
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 not reconvene in public session following the executive session.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING
- Agenda for the Commission Meeting of January 19, 2017.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the December 15, 2016 Public and Executive Sessions.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Legal Committee Meeting for the December 14, 2016 Public Session.
- Memorandum dated January 13, 2017 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division activities for December 2016.
- Memorandum dated January 13, 2017 from Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the meeting.
- Confidential Draft for discussion purposes related to ongoing policy development, Potential Changes to c. 268A and 268B, dated January 13, 2017.
- Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.
- Report of Enforcement Division Investigations Unit metrics.
- List of members of the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
- Written version of Acting Executive Director David A. Wilson’s testimony before the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
Norah K. Mallam