May 18, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
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Overview of May 18, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:06 a.m. Also in attendance were Vice-Chairman Regina L. Quinlan, Commissioner Thomas J. Sartory, and Commissioner Maria J. Krokidas. Commissioner David A. Mills was not present.
APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES
On the motion of Commissioner Sartory, seconded by Commissioner Krokidas, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the April 20, 2017 public and executive sessions.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Executive Director David A. Wilson reported that the Legal Division has completed the second round of interviews for the Assistant General Counsel position. Mr. Wilson noted that five qualified candidates were interviewed and he anticipates that a hiring decision will be made in the near future.
Mr. Wilson reported that interviews for the Public Education Officer position are likely to begin in June.
Mr. Wilson reported that Timothy Gravel started his position as an Investigator in the Enforcement Division on May 1. Mr. Wilson welcomed Mr. Gravel to the Commission.
Ethics Task Force
Mr. Wilson reported that the next meeting of the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government will take place on May 31, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. Mr. Wilson noted that he and General Counsel Deirdre Roney will attend the Task Force meeting.
Mr. Wilson reported that an office renovation “kick-off” meeting with DCAMM, the architect, the general contractor, and others involved in the project took place on May 15. Mr. Wilson noted that the office renovation work will begin soon and it is scheduled to be completed by June 16.
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission has hired a consultant, BerryDunn, to assist with the development of contract and application specifications to replace the Commission’s case management system, ETHOS. BerryDunn has begun work on the project and is scheduled to complete its work by June 30.
Financial Disclosure Administrator and Analyst Robert Milt is serving as the Ethos Replacement Project Manager. Mr. Milt reported that a team of BerryDunn employees spent two days working with staff to learn how staff use Ethos and what capabilities would be helpful in the new case management system. BerryDunn has issued a Request For Information (“RFI”) to eight vendors. The Commission is paying BerryDunn about $43,000 for its services. Mr. Wilson noted that BerryDunn is an independent consultant does not have any financial interest in the companies that are responding to the RFI. Mr. Wilson commended the staff for their effort in working with the BerryDunn team on this project.
Online Training Programs Accessibility Project
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission has hired SSB Bart Group to remediate the Commission’s online ethics training programs so the programs will be fully accessible to visually impaired persons using certain reading devices. Mr. Wilson stated that Senior Assistant General Counsel Pauline Nguyen and Public Education and Communication Division Chief David Giannotti are leading this project. SSB Bart Group is scheduled to complete this project by June 30. The Commission is paying SSB Bart Group about $29,000 to complete this project.
Ms. Nguyen reported that the Commission has received comments from public employees that it is difficult to complete the online training programs using JAWS, a software program that assists visually impaired individuals in reading websites. Ms. Nguyen noted that the programs will need to be reconfigured in order to be compatible with JAWS. The Commission is purchasing software so that as future updates are made to the online training programs the updates will also be compatible with JAWS. Ms. Nguyen reported that the Massachusetts Office on Disability and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind have generously offered to assist the Commission with testing the programs.
Mr. Wilson reported that he is continuing to work on the FY 2018 budget with assistance from Chief Financial Officer/Director of Budget and Administration Alice Wu and Mr. Milt.
Mr. Milt reminded the Commission that the Governor had recommended a budget of $2,114,908 for FY 18, which is 1% less than the amount the Commission had requested. The House Committee on Ways and Means also recommended $2,114,908 for the Commission’s FY 18 budget. Representative Kocot filed an amendment requesting an additional $100,000 for the Commission. However, this amendment was not approved. On May 17, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means also recommended $2,114,908 for the Commission’s FY 18 budget. Mr. Milt noted an amendment could still be filed by the Senate, but if no amendments are filed, and if the Governor’s, the House, and the Senate’s budget proposals for the Commission all match, then the Commission’s budget will not be sent to a conference committee and the Commission’s FY 18 budget will be $2,114,908.
Ms. Roney reported that when Mr. Wilson was appointed as Executive Director, he requested to be paid less than his full salary to ensure that there would be sufficient funds in the budget to provide raises to managers. Ms. Roney reported that there are sufficient funds available to pay Mr. Wilson his full salary and to provide the salary increases Mr. Wilson previously requested for managers. Ms. Roney noted that she would prepare an appointment letter for Chairman Dortch-Okara’s signature stating Mr. Wilson’s appointment as Executive Director.
Commissioner Krokidas noted that she appreciated Mr. Wilson’s offer to accept a lower salary and she understood that Mr. Wilson made this offer to ensure that senior staff members were fairly compensated. Chairman Dortch-Okara noted that the Commission appreciated Mr. Wilson’s willingness to sacrifice his salary for the sake of the staff.
Next Commission Meeting
Mr. Wilson reported that the next Commission meeting will take place on June 15, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.
PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT
General Counsel Deirdre Roney reported that Mr. Giannotti was on vacation and Ms. Roney offered to answer any questions the Commission had regarding Mr. Giannotti’s report. The Commission did not have any questions.
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”) met on April 25, 2017. The Task Force members agreed to provide their individual lists of proposed changes to the conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws, G.L. c. 268A and 268B, to the Commission by May 12. Ms. Roney stated that the Commission has received lists of proposed changes from Task Force members Pam Wilmot, Executive Director, Common Cause of Massachusetts (“CCMA”); Senator Cynthia Stone Creem; and Representative Christopher M. Markey, Representative Peter V. Kocot, and House Counsel James C. Kennedy.
Ms. Roney reported that the Task Force has requested that the Commission create a comprehensive list of all of the proposed changes, indicating, as to each, whether the Commission believes that it could be accomplished by a regulation if the Commission were given full regulatory authority, or whether it could only be accomplished by a statutory amendment. The Task Force has requested that the Commission provide the comprehensive list to the Task Force by May 25, for discussion by the Task Force at its May 31 meeting.
Ms. Roney provided the Commissioners with a draft memorandum to the Task Force regarding a comprehensive list of proposed changes to G.L. c. 268A and 268Band Commission opinion as to whether such changes may be accomplished by regulation or statutory amendment. Following a discussion of Ms. Roney’s draft memorandum to the Task Force, the Commission commended Ms. Roney for her work in drafting the memorandum, and requested that she incorporate comments from their discussion, and provide it to the Task Force by May 25.
[At 10:57 a.m. the Commission took a brief break. At 11:04 a.m. the Commission reconvened.]
SFI Status Report
Legal Division Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca reported that on May 2, 2017, formal notices of lateness were sent to filers who had not yet filed their CY 2016 SFI. Ms. Duca noted that the 10 day grace period expired on May 12, 2017. Ms. Duca stated that the CY 2016 SFI filing deadline for elected public officials is May 30, 2017.
Ms. Duca reported that she was unable to reach an agreement with the vendor for the online SFI system to resolve the outstanding issues. Ms. Duca stated that she is completing a change order to resolve remaining functionality issues with the public inspection module portion of the online SFI system.
Legal Division Metrics for April 2017
Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for April 2017.
- Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 50 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.
For comparison: April 2016 (same month last year): 26
March 2017 (previous month): 49
- Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 517 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.
For comparison: April 2016 (same month last year): 572
March 2017 (previous month): 528
- Review of municipal letters. Division staff reviewed 0 letter issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.
For comparison: April 2016 (same month last year): 5
March 2017 (previous month): 7
- Backlog. As of today, the Division has 4 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old. There are a total of 16 pending requests for written advice.
McGovern v. State Ethics Commission, Hampden Superior Court, Civil Action No. 1679CV00082: Ms. Roney reported that Edward McGovern seeks judicial review pursuant to G.L. c. 30A of the Commission’s finding of a violation against him. McGovern moved to admit additional evidence to the Administrative Record. On February 3, we served an Opposition to McGovern’s Motion for Leave to Admit Additional Evidence.
MCLE Municipal Law Conference
Ms. Roney reported that she and Mr. Wilson attended the MCLE Municipal Law Conference on May 4, 2017. Ms. Roney presented a session on updates concerning the Commission to approximately 40 attendees, plus webcast participants.
ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS
Investigations Unit Metrics Report
Investigations Director Paul Murray presented the monthly report of Investigations for Unit activities for April 2017.
At 11:14 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Vice-Chairman Quinlan, the Commission voted 4-0 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 Sartory yes
Commissioner Krokidas yes
Chairman Dortch-Okara stated that the Commission would not reconvene in public session following the executive session.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING
- Agenda for the Commission Meeting of May 18, 2017.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the April 20, 2017 Public and Executive Sessions.
- Memorandum dated May 11, 2017 from David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division report for the meeting.
- Memorandum dated May 12, 2017 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the meeting.
- Recommendations to the Task Force dated May 12, 2017, by: Hon. Christopher M. Markey, Co-Chair, State Representative; James C. Kennedy, Member, Chief Legal Counsel to the House of Representatives; Hon. Peter V. Kocot, Co-Chair, State Representative.
- May 12, 2017 letter to Executive Director, David A. Wilson from State Senator Cynthia S. Creem.
- Common Cause of Massachusetts (“CCMA”) Recommendations to the 2017 Task Force on Integrity.
- Draft Memorandum to the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government from the State Ethics Commission re Comprehensive list of proposed changes to G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B; Commission Opinion as to whether such changes may be accomplished by regulation or statutory amendment.
- Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.
- Report of Enforcement Division Investigations Unit metrics.
Norah K. Mallam
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