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October 19, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

Thursday, October 19, 2017
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Address

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

Contact for October 19, 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 October 19, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session

MEETING CONVENED

Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:17 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 absent.

APPROVAL OF MEETING MINUTES

On the motion of Vice-Chairman Quinlan, seconded by Commissioner Sartory, the Commission voted 4-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the September 21, 2017 public and executive sessions.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Personnel

Executive Director, David A. Wilson announced that Assistant General Counsel Kevin Larivee and his wife Karen welcomed their son Jack several weeks ago, and said that Mr. Larivee is currently on leave.

Mr. Wilson reported that General Counsel, Ms. Roney is away on vacation and she will be returning on November 3, 2017.

Mr. Wilson reported that Financial Disclosure Administrator and Analyst/SFI Robert Milt has a new title, Government Affairs Officer, which more accurately reflects the work he has been successfully performing throughout the last year. Mr. Wilson noted that many of Mr. Milt’s former duties have been eliminated, because they are now performed automatically by the new SFI system. Throughout the last year, Mr. Milt has performed important governmental affairs and budget work.

Mr. Wilson reported that the first round of interviews for the Public Information Officer position has been completed. Eight candidates were interviewed during the first round, and the second round of interviews will be scheduled soon.

Appointment of New Commissioner

Mr. Wilson reported that he has not received any additional information from the Secretary of State’s office regarding the appointment of a new Commissioner. Mr. Wilson noted that he has been advised that Secretary Galvin is working on the appointment.

Evaluations

Mr. Wilson reported that annual staff evaluations are being completed. He noted that he is in the process of reviewing staff evaluations completed by managers, as well as the self-evaluations completed by the Division Chiefs and CFO.

Budget

Mr. Wilson reported that he, Mr. Milt, and Chief Financial Officer/Director of Budget and Administration Alice Wu, met with budget analysts from the Senate and House Ways and Means Committees who are responsible for the Commission’s budget. Mr. Wilson noted that this was a productive meeting.

Mr. Wilson reported that the next step in the budget process will be to file the FY 2019 Maintenance Budget with Administration and Finance. Mr. Wilson thanked Ms. Wu and Mr. Milt for their work in putting the maintenance budget together.

Office Renovations

Mr. Wilson reported that the office renovations have been completed. He noted that there are still some minor issues with several of the lighting fixtures, but these issues are in the process of being resolved.

COGEL Conference

Mr. Wilson reported that he, Chairman Dortch-Okara, Enforcement Division Chief Monica Brookman, and Investigations Director Paul Murray, will attend the annual Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) Conference on December 3-6 in Toronto. Mr. Wilson stated that he is looking forward to resuming the Commission’s active involvement in COGEL.  Chairman Dortch-Okara asked whether the Commission will be involved in any of the session presentations. Mr. Wilson responded that the Commission staff will attend the educational sessions, and although staff will not be participating in any presentations this year he hopes that they will in the future.

Commissioner Krokidas inquired as to how the Massachusetts conflict of interest law compares to similar laws in other states. Mr. Wilson responded that the Massachusetts conflict of interest law is one of the most comprehensive in the country.

Next Meeting

The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 9 a.m.

PUBLIC EDUCATION DIVISION REPORT

Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti presented his Division Report for activities in the Public Education Division for the month of October.

Mr. Giannotti reported that he had a productive meeting with the Cannabis Control Commission regarding their obligations under the conflict of interest law.

Mr. Giannotti reported that the website team is continuing to convert the website into the new platform. Mr. Giannotti noted that the team is on track to have the website content converted by the end of the year.

Commissioner Krokidas asked whether any individuals decline appointments to public positions because of the conflict of interest requirements. Mr. Giannotti responded that he is not aware of any situations where an individual has declined an appointment due to the conflict of interest law restrictions. Mr. Giannotti also noted that the Governor’s office provides information to newly appointed officials about the conflict of interest law.

LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS

Deputy Legal Division Chief/SFI Lauren Duca reported on the activities of the Legal Division.

Vice-Chairman Quinlan asked Ms. Duca whether she has received many requests to view Statements of Financial Interests (SFIs). Ms. Duca responded that although last July there were a significant number of SFIs viewed, since that time only three SFIs have been viewed. Ms. Duca noted that she receives a notice when an SFI is viewed.

Legal Division Metrics for September 2017

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

  • Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 43 written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.

    For comparison:  September 2016 (same month last year):    43
                                August 2017 (previous month):                    76
  • Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 407 requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.

         For comparison:  September 2016 (same month last year):    359
                                     
August 2017 (previous month):                    377

  • Review of municipal letters. Division staff reviewed 5 letters issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.

          For comparison:  September 2016 (same month last year):   4
                                      
August 2017 (previous month)                    1

  • Backlog. As of today, the Division has 9 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old, the oldest are from July 2017. There are a total of 26 pending requests for written advice.

Litigation Matter

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. Ms. Duca noted that argument of McGovern’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the Commission’s cross-motion has been scheduled for argument November 8, 2017.

ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS

Investigations Unit Metrics Report

Investigation Director Paul Murray presented the Enforcement Division Metrics for September 2017.

Mr. Murray noted that in September 2017 the Enforcement Division received 71 complaints and closed 69 complaints. Mr. Murray also reported that beginning in FY 2017, the Enforcement Division started using a new protocol when opening cases regarding allegations involving the conduct of multiple individuals.

Commissioner Krokidas asked what constitutes a “follow-up” as noted in the Enforcement Division metrics report. Mr. Murray responded that any action that an Investigator takes to bring a matter towards resolution is considered a “follow-up.” Follow-ups include telephone interviews, document requests and reviews.

Mr. Murray reported that there is currently a backlog of 51 cases that have been pending for over twelve months. He anticipates that the Enforcement Division will be able to eliminate this backlog by January 2018. Mr. Murray commended the Investigators for their hard work in reducing the backlog.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

At 9:47 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 G.L. c. 30A, § 21, subparagraph (a)(7) and § 18, and G.L. c. 268B, §§ 3 and 4. These matters included investigatory matters, cases deferred, preliminary inquiry recommendations, a summons authorization requests, a disposition agreement, and advisory opinions.

Chairman Dortch-Okara stated that the Commission would not discuss personnel matters, which had been an item on the Agenda.

Chairman Dortch-Okara stated that the Commission would not reconvene in public session following the executive session.

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

LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING

  1. Agenda for the Commission Meeting of October 19, 2017.
     
  2. Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the September 21, 2017 Public and Executive Sessions.
     
  3. Memorandum dated October 13, 2017 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 October 13, 2017 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the October 19, 2017 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 October 19, 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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