September 21, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Contact for September 21, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
State Ethics Commission
Overview of September 21, 2017 State Ethics Commission Meeting Minutes- Public Session
Chairman Barbara A. Dortch-Okara called the meeting to order at 9:09 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 Commissioner Mills, seconded by Commissioner Krokidas, the Commission voted 5-0 to waive the reading and approve the minutes of the July 24, 2017 public and executive sessions.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Executive Director, David A. Wilson reported that interviews have been scheduled for the Public Information and Communications Officer position.
Appointment of New Commissioner
Mr. Wilson reported that Vice-Chairman Quinlan’s term will expire on October 9, 2017. Mr. Wilson stated that he has been advised that Secretary of State Galvin is working on appointing a new Commissioner.
Chairman Dortch-Okara expressed her thanks to Vice-Chairman Quinlan for her service on the Commission. Chairman Dortch-Okara noted that Vice-Chairman Quinlan has been outspoken in her support for staff, and she has appreciated Vice-Chairman Quinlan’s voice on the Commission, especially regarding her concern for staff morale.
Vice-Chairman Quinlan stated that she has been impressed by the quality of the Commission’s work and staff. Vice-Chairman Quinlan noted that although she has found her service on the Commission to be challenging, she has taken great pride in her appointment.
Mr. Wilson reported that annual staff evaluations will be completed within the next month. He noted the evaluation process for the Executive Director will begin after staff evaluations are completed.
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission will not see any budget increase in FY 2018. The Commission’s FY 2018 budget will be the same as the FY 2017 budget, $2,093,969.
Mr. Wilson reported that the Commission’s FY 2018 spending plan was filed with Administration and Finance (A&F) on September 8, 2017. Mr. Wilson commended Chief Financial Officer/Director of Budget & Administration Alice Wu and Financial Disclosure Administrator and Analyst/SFI Robert Milt for their work on the spending plan.
Mr. Wilson reported that with assistance from Ms. Wu, and Mr. Milt, he has started working on the FY 2019 Maintenance Budget, which will be submitted to A&F by the end of October.
Ethics Task Force
Mr. Wilson reported that the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government Report has been sent to the House and Senate Ethics Committees and to the joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight (“SARO”). Representative Jennifer Benson is the new House Chair of the SARO Committee. On September 12, 2017, Mr. Wilson met with Rep. Benson and offered his assistance to the Committee. Mr. Wilson noted that he is planning to meet with other members of the three legislative committees in the future.
Mr. Wilson reported that the office renovations have almost been completed. He stated that 100 fluorescent lighting fixtures have been replaced with LED fixtures. The new lighting fixtures cast brighter light and turn off automatically when not in use.
Mr. Wilson reported that the annual conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) will be held on December 3-6, 2017 in Toronto. Mr. Wilson will attend the conference with some members of the staff. Mr. Wilson noted that there are funds available in the budget to pay for most of the cost of attendance. Mr. Wilson asked the Commissioners to let him know if they would like to attend the conference.
The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 9:00 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 September. Mr. Giannotti reported that the FY 2016 Annual Report has been completed and is now available on the Commission’s website.
Mr. Giannotti reported that on September 8, 2017, a new statewide Mass.Gov website was launched. The new website platform is consumer/constituent based and the Commission’s website is part of the Mass.Gov portal. Mr. Giannotti reported that a committee consisting of Mr. Wilson, Ms. Roney, Senior Assistant General Counsel Pauline Nguyen, Assistant General Counsel Kevin Larivee, Information Technology Specialist Tony Webb, Investigations Director Paul Murray, Public Education Director David Giannotti and Staff Counsel Norah Mallam has been meeting weekly to migrate the information from the old website into the new format. Mr. Giannotti thanked the members of the website team for their work on this project and commended Ms. Mallam for her assistance in building the basic website architecture in the new platform.
Ms. Mallam reported that during the next several months, the website team will convert approximately 1,000 documents into the new website format, including Commission educational materials, formal Legal Opinions and Enforcement Rulings. The Legal Division is also in the process of updating educational materials, including the Explanations of the Law and Primers. Ms. Mallam thanked the website team and Legal Division for their work on this project.
Massachusetts School Building Association (“MSBA”) Seminar
Mr. Giannotti reported that in conjunction with the Director of Strategic Development for the MSBA, he has put together a targeted seminar for MSBA members. Mr. Giannotti noted that he has completed a power point presentation and has presented a seminar for the MSBA. Mr. Giannotti is reported that he is now revising his presentation based on feedback he received.
Online Training Program Accessibility Remediation Project
Mr. Giannotti provided a brief history of the online training programs and noted that there have been accessibility issues with these programs for many years. Mr. Giannotti thanked Ms. Nguyen for the tremendous amount of work she has done with the vendor to complete this project and to ensure that the training programs are now fully accessible.
Ms. Nguyen reported that the Commission currently has two online training programs, one for municipal employees and one for state and county employees. For many years, the Commission received feedback from users that it was difficult to complete the programs using JAWS, a software program that assists visually impaired individuals in reading websites. Ms. Nguyen reported that the training programs are now fully accessible and we now have the ability to make additional changes to the programs as needed in the future. Ms. Nguyen thanked the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and the Massachusetts Office of Disability for testing the programs using JAWS. Ms. Nguyen also thanked Staff Counsel Candies Pruitt-Doncaster, Assistant Enforcement Counsel Tracy Morong, Deputy Chief/SFI Lauren Duca and Ms. Mallam for their assistance in testing the programs.
Mr. Wilson noted that he made a commitment to the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government that the Commission would make the online training programs fully accessible, and thanks to Ms. Nguyen’s work, this commitment has been fulfilled. Mr. Wilson commended Ms. Nguyen for her extraordinary work on this project, and noted that she completed it on time and within budget.
LEGAL DIVISION MATTERS
General Counsel Deirdre Roney reported that the Legal Division is now fully staffed.
Ms. Roney reported that the Legal Division is developing a protocol for responding to public records requests. The Commission is required to report the number of public records requests it receives and the time it takes to respond to the requests to the Secretary of State’s Office. Ms. Roney noted that she is checking with the Secretary of State’s Office to find out whether it is necessary to report the requests the Commission receives to view Statements of Financial Interests (“SFI”). Ms. Roney does not think that it is necessary to report requests to view SFIs, as SFIs are now available automatically to individuals who have registered to use the online SFI inspection program.
Legal Division Metrics for July and August 2017
Ms. Roney presented the following Legal Division metrics for July and August 2017.
- Written advice. The Legal Division answered by letter or email 70 (July) and 76 (August) written requests for advisory opinions under G.L. c. 268A and c. 268B.
For comparison: July 2016 (same month last year): 33
August 2016 (same month last year): 73
June 2017 (previous month): 56
- Oral advice. The Legal Division attorneys provided advice by telephone or on a walk-in basis in response to 497 (July) and 377 (August) requests for advice from state, county and municipal officials.
For comparison: July 2016 (same month last year): 332
August 2016 (same month last year): 520
June 2017 (previous month): 403
- Review of municipal letters. Division staff reviewed 3 (July) and 1 (August) letters issued by city solicitors/town counsel pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 22 and 930 CMR 1.03.
For comparison: July 2016 (same month last year): 1
August 2016 (same month last year): 8
June 2017 (previous month): 5
- Backlog. As of today, the Division has 7 pending requests for written advice that are more than 30 days old, the oldest are from July 2017. There are a total of 22 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. Mr. Roney noted that argument of McGovern’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the Commission’s cross-motion is likely to be calendared for November 2017.
ENFORCEMENT DIVISION MATTERS
Investigations Unit Metrics Report
Enforcement Division Chief Monica Brookman presented the monthly report of Investigations for Unit activities for July and August 2017.
At 9:57 a.m., on the motion of Chairman Dortch-Okara, seconded by Commissioner Mills, the Commission voted 5-0 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, a preliminary inquiry recommendation, a summons authorization request, preliminary inquiry reports, advisory opinions and deliberations.
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 Mills yes
Commissioner Sartory yes
Commissioner Krokidas yes
LIST OF DOCUMENTS USED AT THIS MEETING
- Agenda for the Commission Meeting of September 21, 2017.
- Minutes of the State Ethics Commission Meeting for the July 24, 2017 Public and Executive Sessions.
- Memorandum dated September 14, 2017 from Public Education and Communications Division Chief David Giannotti to the Commission concerning Public Education and Communications Division report for the meeting.
- Memorandum dated September 15, 2017 from General Counsel Deirdre Roney to the Commission setting forth Legal Division matters for the September 21, 2017 meeting.
- Calendar of Hearing Dates in pending Commission Adjudicatory Proceedings.
- Report of Enforcement Division Intake metrics.
Norah K. Mallam