- David A. Wilson, Executive Director
Media Contact for Appeals Court affirms Superior Court ruling upholding State Ethics Commission’s decision that Agawam Police Lt. Edward McGovern violated the conflict of interest law
Gerry Tuoti, Public Information Officer
Boston, MA — In a decision issued today, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has affirmed a Hampden County Superior Court ruling to uphold the State Ethics Commission’s 2016 decision that Agawam Police Lt. Edward McGovern violated the conflict of interest law by giving preferential treatment to a fellow police officer suspected of driving the wrong way on a state highway while intoxicated.
Following an adjudicatory hearing, the Commission ordered on January 5, 2016 that McGovern pay a $7,500 civil penalty for violating the conflict of interest law. McGovern appealed the Commission’s decision in Hampden County Superior Court, then appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court after the Commission’s decision was upheld in Superior Court.
The Commission determined that when McGovern responded to a one-car crash involving an off-duty Agawam police officer, he failed to arrest or cite her, and failed to conduct any meaningful investigation, despite having probable cause that the officer had been driving the wrong way on Route 5 in North Agawam while intoxicated. McGovern’s actions violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against public employees using their positions to obtain unwarranted privileges for others.
The night of June 29, 2012, two Agawam officers and a West Springfield officer arrived at a stretch of Route 5 in North Agawam, following reports of a wrong-way driver. At the crash scene, they saw a stopped, damaged SUV facing the wrong direction. Outside the SUV was an off-duty Agawam police officer, who appeared intoxicated, according to at least one of the responding officers. Uncomfortable handling the situation because of their relationship with the officer, the Agawam officers contacted their supervisor and requested assistance from a superior. The supervisor informed McGovern that the officer was involved in the incident, and McGovern agreed to go to the scene.
At the scene, McGovern observed that the officer was acting intoxicated. McGovern, the officer-in-charge at the scene, spoke to the other responding officers. After learning that there were no witnesses and no pending charges against the officer, McGovern directed one of the Agawam officers to give the officer a ride home.
The State Ethics Commission is charged with civilly enforcing the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. The Commission encourages public employees to contact the Commission’s Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to them.