- David A. Wilson, Executive Director
Media Contact for Former Hadley Select Board Member Donald Pipczynski Pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Violating Conflict of Interest Law
Gerry Tuoti, Public Information Officer
Boston, MA — Former Hadley Select Board member Donald Pipczynski has paid a $5,000 civil penalty after admitting to violating the conflict of interest law by invoking his official position to threaten a private club that expelled him, and by voting as a Select Board member against forwarding complaints about his conduct to the State Ethics Commission.
The Commission on March 21 approved a disposition agreement in which Pipczynski admitted to the violations, waived his right to contest the Commission’s findings, and agreed to pay the civil penalty.
In August 2016, after the Young Men’s Club of Hadley voted to revoke his membership, Pipczynski visited the private club and stated, “If I’ve been kicked out, I’m going to be the second Select Board member in town to have a problem with this club and you’re going to have a major issue on your hands.” The Select Board is responsible for renewing the club’s liquor and entertainment licenses.
The Select Board received two additional complaints that Pipczynski had invoked his position or flashed his Select Board member’s badge in private disputes. In both instances, the Select Board voted to send the conflict of interest complaints to the State Ethics Commission. Pipczynski participated in both votes, voting each time against forwarding the complaints.
The conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, generally prohibits public employees from using their positions for personal gain. Pipczynski violated two sections of this law.
By using his status as a Select Board member to threaten the Young Men’s Club of Hadley in an attempt to regain his club membership, Pipczynski violated Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of the conflict of interest law, which prohibits public employees from using or attempting to use their official positions to secure unwarranted privileges of substantial value that are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
Pipczynski also violated the conflict of interest law when he voted as a Select Board member against forwarding complaints about his own conduct to the State Ethics Commission, which has the authority to impose civil penalties for violations of the law. Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits municipal officials from participating in matters in which they know they have a financial interest. Each time he voted as a Select Board member against forwarding complaints about his own conduct to the State Ethics Commission, Pipczynski knew that, because the Commission can impose civil penalties for violations, he had a financial interest in the votes.
The State Ethics Commission is charged with civilly enforcing the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. When at least three of the Commission’s five members vote to find reasonable cause to believe a public employee has violated the law, they can also authorize adjudicatory proceedings to determine whether the violation occurred. The public employee then has the opportunity to enter into a public disposition agreement rather than exercising his or her right to a hearing. 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.