- Karen L. Nober, Executive Director
Media Contact for Former Southampton Board of Health Member Paul Truehart Pays $3,000 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
David Giannotti, Communications Division Chief
Board of Health member performed private septic system work that was regulated by the Board of Health
Boston, MA — The State Ethics Commission has concluded the adjudicatory matter involving former Southampton ("the Town") Board of Health ("BOH") member Paul Truehart ("Truehart") by approving a Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") in which Truehart admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, and agreed to pay a $3,000 civil penalty, and by dismissing the adjudicatory hearing.
The adjudicatory hearing was initiated by the Commission's Enforcement Division by the filing of an Order to Show Cause on December 30, 2010. In the Agreement, Truehart admitted that he had violated section 17 of the conflict of interest law by performing private septic system work in the Town.
According to the Agreement, septic system work in the Town is regulated by the BOH. In his private capacity, Truehart performed the following septic work in the town, during the time when he was serving as a member of the BOH:
- Between May and July, 2008, Truehart completed a septic system upgrade at 11 East Street and was paid $19,500 for the work. He signed the Title V certificate form as the installer in order to receive a certificate of compliance from the BOH.
- In October 2009, Truehart repaired a septic system at 2 Parsons Way and was paid $2,900 for the work. He contacted the BOH Agent to inspect the work and also signed the Title V certificate form as the installer in order to receive a certificate of compliance from the BOH.
- Sometime in 2009, Truehart installed septic systems at 11 and 17 Riverdale Road Extension and was paid $46,858. Truehart contacted the BOH Agent to inspect the installations, and signed the Title V certificate form as the installer in order to receive certificates of compliance from the BOH.
Section 17(a) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from receiving or requesting compensation from anyone other than the town in relation to any particular matter in which the same town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. Section 17(c) prohibits a municipal employee from acting as agent or attorney for anyone other than the town in connection with any particular matter in which the same town is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.
According to the Agreement, Truehart violated section 17(a) by being paid by the property owners for performing septic system work at 11 East Street, 2 Parsons Way and 11 and 17 Riverdale Road Extension. He violated section 17(c) by signing Title V certificate forms for each of these properties, and by contacting the Health Agent to inspect his work at 2 Parsons Way and 11 and 17 Riverdale Road Extension. These activities were conducted on behalf of the property owners.
According to the Agreement, Truehart believed that he could perform septic system work in the Town as long as he abstained as a BOH member from approving his own work. By abstaining, Truehart complied with section 19 of the conflict of interest law, which prohibits a municipal employee from participating in a matter when he has a financial interest. However, as stated in the Agreement, "§ 17 imposed additional restrictions on Truehart, which could not have been addressed by Truehart abstaining as a BOH member. To comply with § 17, Truehart needed to refrain from performing private compensated work in connection with any septic system applications approved by the BOH, which included the septic system installations, signing the Title V Certificates, and contacting his subordinate, the Health Agent, to perform the inspections."
"In these circumstances, abstaining from participating in these matters as a member of the Board of Health did in fact satisfy one provision of the conflict of interest law. However, other provisions of the law prohibit municipal employees from representing private business interests in matters regulated by the municipality to ensure undivided loyalty to the municipality," stated Commission Executive Director Karen L. Nober.