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Press Release Hardwick Planning Board Member Erik Fleming pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Violating Conflict of Interest Law

Fleming participated in Planning Board’s approval of site plan for new building at private school where he is a trustee
For immediate release:
11/09/2021
  • David A. Wilson, Executive Director

Media Contact for Hardwick Planning Board Member Erik Fleming pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Violating Conflict of Interest Law

Gerry Tuoti, Public Information Officer

Boston, MAThe State Ethics Commission has issued a Final Order approving a Disposition Agreement in which Hardwick Planning Board member Erik Fleming admits to violating the conflict of interest law by participating in the Planning Board’s approval of a site plan for new construction at a private school where he serves as a member of the Board of Trustees. The Commission accepted Fleming’s payment of a $5,000 civil penalty and dismissed the adjudicatory proceeding against him.

In April 2018, Eagle Hill School, a private college preparatory school in Hardwick, filed an application for a site plan approval, a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit for the construction of a new STEM building on campus. Site plan approval requires a majority vote of the Hardwick Planning Board.

As a trustee at Eagle Hill, Fleming oversees new construction and renovation projects. Fleming asked the Commission’s Legal Division whether he could participate as a Planning Board member in the review of Eagle Hill’s site plan and was advised that he was prohibited from participating in the review, that there was no disclosure available to him as an elected official which would allow his participation, and that he should abstain entirely from the review. The same day, Fleming filed a disclosure with the Hardwick Town Clerk disclosing his relationship with the school and indicating that he would vote as a Planning Board member on the site plan if necessary.

When the Planning Board opened a public hearing on May 15, 2018 on Eagle Hill’s application for site plan review, Fleming disclosed his relationship with Eagle Hill, erroneously invoked the “Rule of Necessity,” and participated in the Planning Board’s discussion of the application. When the hearing continued on June 12, 2018, Fleming further participated in the discussion as a Planning Board member, voted to approve Eagle Hill’s site plan, and then signed the Planning Board’s written decision approving the plan.

The conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from participating officially in matters in which they know a business organization in which they serve as trustee has a financial interest. The “Rule of Necessity” allows for public board members to participate in such matters only in very narrow circumstances; however, those circumstances were not present during the Hardwick Planning Board’s hearing on the Eagle Hill site plan. Fleming violated this prohibition by participating as a Planning Board member in approving Eagle Hill’s site plan by discussing it, voting on it, and signing the board’s written decision.

The State Ethics Commission is charged with 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, the Commission may authorize an adjudicatory proceeding against the employee. The Commission’s Enforcement Division initiated an adjudicatory proceeding against Fleming on September 14, 2021. When an adjudicatory proceeding is initiated, the public employee is afforded the opportunity to enter into a public disposition agreement rather than exercise their 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.

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Media Contact for Hardwick Planning Board Member Erik Fleming pays $5,000 Civil Penalty for Violating Conflict of Interest Law

State Ethics Commission 

The State Ethics Commission is an independent state agency that administers and enforces the provisions of the conflict of interest law and financial disclosure law.
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