- Karen L. Nober, Executive Director
Media Contact for Middlesex Registry of Deeds First Assistant Register Edward Wheeler Cited for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
David Giannotti, Communications Division Chief
Performed private legal work during public work time
Boston, MA — The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") in which Middlesex Registry of Deeds ("Registry") First Assistant Register Edward Wheeler ("Wheeler") admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by using Registry equipment and work time to conduct his private law practice. Pursuant to the Agreement, Wheeler will pay a $5,000 civil penalty.
According to the Agreement, a review of Wheeler's work computer revealed hundreds of documents dating from January 2005 through June 2010 related to Wheeler's private law practice. Many of these documents were accessed or edited during Wheeler's Registry work hours. In addition, Wheeler's law practice letterhead listed the fax number for the Registry. The Agreement states that Wheeler emailed private law practice documents to and from his Registry and home computers, used the Registry fax machine to transmit law practice documents, and printed law practice documents using Registry printers. Wheeler claimed that most of the private legal work he performed at the Registry was conducted during his lunch breaks. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that he used a substantial amount of public work time for his private law practice. Wheeler earned approximately $10,000 a year from his private legal work.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a state employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not available to similarly situated individuals. Wheeler violated section 23(b)(2) by using Registry equipment, supplies, facilities and time to perform his private legal work.