- David A. Wilson, Executive Director
Media Contact for State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division Alleges Hardwick Planning Board Member Erik Fleming Violated Conflict of Interest Law
Gerry Tuoti, Public Information Officer
Boston, MA — The State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause today alleging that Hardwick Planning Board Member Erik Fleming violated the conflict of interest law by participating as a Planning Board member in approving a site plan for new construction at a private school where he serves as a member of the Board of Trustees, despite having received advice from the Commission’s Legal Division that he was prohibited from doing so.
The Order to Show Cause states that as an Eagle Hill School trustee, Fleming oversees new construction and renovation projects at the private college preparatory school in Hardwick. In April 2018, Eagle Hill 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, according to the Order.
The Order alleges 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, the Order alleges.
According to the Order, on May 15, 2018, when the Planning Board opened a public hearing on Eagle Hill’s application for site plan review, Fleming disclosed his relationship to Eagle Hill and participated as in the Planning Board’s discussion of the application. The Order alleges that 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 subsequently 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 Order alleges that Fleming violated this prohibition by, as a Planning Board member, participating in approving Eagle Hill’s site plan by discussing it, voting on it, and signing the board’s written decision.
Pursuant to the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures, the Enforcement Division files an Order to Show Cause after the Commission has found reasonable cause to believe the subject of the Order violated the conflict of interest law. Before filing the Order to Show Cause, the Enforcement Division gives the subject an opportunity to resolve the matter through a disposition agreement. The Commission will schedule a public hearing on the allegations against Fleming within 90 days.
The Commission is authorized to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations of the conflict of interest law.
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.