- David A. Wilson, Executive Director
Media Contact for State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division Alleges Lanesborough Economic Development Committee Chair and Planning Board Member Barbara Davis-Hassan 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 Lanesborough Economic Development Committee Chair and Planning Board member Barbara Davis-Hassan violated the Conflict of Interest Law by representing Berkshire Mall owner Durga Property Holdings, Inc. (Durga) in local tax and infrastructure matters and by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the mall while she privately had a marketing arrangement to sell the mall. In addition, Davis-Hassan allegedly violated the law by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone a second property while privately serving as the listing agent for the property.
According to the Order to Show Cause, Davis-Hassan, who owns and operates Barb Hassan Realty, had an exclusive marketing arrangement to lease space in or sell the Berkshire Mall when she participated as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the mall property to facilitate redevelopment. After Lanesborough Town Meeting approved the rezoning, the mall sold in July 2022 for $8 million and Davis-Hassan received a $240,000 commission on the sale.
In 2019 and 2020, according to the Order, Davis-Hassan appeared on behalf of Berkshire Mall owner Durga before the Baker Hill Road District (BHRD), an entity created through a home-rule petition. The BHRD assesses and collects taxes on properties within the district, including the mall, for road maintenance and municipal services including Lanesborough police and fire services. In at least one of her appearances, Davis-Hassan asked questions intended to show the BHRD should be dissolved. She later, on behalf of Durga, sent draft proposals to the Lanesborough Town Manager to dissolve the BHRD, and communicated with the Town Manager and a member of the Legislature on behalf of Durga regarding the dissolution of the BHRD, the Order to Show Cause alleges.
The Order also alleges that Davis-Hassan applied to the Lanesborough Board of Assessors for a tax abatement on Durga’s behalf, appeared for Durga before the Board of Assessors regarding the tax abatement application, and, on behalf of Durga, emailed the Lanesborough Board of Selectmen regarding an application for a grant to address water and sewer concerns at the mall.
In addition to her activities regarding the mall property, Davis-Hassan participated as a Planning Board member is discussing a proposal for light manufacturing and mixed commercial use on a Williamstown Road property for which she was the listing agent, the Order alleges. The property later sold for $250,000, and Davis-Hassan received a $25,000 commission on the sale.
The conflict of interest law prohibits public employees from participating officially in matters in which they or businesses they own have a financial interest. The conflict of interest law also prohibits municipal employees from acting as agent for anyone other than the municipality in connection with matters in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.
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 Davis-Hassan within 90 days.
The Commission is authorized to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation 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.