Opinion  EC-COI-85-64

Date: 08/13/1985
Organization: State Ethics Commission

A municipal fire chief who is responsible for enforcing town fire ordinances may not be paid for working private details in the town, because his detail compensation would be received for performing acts which are the subject of his official responsibility.

Table of Contents


You are chief of the Town of ABC's fire department and as such have responsibility for enforcing Town fire ordinances. DEF stadium is located in the Town, and when events are held there they can attract several thousand people. As fire chief you assign paid details of firefighters to stadium events. A fire department officer also works these details for the purpose of supervising the firefighters. The officer in charge uses a Town vehicle when he works these details. Firefighters are paid for their private detail services at a rate established in their collective bargaining agreement with the Town. The stadium pays the Town for the firefighters' services. The Town deposits that money in a special account separate from other Town monies and then pays the firefighters out of that account. The Town charges the stadium a 10 percent administration fee pursuant to G.L. c. 44, § 53C. As fire chief you would be paid in the same manner as the firefighters for working a detail but would receive a higher rate of compensation based on your annual salary broken down into an hourly wage. This figure is approximately twenty dollars an hour, and you state that you would earn at least one hundred dollars for each detail.


Does G.L. c. 268A permit you as fire chief to be paid for working details at the stadium?




As fire chief for ABC you are a municipal employee and therefore are subject to the provisions of G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law. The section of the law that is applicable to your question is § 3.

Section 3(b) prohibits a municipal employee, other than as provided by law for the proper discharge of official duties, from directly or indirectly receiving anything of substantial value for himself for or because of any official act or acts within his official responsibility performed or to be performed by him. You have stated that your general supervisory responsibilities require you to be on call twenty-four hours a day. You have responsibility for enforcing fire and safety codes within the Town. You have responsibility for the activities of firefighters who are working paid details. When you work a stadium detail you use a Town vehicle. Thus the money you receive for working stadium details is being paid to you for your performing acts which are the subject of your official responsibilities as chief. See, e.g. In the Matter of James F. Connery, 1985 Ethics Commission 253; In the Matter of John A. Deleire, 1985 Ethics Commission 236. Furthermore, the payment you receive is something of substantial value.[1] While your situation is distinguishable from those in Connery and Deleire in that you are not paid directly by the stadium management, this does not alter the result. Section 3(b) prohibits both the direct and indirect receipt of items of substantial value (emphasis supplied). Under the G.L. c. 44, § 53C payment procedure, the Town merely serves as a conduit between the private entity and the public employee, presumably to ensure the efficiency and integrity of the off-duty detail work system. The money you receive from the Town is the money paid to the Town by the stadium, specifically earmarked as payment for detail work and segregated from all other Town funds. Thus you are being indirectly compensated by the stadium for services you are already being paid by the Town to provide. In summary, § 3(b) prohibits the arrangement you have asked about.[2]

End Of Decision

[1] See Commonwealth v. Famigletti. 4 Mass. App. 584 (1976) (A fifty dollar payment constitutes something of substantial value within the meaning of G.L. c. 268A, § 3(b).

[2] The advice contained in this advisory opinion is prospective only and cannot address the propriety of conduct that has already occurred.

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