Opinion  EC-COI-86-25

Date: 11/17/1986
Organization: State Ethics Commission

A city councilor who is privately employed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association may not participate as a city councilor in filling a school committee vacancy.

Table of Contents


You are one of eleven elected members of the X City Council. The Council, together with the Mayor and School Committee, will be meeting in joint convention on November 18, 1986 to select an appointee from among four applicants to fill a vacancy on the School Committee. Outside of your City Council duties, you are a full-time employee of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). One of the MTA's local affiliates, the X Education Association (XEA), represents a collective bargaining unit of teachers and nurses within the School System. Pursuant to the affiliation arrangement between the XEA and MTA, each member of the bargaining unit pays annual dues or agency service fees to the MTA.

The collective bargaining agreement between the School Committee and XEA expired on August 31, 1986, and the parties are currently in mediation over the terms of a successor agreement. Among the provisions which may be included in the successor agreement are salaries for bargaining unit members and continuation of agency service fees and dues deductions payable to the MTA.


In view of your employment by the MTA, does G.L. c. 268A permit your participation in the November 18,1986 joint convention to fill a School Committee vacancy?




Section 19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits you from participating[1] in any particular matter[2] in which a business organization which employs you has a financial interest. The selection of an appointee to fill a School Committee vacancy is a "particular matter" in which you would "participate" if you discussed or voted on the vacancy selection at the November 18, 1986 joint convention. Whether § 19 requires your abstention depends on whether the MTA, a business organization which employs you, has a financial interest in the selection. Based upon the information you have provided, we conclude that the MTA has a financial interest in the selection.

The new appointee to the School Committee will necessarily become involved in the negotiation and approval of a successor collective bargaining agreement. The MTA has a reasonably foreseeable financial interest in the selection because the new appointee will decide whether to approve provisions directly affecting the MTA's financial interests. The inclusion, for example, of an agency service fee or dues checkoff provision, has a direct financial impact on the MTA. Similarly, to the extent that the approval of a salary increase may result in insufficient resources to fund other bargaining unit positions, any resulting loss of bargaining unit members will result in fewer deductions or agency service fees being paid to the MTA.

For the purposes of § 19, whether a financial interest is sufficiently foreseeable depends on the facts of each case. EC-COI-84-98. For example, if the appointee were to serve during a one-year period in which there were an existing collective bargaining agreement in place, then it would be unlikely that the appointee would be involved in deciding matters affecting the MTA's financial interest sufficient to warrant abstention under § 19. The facts which you have provided, however, present a different picture because your employer, the MTA, will be affected financially from the resolution of the contract dispute in which the appointee will participate.

End Of Decision

[1] "Participating," participate in agency action or in a particular matter personally and substantially as a state, county and municipal employee, through approval, disapproval, decision, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation or otherwise. G.L. c. 268A, § 1(j).

[2] "Particular matter," any judicial or other proceeding, application, submission, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest, decision, determination, finding, but excluding enactment of general legislation by the general court and petitions of cities, towns, counties and districts for special laws related to their governmental organizations, powers, duties, finances and property. G.L. c. 268A, § 1(k).

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