Opinion  EC-COI-87-33

Date: 08/17/1987
Organization: State Ethics Commission

A selectman, whose son is a police patrolman, may not participate in the creation of a new position or in the promotion of the son's supervisors, since the son has a financial interest in these matters.

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You are an elected member of the ABC Board of Selectmen.  Your son is a patrolman with the town police department.  The police department is comprised of one chief and several sergeants and patrolmen.  The Chief has proposed the creation of a new position of Captain.  Only current sergeants will be eligible for the newly created position of captain.  Creation of the new position of captain requires approval of the board of selectmen, and if appointed, will create an opening for sergeant.  If this occurs, your son would be interested in being promoted to the position of


1. Does G.L. c. 268A permit you, as a board of selectmen member, to participate in a vote to create the new position of captain?

2. If the board of selectmen votes to create a new position of captain, may you participate in a discussion or vote relative to the promotion of one of the four current sergeants?


1.  No

2. No


Members of the board of selectmen are municipal employees within the meaning of the conflict of interest law and, therefore, are subject to its provisions.  G.L. c. 268A, s.1(q).  The conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee, such as a member of the board of selectmen, from participating in a particular matter in which the employee, or a member of her immediate family, has a financial interest.[1]  G.L. c. 268A, s.19(a).   A determination to create a new position of captain is a particular matter, G.L.c. 268A, s.1(k), and any discussion or vote on this matter would
constitute participation.  See, Graham v. McGrail, 370 Mass. 133 (1976); EC-COI-82-10.  The remaining issue is whether your son, an immediate family member, has a financial interest in the matter.  The disqualifying financial interest in a determination to create the captain's position must be "direct and immediate or at least reasonably foreseeable."  EC-COI-84-123see also, 84-96 and 84-98.

In this case, the decision to create the new position of captain would foreseeably impact the financial interest of your son.

This is because you have stated that the appointment of captain will create a vacancy in one of the four sergeant positions, and your son has a current interest in being promoted to sergeant.  Thus, there is a line of causation which will impact on your son.  Cf. EC-COI-87-16 (where the individuals who might have potential interests in a future vacant elected position were not sufficiently identifiable).

Since the opening for the sergeant's position will affect your son's financial interest as long as he is interested in the promotion, you will be prohibited from participating in any decision to appoint any one of the four sergeants to the position of captain.  Similarly, you are prohibited from participating in the selection of a sergeant if your son in fact applies for the resulting vacant position.

[1] "Immediate family," the employee and his spouse, and their parents, children, brothers and sisters.

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