Opinion  EC-COI-88-18

Date: 08/25/1988
Organization: State Ethics Commission

A member of the General Court and also a committee chairman may not attend a conference where the transportation, food, lodging and expenses would be paid for by an association of companies who have a direct interest in matters before his committee. 

Table of Contents


You are a member of the General Court and Chairman of a particular committee. You have been asked by the an association of manufacturers to attend its 1988 conference for state legislative leaders. You and 35 other legislative leaders from around the country would be the guests of the association. The association would pay for your transportation and expenses. As we understand it, association members have a direct interest in matters before the committee.


[Page 209]

May you attend the convention and accept the provision of transportation, hotel, food and related expenses from the association?




In your capacity as a member of the General Court, you are a state employee for the purposes of the conflict law. See, G.L. c. 268A, s.1(q).

Section 3(b) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a state employee from soliciting or accepting anything of substantial value[1] for or because of any official act performed or to be performed. "Official act" is defined in the statute to include any decision or action in a particular matter or in the enactment of legislation.~[2] The receipt of something of substantial value violates s.3 even if given out of a desire to maintain a public employee's goodwill. You should be aware that the Commission has determined that even in the absence of any specifically identifiable matter that was, is or soon will be pending before the official, s.3 may apply. Certainly where, as here, the donor has a special interest in actions taken by your legislative committee and where your position as Chairman would permit you to act distinctly and directly to the benefit of the association's members, s.3 would be implicated.[3] See, EC-COI-83-37; 83-19.

The Commission has noted that if such a subsidized trip is not being made for a legitimate speaking engagement, s. 23 of the statute would also be violated. EC-COI-83-87 at 3. This section prohibits a state employee from using his official position to secure for himself unwarranted privileges, or from engaging in conduct which gives reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is unduly affected by the position or influence of any party or position. Longstanding Commission precedent indicates that the acceptance of expenses or fees by a legislator is permissible only where these items are either for, or made necessary by, a legitimate speaking engagement. Commission Guidelines for Legislators Accepting Expenses and Fees for Speaking Engagements at 1. Where, as here, the provision of transportation, hotel, food, and related expenses is not for or because of a speaking engagement, the receipt of these expenses is not permissible.

Accordingly, you may not attend this convention by accepting the provision of transportation, hotel, food and related expenses by the association.

[1] Substantial value has been determined by the Commission to be anything of $50 or more in value.

[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, s.1(k).

[3] While s.3(b) does contain an exemption where acceptance of a gift is provided by law for the proper discharge of official duty", this exemption is not applicable to your situation. Compare, In the Matter of Louis L. Logan, 1981 SEC 40.

End Of Decision

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