You are currently a full-time employee of the State Treasury as a staff employee of the State Board of Retirement ("Board"). The Board was created by statute, as a division of the Department of the State Treasurer. G.L. c. 10, s. 18. The Board has three members. The first member is the State Treasurer, who is a member ex officio and who serves as chairman. The second member is a current or retired member of the retirement system, elected by that group. The third member is chosen by the first two members. You have taken out nomination papers for election as the second member of the Board.
Pursuant to G.L. c. 10, s. 19, Board members serve without compensation, but are reimbursed for any expense or loss of salary which they may incur through service on the Board. Board members are not involved in staff employees' promotions, reclassifications, demotions, firings, salary recommendations, personnel evaluations or other like recommendations.
1. Pursuant to the conflict of interest law, may you retain your staff position while running for the Board post?
2. Would the conflict of interest law prohibit you from retaining your staff position if you are elected to the Board?
Nothing in the conflict of interest law prevents a government employee from running for any elected position. Commission Advisory No. 2. The more difficult issue presented in your request is whether you may retain your current full-time position as a staff member if you are elected to the second Board post. Normally, the propriety of holding multiple positions is addressed by s. 7 of the conflict of interest law, which prohibits a state employee from having a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in a contract made by a state agency, in which the Commonwealth or any state agency is an interested party, unless an exemption applies. Thus, as a Board member, you would normally be prohibited from holding a paid position as a staff member at the Board, absent a gubernatorial exemption. G.L. c. 268A, s. 7(e). However, G.L. c. 10, s. 18 specifically requires the second Board member to be either a current or retired member of the state retirement system. This means that a state employee would serve on the Board by virtue of his state employment. "Such a situation is analogous to a state employee serving ex officio on a Board", EC-COI-84-148. Because service in both capacities is "tied to one state contract, i.e. the original state employment contract, such an individual would not have a s.7 prohibited financial interest in another state contract." Id. Therefore, s. 7 is not implicated for you if you are elected to the second Board position.
Section 6 prohibits a state employee from participating as such an employee in a particular matter in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest. The financial interest must be "direct and immediate, or at least reasonably foreseeable." EC-COI-84-123; 84-98; 86-25; 84-96. You indicate that Board members are not involved in staff employees' promotions, reclassifications, demotions, firings, salary recommendations, setting of salaries, personnel evaluations or other like recommendations. Pursuant to G.L. c. 10, s. 20, the State Treasurer has the ability to appoint and remove such clerical and other assistants as may be required to carry on the work of the Board. Thus, if you are elected to the Board, it is unlikely that you will be required to participate in any particular matters in which you have a financial interest. However, if you find that you do have a prohibited financial interest in a particular matter that comes before you as a Board member (for example, a dispute concerning your own retirement benefits) you must abstain from that matter.