Related to:

Order In the Matter of Helen Williams

Date: 05/09/1990
Organization: State Ethics Commission
Docket Number: 375
  • Appearance for Petitioner: Linda E. Neary, Esq.
  • Commissioners: Commissioners: Hennessey, Ch.; Gleason, Jarvis[1] [2]

I. Background

These adjudicatory proceedings were commenced when the Petitioner filed the Order to Show Cause on October 3, 1989 alleging that the Respondent, Helen Y. Williams, had violated G.L. c. 268B, §5(g)[3] by failing to amend her 1987 calendar year Statement of Financial Interest (SFI) in a timely manner.   Specifically, the Order to Show Cause alleged the Respondent, an Assistant Chief Housing Specialist with the Boston Housing Court, was designated under c. 268B and 930 CMR 2.00 to file a 1987 SFI which she filed on May 18, 1988.  On December 12, 1988 the Commission sent and on December 15th, 1988 the Respondent received a formal Notice of Delinquency (Notice) which outlined certain deficiencies in the Respondent’s 1987 SFI and specified that failure to amend her SFI within ten days would subject her to certain financial penalties.[4]  These deficiencies were: failure to report the name of the governmental body in which she served in 1987, her title, date of employment and income category, failure to report the assessed value of her residence, and failure to report the year in which her final mortgage payment was due. The Respondent filed an amendment to her 1987 SFI on April 24, 1989, seventy-six business days after the deadline indicated by the Notice.

The Respondent failed to Answer the October 3, 1989 Order to Show Cause.  The Petitioner filed a Motion for Summary Decision pursuant to 930 CMR 1.01(6)(f)(2) on October 30, 1989.[5]  In support of this motion, the Petitioner cited the Respondent’s failure to file an Answer to the Order to Show Cause within the 21 day period specified by 930 CMR 1.01(5)(b).[6]

Despite numerous opportunities to Answer the October, 1989 Order to Show Cause, the Respondent failed to respond either orally or in writing to any subsequent requests, notices, or orders of the Petitioner or the Presiding Officer.[7]  The Respondent, notwithstanding notice, failed to appear at the hearing on the Motion for Summary Decision held by the Presiding Officer on March 5, 1990.  The Respondent subsequently did not respond to the Order issued by the Presiding Officer on March 7, 1990 requesting the Respondent to submit a written brief by March 20, 1990 to show cause why Summary Decision should not be entered against her.

II. Sanction

The Respondent has violated G.L. c. 268B, §5(g) by filing an SFI amendment seventy-six days after receiving a Notice and has failed to participate in or otherwise cooperate in the adjudicatory hearings.

Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 268B, §4(j)(3), the Commission may impose a maximum civil penalty of $2,000 for each violation of c. 268B.  The Commission has previously imposed civil penalties for violations stemming from a respondent’s lack of response to the Commission’s adjudicatory proceedings.  See, In the Matter of Thomas H. Nolan, 1989 SEC 361 ($2,000 fine imposed with summary decision order based on a respondent’s  failure  to answer adjudicatory proceedings); In the Matter or Allison Goodsell, 1982 SEC 38 ($1,000 fine imposed for summary decision on basis of a respondent’s failure to respond to adjudicatory proceedings); See also, In the Matter of Terence J. McGee, 1984 SEC 167 ($1,000 fine).  In deciding a summary decision motion where the respondent has failed to respond to allegations set forth in an Order to Show Cause, the Commission may find a respondent has violated the law and weigh the seriousness of that violation in determine the appropriate fine. See, Nolan, supra.

The fine for filing an SFI amendment seventy-six business days late would be $1,420 according to the fine schedule set forth in the Formal Notice of Delinquency.  In previous cases involving the late filing of SFIs, however, the Commission has imposed a maximum fine of $500. See, In the Matter of Vernon R. Thornton, 1984 SEC 171.  In setting the $500 maximum penalty in Thornton, the Commission weighed the amount of the penalty against the nature of the violation.  Without condoning the Respondent’s actions, the Commission determined that a $500 penalty would secure compliance with the filing requirements of c. 268B.  Consistent with Commission policy articulated in Thornton, the Commission therefore believes a $500 maximum penalty should also be applied to cases where individuals file late amendments to their SFIs.  In adopting this maximum fine, the Commission recognizes the importance of the timely filing of an SFI amendment to ensure the accuracy of the information required on an SFI pursuant to c. 268B, §5(g).  In this case, we believe that the Respondent’s delinquency in filing her SFI amendment seventy-six days late together with her total lack of response in these adjudicatory proceedings warrants a maximum fine of $500.

III. Order

1. The Petitioner’s Motion for Summary Decision is hereby granted.

2. Pursuant to the Commission’s authority granted in c. 268B, §4(j)(3), the Respondent is ordered to pay a civil penalty of $500.00 within thirty days of notice of this decision.

[1] Commissioner Doty abstained from these proceedings.

[2] Commissioner Epps was the Presiding Officer to these adjudicatory proceedings.  He did not, however, participate in this ruling.

[3] Section 5(g), last paragraph states in relevant part:
Failure of a reporting person to file a statement of financial interests within ten days after receiving notice... or the filing of an incomplete statement of financial interests after receipt of such a notice, is a violation of this chapter and the Commission may initiate appropriate proceedings pursuant to the provisions of Section 4 of this chapter.

This section applies as well to the failure to file an amendment after receiving a Notice. In the Matter or John R. Buckley, 1980 SEC 2.

[4] The Formal Notice States:

Failure to respond to this notification of delinquency within ten (10) days carries with it specific financial penalties: FAILURE TO SUBMIT AN AMENDED SFI WITHIN 10 CALENDAR DAYS OF RECEIPT OF A FORMAL NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY CARRIES WITH IT A FINE OF $10 PER DAY FOR THE FIRST 10 BUSINESS DAYS AND $20 PER DAY AFTER THE FIRST 10 BUSINESS DAYS.

[5] 930 CMR 1.01 (6)(f)(2) states:

When the record discloses the failure of the Respondent to file documents required by these Rules, to respond to notices or correspondence, or to comply with orders of the Commission or Presiding Officer, or otherwise indicates a substantial failure to cooperate with the Adjudicatory Proceeding, the Presiding Officer may issue an order requiring that the Respondent show cause why a summary decision should not be entered against him. If the Respondent fails to show such cause, a summary decision may be entered in favor of the Petitioner. Any such summary decision shall be granted only by the Commission, shall be a Final Decision, and shall be made in writing as provided in Section 9(m) of these rules.

[6] 930 CMR 1.01 (5)(b) provides:

Answer. Within twenty-one (21) days of the issuance of an Order to Show Cause, the Respondent shall file an Answer containing a full, direct and specific answer to each claim set forth in the Order admitting, denying, or explaining material facts. If there is insufficient knowledge to answer with specificity, this shall be so stated and the response shall be treated as a general denial. The Answer shall contain all affirmative defenses which are relied upon and must cite any statute(s) and/or regulation(s) which form the basis of each defense. All allegations contained in the Order which are not specifically admitted in the Answer shall be deemed denied. All new matters contained in the Answer shall be treated as if denied.

[7] See, December 7, 1989 letter from Presiding Officer to Respondent; Notice of Hearing on Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment dated December 29, 1989; Motion for New Hearing Date on Petitioner’s Motion for Summary Decision dated February 5, 1990; and Order issued by Presiding Officer on March 7, 1990.


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