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Conservation Commissioners are municipal employees covered by the conflict of interest law (Chapter 268A of the General Laws). All municipal employees, whether elected or appointed, full or part-time, paid or unpaid must abide by the restrictions of the conflict of interest law.
The purpose of the conflict of interest law is to ensure that your private financial interests and relationships do not conflict with your responsibilities on the Conservation Commission. The law is broadly written to prevent you from even becoming involved in a situation which could result in a conflict or give the appearance of a conflict.
If you have been designated as a "special municipal employee," two sections of the conflict law, Sections 17 and 20, apply less restrictively to you. (All other sections of the conflict law which affect municipal employees apply to special municipal employees in the same way.) Most Conservation Commissioners may be designated as "specials"; see the Commission's Explanation of the Law on Special Municipal Employees for information on eligibility and the process of designation.
Accepting Gifts (Sections 3 and 23)
The conservation commission was involved in a dispute between a developer and a local citizen's group over a parcel of land within flood plain boundaries. Your commission decided not to allow the developer to build on the land. To show its gratitude, the local citizens group offers each of the commissioners a gift certificate to a fine restaurant in Boston. May you accept?
Prohibited Actions Affecting Financial Interests (Section 19)
You are a professional engineer. You work as site engineer for a development company presently building condominiums in town. May you, as commissioner, deliberate and vote on a notice of intent from the company for which you work?
Restrictions after Hours (Section 17)
To follow the previous example: You are a professional engineer working for a development company. May you represent the development company before the zoning board of appeals on a special permit concerning property located in wetlands?
Prohibited Financial Interest in Municipal Contracts & Multiple Jobs (Section 20)
You want to serve as an elected planning board member. If elected, may you hold positions on both the planning board and conservation commission? (This question assumes you are unpaid as a conservation commissioner.)
Misuse of Official Position (Section 23)
Your cousin, a lawyer, is representing a client in an appeal of your commission's decision. May you participate, as a commissioner, in the matter?
See the Commission’s Primer on the Code of Conduct for more detailed information.
Restrictions after You Leave Government Service (Section 18)
You have resigned as a member of the commission and now work for a developer who has a project pending before the city. May you represent the developer before various city boards and agencies?
This summary presents a brief overview of the conflict law and suggests activities which you, as a conservation commissioner, must avoid. It is not a comprehensive review intended to cover every situation. You should consult your municipal lawyer or call the Ethics Commission's Legal Division at 371-9500 for particular advice on the conflict law.
If you have a question about your own activities, we urge you to request an opinion from your city or town counsel or directly from the Commission prior to engaging in the activity in question.
If you have questions about the activities of other people who serve your municipality, urge them to use the opinion process. In addition, complaints may be filed with our Enforcement Division in person, by phone (at the same number listed above) or by letter. The identity of complainants is kept confidential.
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Commission summaries are prepared and issued by the Public Education and Communications Division of the State Ethics Commission. They are intended to provide guidance to public officials and employees concerning practical applications of the conflict law.
ISSUED: July 1987
REVISED: October 2017