Settlement

Settlement Disposition Agreement in the Matter of Daniel Keefe

Date: 04/27/2022
Organization: State Ethics Commission
Docket Number: 22-0002
Referenced Sources: G.L. c. 268A, the Conflict of Interest Law, as Amended by c. 194, Acts of 2011

Table of Contents

Disposition Agreement

The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) and Daniel Keefe (“Keefe”) enter into this Disposition Agreement pursuant to Section 3 of the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented-to final order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(j).

On March 18, 2021, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, § 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. On January 19, 2022, the Commission concluded its inquiry and found reasonable cause to believe that Keefe violated G.L. c. 268A, § 19.

The Commission and Keefe now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

Background Facts

  1. Keefe, a resident of Blackstone, was at all relevant times a member of the Town of Blackstone (“Town”) Board of Selectmen (“BOS”).
  2. Keefe’s spouse, Laurie Keefe (“Ms. Keefe”) was at all relevant times the Director of the Town’s Senior Center/Council on Aging, a paid municipal position.
  3. In 2015, Keefe contacted the State Ethics Commission’s Legal Division for advice concerning conflicts of interest that could arise with both he and his spouse serving as Town employees. Keefe was advised not to participate in any matter in which his spouse has a financial interest, including the Senior Center budget, but instead to recuse himself from any participation in all such matters. The Legal Division explained to Keefe that participation includes the discussion of a matter.

A.  July 1, 2020, Meeting Regarding Town Employee Stipends and Pay Raises

Findings of Fact

  1. In 2020, the Town was awarded $822,252 of federal CARES Act funding.
  2. In or about June 2020, then Town Administrator Daniel Keyes (TA Keyes) planned to propose using a portion of the CARES Act money to fund stipends for Town employees who had gone “above and beyond” during the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to physically report to work every.
  3. In or about June 2020, TA Keyes also planned to propose pay raises for certain Town employees after budget cuts resulted in the consolidation of staff.
  4. In June 2020, TA Keyes and the Town Accountant met with the heads of each Town department, including Ms. Keefe, to discuss the potential stipends and raises.
  5. On June 30, 2020, TA Keyes informed Ms. Keefe that he intended to propose that she receive a $2,000 stipend and a $2000 raise.
  6. Later on June 30th, Ms. Keefe told Keefe that she would be receiving the stipend and raise.
  7. Soon after Ms. Keefe informed Keefe about her raise and stipend, he contacted Robert Dubois, the chair of the BOS, and Dubois agreed to meet with Keefe the following day in order to discuss the stipends and raises with TA Keyes.
  8. On July 1, 2020, Keefe and Dubois met with TA Keyes at Town Hall (the “July 1st Meeting”).
  9. At the July 1st Meeting, TA Keyes outlined his proposal to award stipends to thirteen Town employees who reported to work every day during the pandemic. The proposed stipends ranged from $500 to $2,500 and totaled $20,500. TA Keyes also outlined proposed raises for five Town employees which ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 for a total of $30,000.
  10. According to TA Keyes’s proposal, Ms. Keefe would receive a $2,000 stipend and a $2,000 raise.
  11. At the July 1st Meeting, Keefe suggested an alternative proposal with stipends ranging from $500 to $2,500 to twenty Town employees totaling $40,000 and raises of $6,000 to each employee.
  12. Under Keefe’s alternative proposal, Ms. Keefe would receive a stipend of $2,500 and a raise of $6,000.

Conclusions of Law

  1. Except as otherwise permitted, § 19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from participating[1] as such an employee in a particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he or a member of his immediate family has a financial interest.
  2.  As a member of the BOS, Keefe was a municipal employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, § 1(g).
  3. Keefe’s spouse is a member of his immediate family.
  4. The proposal for Town employee pay raises and stipends was a particular matter.
  5. Keefe’s spouse, as a paid municipal employee, had a financial interest in the particular matter of the proposal for Town employee pay raises and stipends.
  6. Keefe participated as a BOS member in this particular matter as a municipal employee by, at the July 1st Meeting, proposing different, and in some cases greater, stipends and pay raises for Town employees including his spouse.
  7. When he participated as a BOS member in the discussion of the proposed pay raises and stipends for Town employees and made his alternative proposal, Keefe knew that his spouse had a financial interest in the pay raise and stipend proposal.
  8. Therefore, by, at the July 1st meeting, as a BOS member proposing stipends and pay raises for Town employees, including greater ones for his spouse, to replace those proposed by TA Keyes, Keefe participated as a municipal employee in a particular matter in which to his knowledge his immediate family member had a financial interest. In so doing, Keefe violated § 19.

B.  Town’s Investigation Related to Town Employee Stipends and Pay Raises

Findings of Fact

  1. The Town engaged a law firm to investigate the actions of Keefe, Dubois and TA Keyes relating to the stipends and pay raises for Town employees.
  2. The investigation report concluded that Keefe violated conflict of interest rules against self-dealing by acting on a matter in which his spouse had a financial interest and recommended that the BOS provide the report to the Ethics Commission and issue a letter of reprimand to Keefe regarding the July 1st Meeting.
  3. The law firm discussed the investigation report with the BOS at a November 10, 2020, meeting.
  4. While participating in the November 10th meeting as a selectman, Keefe repeatedly criticized the investigation report.
  5. At the November 10th meeting, the BOS voted 3-0 in favor of forwarding the findings of the independent investigation to the Ethics Commission. Keefe abstained from the vote.

Conclusions of Law

Section 19

  1. The BOS’s November 10th decision to forward the findings of the law firm’s independent investigation to the Ethics Commission was a particular matter.
  2. Keefe participated as a BOS member in the particular matter by at the November 10th BOS meeting repeatedly criticizing the law firm’s investigation report which recommended that the BOS refer the matter to the Ethics Commission.
  3. When Keefe participated as BOS member in the particular matter, Keefe knew that he had a financial interest in the referral to the Ethics Commission because he knew that a finding by the Commission that he had violated the conflict of interest law could result in the imposition of civil penalties on him.
  4. Therefore, by, as a BOS member, repeatedly criticizing the investigation report during the BOS’s November 10, 2020, discussion of whether to refer the investigation’s findings to the Ethics Commission as recommended in the report, Keefe participated as a municipal employee in a particular matter in which he knew he had a financial interest. In so doing, Keefe violated § 19.

Disposition

           In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by Keefe, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further enforcement proceedings, on the following terms and conditions agreed to by Keefe:

(1)        that Keefe pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment to be delivered to the Commission, the sum of $4,500 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, § 19; and

(2)       that Keefe waive all rights to contest, in this or any other administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party, the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement.

By signing below, Keefe acknowledges that he has personally read this Disposition Agreement, that it is a public document, and that he agrees to its terms and conditions.

[1] “Participate” means to participate in agency action or in a particular matter personally and substantially as a state, county, or municipal employee, through approval, disapproval, decision, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation or otherwise. G.L. c. 268A, § 1(j).

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