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Settlement

Settlement Disposition Agreement in the Matter of Richard DeLorie

Date: 08/05/2021
Organization: State Ethics Commission
Docket Number: 21-0004
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 Richard DeLorie (“DeLorie”) 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 January 15, 2020, 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 May 27, 2021, the Commission concluded its inquiry and found reasonable cause to believe that DeLorie violated G.L. c. 268A, §§ 19 and 23(b)(2)(ii).

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

Findings of Fact

  1. DeLorie, has worked in the Town of Wellesley Fire Rescue Department (“Fire Department”) for over 28 years and has served as the Fire Chief (“Fire Chief”) since 2009.
  2.   Wellesley Town Meeting voted in November 2011 to remove the Fire Department from Civil Service.
  3. In 2012, DeLorie issued General Order #2009-17 (“Hiring Order”) to govern the firefighter hiring process. DeLorie developed the Hiring Order in consultation with members of Wellesley Firefighters Local 1795 (“Union”) and with assistance from the then Wellesley Human Resources Director and the Wellesley Executive Director of General Government Services. The Hiring Order states, in part,

It is the intent of the Town, in implementing a non-civil service hiring procedure, to use selection methods that are free from manipulation and undue influence in the interests of attracting and selecting candidates as firefighters that meet the needs of the department and community. This goal can only be achieved if all those involved in the process strictly adhere to a set of standard protocols in a fair and transparent process.

  1. Under the Hiring Order, a candidate may be considered for interview following receipt of a passing score of 70 on the firefighter entrance examination. The examination scores are used on a pass/fail basis to measure a candidate’s aptitude, and not for ranking purposes.
  2. Under the Hiring Order, after an interview of each candidate by an interview panel, the Fire Chief or his designee recommends finalists for appointment by the Board of Selectmen, which is also the Board of Fire Engineers (“BOS/BFE”).
  3. In early 2018, the Fire Department had three open entry-level firefighter positions.
  4. A private test administrator held a firefighter entrance examination in April 2018.
  5. DeLorie’s son took and passed the April 2018 firefighter entrance examination.
  6. DeLorie designated Wellesley Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Peterson (“Assistant Fire Chief Peterson”) to manage the hiring process consistent with established practice.
  7. On July 5, 2018, DeLorie filed a written G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3) disclosure with his appointing authority, the Board of Selectmen, stating, in part,

An immediate family member of the Chief (Son) has taken the Fire Department Entrance exam. While not required by state ethics laws, I will not be participating in any capacity in the review and selection process.[1]

  1. The Hiring Order also lists “significant hiring considerations,” which it describes as reflecting a “departmental preference.”
  2. Such “significant hiring considerations” include: Wellesley residency, current or prior Town of Wellesley employment, military service, gender and ethnicity representation, paramedic or EMT certification or enrollment, special language proficiency, education, prior firefighting experience, civic awards and/or involvement in community activities.    
  3. Of the 88 candidates who passed the April 2018 firefighter entrance examination, 27 were identified as being appropriate for “significant hiring consideration.”
  4. Out of the 27 individuals identified as being appropriate for “significant hiring consideration,” Assistant Fire Chief Peterson and the Wellesley Human Resources Director (“HR Director”) selected approximately five candidates to interview for the open firefighter positions, including DeLorie’s son.
  5. The Union objected to being excluded from observing the firefighter candidate selection process as authorized by the Hiring Order.  
  6. In response to the Union’s objection, Assistant Fire Chief Peterson and the HR Director added additional candidates to interview.  
  7. An interview panel consisting of Assistant Fire Chief Peterson, the HR Director and staff, the Union president and a ranking member of the Fire Department interviewed eight candidates on September 17, 2018, and, on that day, selected three candidates to recommend to the BOS/BFE for appointment.
  8. Members of the interview panel agreed on the three candidates selected for recommendation to the BOS/BFE for appointment.
  9. DeLorie’s son was not among the three candidates selected for recommendation to the BOS/BFE for appointment.
  10. Assistant Fire Chief Peterson informed DeLorie of the interview panel’s candidate selections for recommendation to the BOS/BFE for appointment. DeLorie criticized the candidates selected and the failure to interview certain candidates.
  11. DeLorie directed Assistant Fire Chief Peterson to halt the hiring process while DeLorie conferred with members of the BOS/BFE.
  12. On September 25, 2018, DeLorie contacted the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE. DeLorie met in-person with the Chair and communicated with the Vice Chair by telephone and email.
  13. In his communications with the BOS/BFE Chair and Vice Chair, DeLorie: (1) criticized the hiring process, (2) criticized the candidates the interview panel had selected to recommend to the BOS/BFE for appointment, and (3) praised his son’s qualifications for a firefighter position and the qualifications of another unsuccessful candidate.
  14. The BOS/BFE Chair reminded DeLorie that he had recused himself from the hiring process and told DeLorie that he needed to stay recused from the process.
  15. In a September 25, 2018 email to the BOS/BFE Vice Chair, DeLorie expressed particular concern that the interview panel did not consider community involvement in making its candidate selections and stated his strong wish that the BOS/BFE “disrupt the process,” writing, “review the finalists’ applications yourself and I know you will choose from the body of work, volunteerism, community references, character and history that supports selecting the most desirable candidates.”
  16. On September 26, 2018, DeLorie sent a follow-up email to the BOS/BFE Vice Chair with a scan of the front page of The Wellesley Townsman from 2003 showing DeLorie and his son, then age 10, helping to serve Thanksgiving meals to seniors. DeLorie sent the email as an example of his son’s community involvement.
  17.    By email dated October 5, 2018, DeLorie notified the BOS/BFE Chair and Vice Chair that the firefighters Union and Assistant Fire Chief Peterson had “resolved their differences” and had agreed to conduct another round of interviews.
  18. The Union did not request a second round of interviews.
  19. Human Resources was excluded from the second round of interviews.
  20. The second interview focused on community involvement. DeLorie was not part of  the second round of interviews.
  21. After a second round of interviews, DeLorie’s son was among three candidates selected for recommendation to the BOS/BFE for appointment.
  22. The HR Director received notice of the decision and, by email dated October 18, 2018, declined further participation in hiring process.
  23. DeLorie forwarded the HR Director’s October 18, 2018 email to the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE and sought the BOS/BFE’s support for the interview panel’s and the Assistant Chief’s decision.
  24. The Chair of the BOS/BFE reminded DeLorie by return email on October 19, 2018, that DeLorie had recused himself from the process.
  25. Wellesley Labor Counsel and the BOS/BFE became involved in the firefighter hiring process after the results of the second interviews. An additional firefighter position also became available. The BOS/BFE directed the interview panel to conduct a third round of interviews. DeLorie’s son was one of the finalists following a third interview and the BOS/BFE appointed him as a firefighter. DeLorie was not part of the third round of interviews.
  26. The starting salary for a Wellesley firefighter is in excess of  $50,000.

Conclusions of Law

§ 19

  1. Except as otherwise permitted,[2] § 19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from participating[3] as such an employee in a particular matter[4] in which, to his knowledge, he or an immediate family member[5] has a financial interest.[6]
  2. As Fire Chief, DeLorie is a municipal employee as that term is defined by G.L. c. 268A, § 1(g).
  3. DeLorie’s son is a member of his immediate family.
  4. The decision as to whom to recommend to the BOS/BFE for appointment to the open firefighter positions was a particular matter.
  5. DeLorie participated, personally and substantially, as Fire Chief and a municipal employee in this particular matter by:

    a.   by designating Assistant Fire Chief Peterson to manage the hiring process;

    b.   criticizing the interview panel’s candidate selections in discussion with Assistant Fire Chief Peterson;

    c.   directing Assistant Fire Chief Peterson to halt the hiring process;

    d.   criticizing the hiring process and the interview panel’s candidate selections in communications with the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE;

    e.   
    praising his son’s qualifications and that of another unsuccessful candidate in communications with the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE; and

    f.    seeking support from the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE for the interview panel’s candidate selections, which included DeLorie’s son, after a second round of interviews.
     
  6. DeLorie’s son had a financial interest in the particular matter of whom to hire as a firefighter because he was a candidate for the entry-level firefighter position and the firefighter position was a paid position.
  7. At the time of his participation, DeLorie knew that his son had a financial interest in the particular matter.
  8. Therefore, DeLorie violated § 19 by repeatedly participating as Fire Chief in the decision as to whom recommend to the BOS/BFE for appointment to open firefighter positions, while knowing that his son was a candidate for a paid firefighter position.

§ 23(b)(2)(ii)

  1. Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal employee from, knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
  2. The opportunity for DeLorie’s son to be selected for recommendation to the BOS/BFE for appointment as a firefighter was a privilege.
  3. The privilege was unwarranted because DeLorie halted the hiring process, after the interview panel did not select his son to recommend to the BOS/BFE for appointment after the September 17, 2018 interviews, and caused the process to be altered to favor his son.
  4. DeLorie knowingly used his official position to halt and redirect the hiring process to his son’s advantage after the interview panel did not select his son by taking the following actions:

    a.   requesting that the BOS/BFE “disrupt the process”;

    b.   
    directing Assistant Fire Chief Peterson to halt the process;

    c.   
    contacting the Chair and Vice Chair of the BOS/BFE to criticize the hiring process and the candidates the interview panel had selected to recommend to the BOS/BFE; and

    d.   
    invoking a dispute between Assistant Fire Chief Peterson and the Union that did not exist following the September 17, 2018 interview.   
     
  5. This unwarranted privilege was of substantial value[7]because the value of securing a compensated entry-level firefighter position exceeded $50.
  6. Having the hiring process halted and redirected in order to secure a second interview and subsequent recommendation for appointment was not properly available to other firefighter candidates.
  7. Thus, by using his Fire Chief position to halt and redirect the firefighter hiring process to his son’s benefit, DeLorie knowingly, or with reason to know, used his Fire Chief position to secure for his son an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. In so doing, DeLorie violated § 23(b)(2)(ii).

Resolution

In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by DeLorie, 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 DeLorie:

(1)       that Richard DeLorie pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with such payment to be delivered to the Commission, the sum of $10,000 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A, §§ 19 and 23(b)(2)(ii); and

(2)      that Richard DeLorie 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, Richard DeLorie acknowledges that he has personally read this Disposition Agreement, that it is a public document, and that he agrees to the terms and conditions herein.

STATE ETHICS COMMISSION

 

[1]DeLorie was mistaken when he wrote, “not required by state ethics laws.”

[2] None of the exemptions applies.

[3] “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).

[4] “Particular matter” means 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, § 1(k).

[5] “Immediate family” means the employee and his spouse, and their parents, children, brothers and sisters. G.L. c. 268A, § 1(e).

[6] “Financial interest” means any economic interest of a particular individual that is not shared with a substantial segment of the population of the municipality. See Graham v. McGrail, 370 Mass. 133 (1976).  This definition embraces private interests, which are direct, immediate or reasonably foreseeable. See EC-COI-84-98. The interest can be affected in either a positive or negative manner. EC-COI-84-96.

[7]Substantial value is $50 or more. 930 CMR 5.05.

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