|Organization:||State Ethics Commission|
Settlement In the Matter of Charles Flaherty
Table of Contents
This Disposition Agreement (Agreement) is entered into between the State Ethics Commission (Commission) and Charles F. Flaherty (Rep. Flaherty) pursuant to Section 5 of the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented to final Commission order enforceable in the Superior Court pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, §4(j).
On March 8, 1989, 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, by Rep. Flaherty. The Commission has concluded the inquiry and, on October 10, 1990, voted to find reasonable cause to believe that Rep. Flaherty violated G.L. c. 268A, §3.
The Commission and Rep. Flaherty now agree to the following facts and conclusions of law:
1. Rep. Flaherty has been a member of the state House of Representatives (House) since 1967 and the House Majority Leader since 1985. As such, Rep. Flaherty is a state employee as that term is defined in G.L. c. 268A, §1(q).
2. As a state representative and as House Majority Leader, Rep. Flaherty participates, by speech and debate, by voting and by other means, in the process by which laws are enacted in the Commonwealth.
3. Ackerley Communications of Massachusetts, Inc. (Ackerley) is a corporation doing business in Massachusetts. Ackerley is a major owner of outdoor billboards in Massachusetts and sells and leases advertising space on its outdoor billboards.
4. Outdoor advertising in Massachusetts is regulated by state law. In addition, from time to time bills are proposed in the House which, if enacted, would further regulate outdoor advertising. In 1988, several bills were proposed in the House which, if enacted, would have placed new restrictions on outdoor billboard advertising and would have bad a substantial negative effect on Ackerley’s business in Massachusetts and on its financial interests. Most, if not all, of these bills have been filed during prior legislative sessions. As had occurred in prior years, in 1988 these bills were referred to committee for study and none were voted on by the House.
5. In 1988, Ackerley leased Skybox No. 32 at the Boston Garden. The skybox contained twelve seats and the lease entitled Ackerley to twelve tickets for those seats for almost all events held at the Boston Garden, including all Boston Celtics basketball and Boston Bruins hockey games.
6. On November 16, 1988, Ackerley’s then president and its general manager for outdoor advertising operations, Louis R. Nickinello (Nickinello), gave Rep. Flaherty three Ackerley skybox tickets to that evening’s Celtics game at the Boston Garden. While there is some evidence of a long-standing personal relationship between Rep. Flaherty and Nickinello, the evidence does not establish that that relationship was the predominant motivating factor in Nickinello’s giving Rep. Flaherty the three tickets.
7. On November 16, 1988, Ackerley’s registered legislative agent, Elizabeth Palumbo (Palumbo), gave Rep. Flaherty two Ackerley skybox tickets to that evening’s Celtics game at the Boston Garden. While there is some evidence of a long-standing personal relationship between Rep. Flaherty and Palumbo, the evidence does not establish that that relationship was the predominant motivating factor in Palumbo’s giving Rep. Flaherty the two tickets.
8. The Ackerley skybox tickets which were given to Rep. Flaherty did not have a face value printed on them. The five tickets were, however, worth at least $30 each and, thus, a total of at least $150.
9. Rep. Flaherty used the five free Ackerley skybox tickets he received from Nickinello and Palumbo to take himself and four fellow House members to the Celtics game. Rep. Flaherty did not inform his four guests that he had received the tickets from Ackerley. While in the Ackerley skybox at the November 16, 1988 Celtics game, Rep. Flaherty and his guests were treated by Ackerley to complimentary food and beverages, at an average per person cost to Ackerley of approximately fifteen dollars.
10. Section 3(b) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a state employee from accepting anything of substantial value for himself for or because of any official act or act within his official responsibility performed or to be performed by him. Anything with a value of $50 or more is of substantial value for the purposes of §3.
11. By receiving the five free Ackerley skybox tickets from Nickinello and Palumbo, while, as a House member and as Majority Leader, he was in a position to take official action concerning proposed legislation which would affect Ackerley’s financial interests, Rep. Flaherty received a gift of substantial value for himself for or because of acts within his official responsibility performed or to be performed by him. In so doing, Rep. Flaherty violated G.L. c.268A, §3(b).
12. The Commission is aware of no evidence that the November 16, 1988 Celtics tickets were received by Rep. Flaherty in return for his being influenced in his performance of any specific official act as a legislator or any particular act within his official responsibility. During the time here relevant, Rep. Flaherty was not a member of any committee that considered outdoor advertising legislation and there is no evidence that he voted on any measure which directly pertained to the regulation of outdoor advertising. The Commission is also aware of no evidence that Rep. Flaherty took any official action concerning any proposed legislation which would affect Ackerley in return for the tickets. However, even if the gift and receipt of the tickets were only intended to create official goodwill, it was still impermissible.
In view of the foregoing violation of G.L. c. 268A §3(b), the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further enforcement proceedings, on the basis of the following terms and conditions agreed to by Rep. Flaherty:
1. that Rep. Flaherty pay to the Commission the sum of five hundred dollars ($500.00) as a civil fine for violating G.L. c. 268A, §3(b);
2. that Rep. Flaherty pay to the Commission the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) as a forfeiture of the unlawful benefit be received in accepting the five Ackerley skybox tickets
3. that Rep. Flaherty undertake measures, agreeable to the Commission, to ensure that all House members are fully informed concerning the conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws, particularly as those laws apply to legislators, and are made aware that they may not accept gratuities in violation of G.L. c. 268A, §3;
4. that Rep. Flaherty will act in conformance with the requirements of G.L. c. 268A in his future conduct as a state employee; and
5. that Rep. Flaherty waive all rights to contest the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement in any related administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party.